Rewards for Recycling: Q&A With Gazelle CEO Israel Ganot, Part 1

Gazelle takes your old cellphones, laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, GPS devices, game systems, calculators, e-readers, LCD monitors, tablets, and any other out-of-date electronic equipment cluttering up your home or office, and turns it all into cash.

First launched as “Second Rotation” in 2006 and rebranded as “Gazelle” in 2008, the U.S.’ largest electronic recommerce company has paid out more than US$25 million to 175,000-plus customers and kept 300 tons of electronic waste out of landfills. In fact, it’s not waste at all: These electronic items get a second life in the hands of people who are happy to buy last year’s iPhone or a two-year-old laptop.

The E-Commerce Times caught up with Gazelle CEO and cofounder Israel Ganot. In Part 1 of this exclusive two-part interview, he told us about the founders of the company and their commitment to recycling gadgetry, how they started the business, and what has made it so successful.

E-Commerce Times: What is your background, and how did it prepare you for the recommerce business?

Israel Ganot:

My background is finance and e-commerce in general. I am an immigrant who moved here from Israel in 1989 to New York, went to school in NYU. I spent the first phase of my career on Wall Street working for Goldman Sachs covering the retail sector. Then I decided to transition into e-commerce. I got my MBA from Harvard, and after graduating in 2000 I joined eBay.

I spent six years there learning about e-commerce. I spent the first two years in corporate development doing mergers and acquisitions, including the PayPal acquisition. Then I spent two years in the UK. Then I spent the last two years back in the states with PayPal, building the finance team. After six years at eBay, I decided to move back to Boston in 2006, and that’s when we cofounded Second Rotation.

ECT: Who first thought of Gazelle?


It was all of us — Rousseau Aurelian, James McElhiney and me. We combined our very different perspectives. Rousseau was a power seller at eBay. He saw the opportunity by looking at the used car business, and realizing that 40 to 50 percent of new car sales involved a trade-in, but that didn’t really exist in any other category.

My perspective from eBay was that consumer sales had slowed down. People were frustrated with selling online, and it was a good opportunity to meet that gap. And on the recycling side, I went to a retail store with a couple of BlackBerries and asked to recycle them, and I was asked to pay for the privilege.

The idea came about: How about rewarding consumers for recycling? It was a huge opportunity to have consumers do. And James was a technologist. His perspective was ‘tell me what you want me to build, and I’ll build it.’

ECT: Describe some of the early conversations and plans you had with the other founders.


From the get-go, there were always three things that were important to us. One was we always believed this would be a huge opportunity given the market size, and we knew this would require a lot of capital. We wanted to build a big, profitable business.

The second one was that all of us had families and kids, and it was really important for us to build a company that added to social responsibility. We wanted something that was more than just about debits and credits, but delivered some benefit to society. We wanted to focus on recycling, on reuse. It’s about extending the lifecycle of the product.

The third was building a culture in the company that I couldn’t find anywhere in Boston at the time — a wide open environment, with an open culture. We’ve been really successful at building a company like that.

ECT: How was Gazelle launched? What was the process of starting this business?


It took a couple of years to find the right business model. In the early days, the focus was more B2B. The idea was to partner with retailers and to become a behind-the-scenes private label offering to retailers. We pursued that strategy pretty hard. In early 2006 and 2007, it was too early for the market, and recycling was not top of mind with retailers.

It wasn’t until we went direct to consumers in 2007, and 2008 when Gazelle was launched, that the business really started to grow. We’ve really gone 360 degrees.

Today, we are building a consumer brand, and we like to think that Gazelle is to recommerce what Amazon is to e-commerce. Now we’re taking this brand and the customer experience, and we’re bringing it to the retailers.

In the last year and a half, we’ve partnered with Walmart.com, Costco, Office Depot — and they’re really helping us bring the Gazelle brand and experience to the mass market.

Rewards for Recycling: Q&A With Gazelle CEO Israel Ganot, Part 2

Freelance writer Vivian Wagner has wide-ranging interests, from technology and business to music and motorcycles. She writes features regularly for ECT News Network, and her work has also appeared in American Profile, Bluegrass Unlimited, and many other publications. For more about her, visit her website.

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Nasuni Founder Andres Rodriguez: Object Storage Offers More Cloud Benefits, Lower Cost

Object storage in the cloud is one of the significant options for organizations looking for a more efficient solution to their growing digital and cloud transformation needs. Its search capabilities and unlimited scaling make object storage ideal for unstructured data.

Nasuni, a cloud storage company headquartered in Boston, focuses on taking advantage of cloud properties — unlimited capacity, scalability, global access, and resiliency — to create a cloud-native enterprise file system.

Spearheading a built-from-the-ground-up goal, Nasuni CTO and Founder Andres Rodriguez, launched his company’s technology to replace traditional network-attached storage (NAS) and file server silos. His approach consolidates all of an enterprise’s global files. It does this in expandable cloud object storage that can be centrally managed via a web browser.

“Customers can deploy virtual appliances at their offices, and they will cache the most recent version of the working set of files locally to provide excellent performance. Changes are uploaded regularly to immutable, gold copies in the cloud, and then synchronized globally,” Rodriguez told TechNewsWorld.

These appliances do not have to be in a data center or office. More than 80 percent of his customers deploy them as virtual machines. The technology eliminates the need for complex legacy file backup and disaster recovery infrastructure.

