Startup seeks to dispell “second hand” stigma

To Mark Yeomans, “used” and “second-hand” are dirty words.

Yeomans, the president of Markham, Ont.-based Micro Alternative Solutions Inc., Wednesday officially launched, a site specializing in the sale of previously-owned (the preferred terminology) hardware and software products.

The connotation with “used” is that “it’s beat-up, it’s scratched, it’s dented,” says Yeomans.

Most of the merchandise available on the site is indistinguishable from brand new products once it’s out of the box, he says. “It’s either new, new opened-box or demo returns. We deal with manufacturers, other dealers, large organizations who deal with this type of inventory.”

According to Yeomans, his company is buying about $250,000 worth of product a week from manufacturers, distributors, value-added resellers and users who have ordered too much and can’t return it. “We help them ease that pain, so to speak,” he says.

There is a growing market for previously-owned equipment, either because end users don’t want to spend top dollar on the latest models or simply don’t require that much computing power. “Who really needs a 1.4 GHz processor desktop for their receptionist when a Pentium III or even PII will do the job? You’re going to save a substantial amount of money,” opines Yeomans. The site also sells enterprise-level equipment, such as server and networking technology.

He likens his business to a trend in the automobile industry, where “previously-owned” is booming. “You take the Jags, Saabs, Porches, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, they all have pre-owned component. That was unthinkable two or three years ago.”

The site may have launched Wednesday, but it has been in test mode since last year and has undergone a number of different versions. Ten-year-old Micro Alternative Solutions tried product pictures, details and specs, but ultimately the minimal approach seemed to work best. The site now features lists of product names and models, with price and condition.

“The concept always kept coming back to ‘keep it simple.’ The site is designed for people who know what they want. Basically, it’s product-driven site for people who know what stuff really costs,” says Yeomans.

The majority of’s inventory is less than a year old, but eventually it will sell what many technology mavens would consider antiques, x86 machines. Yeomans says Micro Alternative Solutions continues to do a brisk business in older hardware, selling about 300 486s a month. “Believe it or not, there’s still a demand for that stuff. It’s very rare that we throw something out.”

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