Introducing Turkish startups: Nivogo, operating in circular economy

Nivogo is Turkey’s first circular store selling renewed clothes and here’s their story

Circular economy is a hot topic for today’s world, signaling  “…reduces material use, redesigns materials, products, and services to be less resource intensive, and recaptures ‘waste’ as a resource to manufacture new materials and products,” according to United States Environmental Protection Agency. When we handle this definition within fashion context, we see that materials and business models should be built allowing clothes to have less impact on the environment, to be worn for longer time and be turned into new clothes when they aren’t needed anymore. So, this brings new ideas to the table and startups come into the picture. Nivogo is such a startp and   Türkiye’s first circular store to sell renewed clothes. “The basis of our motivation is to make a more sustainable world possible, as well as to strengthen our circular transformation movement by raising awareness on this issue. Thanks to our circularity powered infrastructure, over 1 million of apparels has been brought back circular economy, saved billions of water and prevented thousands of tonnes CO2 emission,” said Arnas Akbaş, CEO and Co-Founder at Nivogo. I interviewed Akbaş and here’s what he told me.

What is Nivogo? Can you tell me the brief story of Nivogo?

Nivogo is a re-commerce start-up aims to change entire linear industry through Eastern Europe’s largest re-commerce center powered by circularity and technology. The basis of our motivation is to make a more sustainable world possible, as well as to strengthen our circular transformation movement by raising awareness on this issue. Thanks to our circularity powered infrastructure, over 1 million of apparels has been brought back circular economy, saved billions of water and prevented thousands of tonnes CO2 emission. 

The brand name Nivogo is a combination of the words Nivo (new) and go (to take action). As Nivogo, we started a circular transformation movement aims to redefine the meaning of “ new” that means potential waste according to linear economy and change it as “infinite hope cycle”. For this reason, we’re working to extend the lifetime of all products and bring all back to economy.

Our journey started in February 2021 with a team of 3 in a 400 m² apartment in Kağıthane (Istanbul) and continues today in Türkiye’s and Eastern Europe’s first and largest renewal centre with an area of 5,000 m2 and a monthly renewal capacity of 500,000 products. Last August, Nivogo has opened Türkiye’s first circular store to sell its renewed products at Akasya Mall in Istanbul and has reached 5th circular stores as of May 2023.

Nivogo’s business model: 4R

What is the business model of Nivogo?

In Nivogo, we have built a business model to turn brand partners’ linear system into circular system. At the first and Turkiye’s largest Renewal Center, Nivogo brings products back to the circular economy with a unique technological infrastructure that aligns with circular business models.

We designed a unique business model called “Nivogo’s 4R” including stages “Reverse Logistics, Renewal, Re-price, Re-sell”. We determine the renewal needs of products taken from brand partners and users by defining an AI-based NivoCod. Later we use our AI based re-pricing technology to apply fair and unique pricing for each product renewed. Lastly we send the products to sales channels including Turkiye’s circular stores that enable takeback products from users and gives our circular shopping currency NivoPoint.

Through this way, Nivogo turns wasted/unsellable products into real value and creates a stable cash flow for the brand partners. Our 4R process also eliminates the partners’ logistics and storage cost for unsellable products, while driving brand equity with compelling sustainability story. In addition, users have a chance of affordable shopping with no hesitation for hygiene or originality. Through the taking-back program, they earn circular shopping currency, NivoPoint and can use these Nivopoints to purchase renewed apparels in Nivogo’s circular stores. Nivogo presents a reliable space for conscious users and supports positive psychology with more organized and living wardrobes.

I know you have been selected as one the top 13 circular startups of the world at Make It Circular Challenge. Can you elaborate?

Since founded in 2021, Nivogo has received various grand prizes both from global and local platforms such as Ibrahim Bodur Social Entrepreneurship Award Program, Accelerate2030 Scale Readiness Program, Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub and selected as the Startup of the Year by Sustainability Academy Turkey.

Now in Make It Circular Challenge, Nivogo has recently announced among the top promising projects from around the world to envision and build a circular society. This challenge, by What Design Can Do & IKEA Foundation, aims to prevent the creation of waste by keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible, and promoting processes that regenerate natural systems. As Nivogo, we have granted with our circular transformation centre in “What We Buy” category. This also proves the international scalability of our unique 4R model. As being a Turkish startup in global circularity ecosystem, Nivogo intends to transform Turkiye into a global circular economy hub. We hope and believe that soon many inspirational sustainability projects from Turkiye will become prominent in this international ecosystem.

A view from Nivogo circular stores

You’re handling your operations through various fashion brands and department stores. How do you select your partners?

Thanks to its unique business model, Nivogo is positioning as a sustainability enabler that creates both financial and environmental value for business partners. This results with high demand now especially in fashion industry.

However, we prefer to inspect the partnership propositions according to Sustainable Development Goals, and our core values & concerns about the more livable planet. We prioritize brands and the product categories that can be reduced their water and carbon footprint most by the help of our renew processes. As Nivogo, we never stand with the brands that use greenwashing elements in their communication pillars.

I noticed you don’t have e-commerce operation. Are you planning such an operation soon?

In such digitalized and connected world, e-commerce both determines the user/consumer behavior and also improves shopping experience. As Nivogo, aiming to be the most recognized circularity brand, we absolutely believe that e-commerce will encourage the circular, more sustainable shopping behavior while putting forward our sphere of influence exponentially. E-commerce and mobile app with the integration all Nivogo’s re-commerce platform are crucial to offer our sustainable and affordable shopping experience and make the brand service more accessible.

While increasing the number of physical stores, we are also strenghtening the current technological infrastructure to live e-commerce service in the end of this year. Soon we intend to incorporate individual users from 81 cities to our circular movement.

New investment round coming soon

Last year you’ve raised an investment with a valuation of USD10 mio. How did you use this investment? Are you planning more investment rounds soon?

The investments and awards we have received have motivated us to work for a sustainable world and to increase our goals in creating our circular business model. In this process where we are still learning and developing, we aim to set a good example for both the industry and people who are excited about circular transformation and want to take action.

We have mainly utilised the investment on technology side, strengthening current re-commerce infrastructure and developing a brand new mobile/web e-commerce platform. Building a team with competent professionals is the other investment pillar to approach our scalable vision swiftly but smoothly. Lastly, brand activations and awareness projects have reinforced.

Further, new funding rounds will be on the agenda for the 4th quarter, to grow our globally scalable business and meet with the investors that bring outstanding value to the circularity ecosystem.

So far you have four stores. Are you planning to open more stores soon?

As Nivogo, we aim to expand their sphere of influence and enable every user from 81 provinces of Türkiye to benefit from the circular shopping experience they offer with their online platforms, which are currently in the project phase.

In this year, our main focus is widening the circular transformation movement with a greater reach and making sustainable shopping experience more accessible. Nivogo, now, has five circular stores in the prominent shopping malls all in Istanbul. However, believing that we may nourish the circular transformation idea by the help of the physical stores in different locations. By the end of this year, we aim to reach double-digit number of stores in various cities.

P.S I have an interview also focusing on sustainability, mainly waste management, with Umutcan Duman, CEO and Co-Founder at Evreka.

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