“Data protection is built into our file system. It happens automatically. Additionally, our file system is built on extremely efficient snapshots, so if and when IT needs to restore data, it only takes a few minutes, even for very large data sets,” he explained.

Building Upon Previous Roots

Rodriguez had worked as CTO at a large media outlet where he oversaw massive digitalization of the company’s archives. Seeing the promise of object storage, in 2003 he founded Archivas, which built the first enterprise-class cloud storage system based on his object storage methods.

Andres Rodriguez, Founder & CTO, Nasuni
Nasuni Founder & CTO Andres Rodriguez

He saw firsthand the storage problems that companies faced as they digitized massive content archives. He founded to solve those problems by taking advantage of object storage, which was still nascent technology at that time.

“Object storage is an extremely efficient, fast medium for storing fixed data that does not change much. So, it is ideal for storing media,” Rodriguez said.

Archivas enabled customers to build large arrays, creating a sort of early private cloud. Ultimately, of course, when the public cloud emerged, much of its storage infrastructure was built on object storage.

“So, in a very real way, Archivas was a cloud storage pioneer,” he noted.

Hitachi Data Systems later bought Archivas. Rodriguez then founded Nasuni. The company’s expanded technology makes it easy to collaborate on files across continents thanks to its high-speed file synchronization and global file locking capabilities.

“All this additional functionality comes at half the total cost of traditional file storage,” Rodriguez said.

Object Storage 101

Object storage is a newer concept compared to block storage. Block storage, traditionally used on storage devices such as hard drives over a network, stores data in fixed-size chunks called blocks. A single block only stores a portion of the data. The remaining data chunks attach to other blocks.

The application makes requests to find the correct address of all the blocks on the storage device. No metadata is associated with blocks, and the requested address is the only identifying part of a block.

This structure provides fast performance when the application and storage are local. But this process can cause increased latency the further apart they are.

Object storage, on the other hand, bundles customizable metadata tags and a unique identifier to form objects. These objects, in turn, are stored with no limit to how many objects are stored for that file. This makes object storage much easier to scale out.

Success Story

Nasuni on March 24 announced a $60 million equity investment by new investor Sixth Street Growth. This is the fourth round of financing for Nasuni over the last five years, during which it has raised a total of $148 million.

I spoke further with Rodriquez about his journey to found Nasuni and the company’s offerings.

TechNewsWorld: How did you get from Archivas to founding Nasuni?

Andres Rodriguez: After Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) acquired Archivas in 2007, I spent a year there overseeing the integration. It was clear the cloud was the future of IT infrastructure. I already did extensive work with object storage at Archivas, and the cloud was in many ways Archivas on an exponentially grander scale.

We saw a tremendous opportunity to leverage snapshotting technology and the scale of object storage to build a cloud-native file system. We built in all the advantages of the cloud, but with the performance of a local NAS.

How does Nasuni handle digitalization in business storage?

Rodriguez: We enable it! We accelerate digital and cloud transformations by managing one of the more difficult pieces of the puzzle. Files are by far the largest and fastest-growing segment of a company’s data, and the last piece to shift to the cloud.

We store files, make them easily accessible across the globe, enable cross-continent collaboration, and provide automatic data protection. Also, because all that file data is already stored in the cloud, it is easy to connect that data to cloud services like AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics tools. This makes the file data even more valuable.

How are the services Archivas provided different from what Nasuni offers?

Rodriguez: Archivas was a large piece of storage equipment designed to store massive amounts of media. Nasuni, on the other hand, is a cloud-native subscription service that provides a global enterprise file system that helps companies shrink their physical infrastructure footprint.

Both store data and are built on object storage. But they are aimed at very different use cases.

What obstacles does digitalization present to enterprises?

Rodriguez: Cloud is an enormous element of digitalization. The vast majority of enterprise IT infrastructure will eventually move to the cloud. One of the biggest obstacles to cloud migration is understanding the difference between cloud-native and cloud-washed systems.

Many vendors have simply taken storage products that were designed for on-premises deployments and retooled them for the cloud. The end result is often the worst of both worlds. They force companies to shift to the cloud while relying on technology that was engineered for a physical data center.

How does Nasumi’s cloud storage solution work?

Rodriguez: Our cloud-native file system, UniFS, stores the gold copy of each file in the cloud of the customers’ choice. We have partnerships with AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Customers could also deploy Nasuni to work with a private cloud as the back end.

The working set of file data is stored on local virtual appliances or virtual appliances deployed in a nearby cloud to provide strong performance. Changes to data are uploaded to the gold copy in the cloud as highly efficient storage snapshots. It is then easy to roll back to any copy at any point in time.

Customers can take a snapshot of the entire file system as often as every few minutes. Snapshots are stored in object storage as read-only data, so the data is protected against ransomware attacks. And customers can roll back to any previous version of an individual file or the entire file share at any time. It only takes minutes to do so, which provides near-instant recovery capability.

Where do you see this technology headed in the short term?

Rodriguez: Nasuni is positioned to become the standard file system for the global enterprise. Nasuni continues to add additional capabilities to our file system. For instance, last year, we made it very simple to connect data to cloud services such as AI and advanced analytics tools.

We also introduced Global File Acceleration, which automatically propagates new file data across appliances for faster collaboration. Global users sharing files gain the very fastest access to new data that they need most. So much more in the works, too, as we have made tremendous investments in engineering and technology development. 

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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