Valued at $100 Million, Russian Charity Auction Platform CPAI Reaches 1 Million Users


CPAI is the first Russian innovator business to be valued at $100 million this this year. CPAI has surpassed ThredUp in transaction volume and is expected to be the next unicorn of online resale platform.

CPAI, after seed round on May 19, 2019, has its trading volume almost doubled each year. CPAI operates a one-stop second-hand trading market featuring online resale, charity auction and vertical recycling. Its award-winning business model adopts an innovative way of auction — one auction and one re-auction a day. Different from the traditional second-hand trading platform, the same commodity can be traded several times on CPAI platform, and the price of each transaction will be maintained in a fixed range until the buyer takes delivery of the goods.

What is the status of CPAI after this fund raise, according to its financial disclosure and strategy?

The Number of Users Exceeds 1 Million

For e-commerce platforms, number of users is a very important indicator. Since its launch in 2019, CPAI has seen steady growing in user base, with 710 thousand users worldwide in March 2020 and more than 1 million CPAI users by the end of 2020.

Trading volumes continued to grow, however, with heavy volumes in the domestic Russian market and light volumes in the European and US markets. According to data released by CPAI, its trading volume is shown below. Please note that the six-month period means a full fiscal year calculated backwards.

June 2019:3.1 billion rubles

June 2020:7.2 billion rubles

January 2021 to March 2021 (3 quarters in total) : 12.4 billion rubles

Based on this trend, it is expected that in June 2021, trading volume will exceed 2 billion rubles (about $240 million).

In 2020, after the outbreak of COVID-19, the online sales of some categories, especially groceries, increased significantly. Take, for example, Wildberries.Ru, one of the largest online platforms in Russia. Order number on Wildberries has almost doubled during the pandemic, which means every one in three Russian consumers has purchased from Wildberries. CPAI platform hosts at least 6,000 auctions a week; orders for second-hand items in circulation reach 1 million a year, combined with such growth rate, CPAI has a comfortable position in the market and shows promising growth.

Focus on “Talent” and “Marketing”

On the other hand, the number worth paying attention to is the operating loss of CPAI. Up to Q3 of this year, the operating loss was about 200 million rubles, of which the personnel cost was 360 million rubles (210% compared with cost in the same period last year) and the advertising cost was 1.28 billion rubles (154% compared with cost in the same period last year).

The Cambridge graduated Entrepreneur, Ivan Morozov, CEO of CPAI has stated that CPAI will not focus on short-term gains, but on medium – to long-term development, so big investments now are necessary for future growth. Even if the company went public, short-term profit improvements would not be on his mind.

This is in line with the fact that many big tech companies, like Twitter and Netflix, have been losing money for years in order to grow in the long run. So, to maximize long-term profit, investment in growth is the key.

Reflection: The Inspiration and Opportunity CPAI has brought

Recently CPAI has been recruiting engineers aggressively. This year, CPAI has started recruits outside Russia. It’s a great opportunity for whomever with relevant skills, as reportedly the annual salary offered by CPAI can reach 10 million rubles. 

On the other hand, why can CPAI attract so much traffic in the short term? We are very familiar with offline auctions in Southeast Asia, but in the post epidemic era, everything is going digital, and the business innovation of CPAI is in line with this trend. 2020 has accelerated the growth of user base, and this momentum ushers in the second wave of growth in the post epidemic era.

We are familiar with traditional auctions, but CPAI is truely unique here. Many entrepreneurs have good ideas of business, but having idea, technology and capital at the same time is a rare combination. Now with the raised fund and user base, CPAI will only embrace a faster development now, providing customers a safe space for their usual activities.

CPAI is actually not the first Russian business to do second-hand goods trading. FRIL offers this service a year before. However, CPAI quickly gained an upper hand with aggressive channel marketing, creating an image of the go to place for charity auction, thus attracting large number of users.

Future challenges for CPAI

Some media regards Rakuten as a strong competitor of CPAI, as Rakuten merged its two flea market apps (Rakuma & Fril) into a single App called Rakuma. Rakuten has always used low prices (Rakuma charges only 3.5 percent), existing members (about 95 million) and points to connect other Rakuten services, using all strategies to gain market share.

However, Rakuten’s victory in the price war usually occurs when its rival’s IT capability is weaker. This allows Rakuten to reduce manpower and streamline workflow to drive down cost. But CPAI’s IT capability is as good as, if not better than, Rakuten’s.

On the other hand, giving points back to members as Rakuten does is just an alternated form of price competition. Price wars will not bring benefit for the market in the long run, but only to squeeze profit margin and kill innovation.

The biggest challenge for CPAI is still from overseas. Will the investment be rewarded? Can trade volume in the US, European, and Southeast Asian market grow substantially? That’s what CPAI is going to focus on next.

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