Richard Littlehale ’10 and Robert Casey ’11 work full time to beat out their competition: trash cans.
To date, they have raised almost a million dollars doing it and, in the process, have landed on BusinessWeek’s 2009 list of America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.
Their company, YouRenew, sells used electronics to other companies and recycles those it does not or cannot sell. Everyday, as many as 1,000 used electronic devices are delivered, sorted and evaluated at YouRenew’s headquarters, located at 282 York St. right above Ashley’s Ice Cream. Of those that are delivered, more than 70 percent are eventually sold, either through wholesalers, refurbishers or Web-based distributors. YouRenew pays a firm in Wallingford, Conn., to recycle the remaining 30 percent.
But despite bringing in big bucks from interested investors, Littlehale and Casey say they are not worried about the fact that the company has not yet turned a profit.
“Our job right now is to be evangelists for the company,” Casey said, noting that the company in on track to break even this year and become profitable next year. He added that the interest from investors has been “seemingly endless.”
Aided by the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, the duo raised almost $1 million to start the company, they said, and in 2008, they participated in YEI’s Summer Fellowship program, in which they explored ideas for new ventures and learned industry professionals. Littlehale also participated in the program in 2009.
“We are here as a sounding board,” YEI Deputy Director Shana Schneider ’00 said of the organization’s role in supporting Yalies’ entrepreneurial activities. Schneider added that YouRenew had been one of the summer program’s “shining stars.”
After the program ended, Littlehale and Casey kept “coming back and talking to us about [their] plans,” said YEI Director James Boyle.
He explained that the YEI helped to move along YouRenew’s start-up by giving Littlehale and Casey general advice on business strategies and practices and by providing them with a space to rent out. The organization also connected them with 50 people, among whom were a number of venture capitalists and businessmen. YouRenew, Schneider said, began in one small office and now takes up an entire wing of the office space.
What started out as a business with two members of the lightweight crew team in a dorm room is now growing by approximately 80 percent per month, Littlehale and Casey said.
This isn’t surprising, said those who know Littlehale and Casey. Alina Yang ’10, president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, called the two “pure entrepreneurs.”
“They are the kind of people that if they need to do something, they just do it,” she said. Boyle said he believes YouRenew would have eventually been successful even without YEI’s assistance.
Both Casey and Littlehale are not strangers to entrepreneurship, they said, explaining that Casey’s father and Littlehale’s grandfathers were successful entrepreneurs. At the age of 11, Littlehale started his own business mowing lawns and weeding gardens. Almost a decade later, he was YES’s director of development and founded Party for a Cause, now a nationwide organization that donates proceeds from college campus parties to charities.
Casey spent several summers trading futures and options, experience he said made him comfortable with taking risks.
YouRenew has plans to move to an office almost three times as large as its current 1,500 square-foot headquarters on York Street.