Hassan Nawaz is the founder and sole owner of BidThrone: a start-up luxury auction website that was launched in early January. Currently, the website has approximately 200 members and offers Japanese and citizen-style auctions.
Nawaz, a fourth-year CCIT student who will graduate this year, says that the website has had a total of 10 successful auctions, where the first auction involved a pure one-ounce gold coin that was purchased successfully by a female in India.
The Medium spoke to Nawaz to find out the story behind the start-up and what makes this one different from other auction sites.
The Medium: I’m on the website right now and I can see that there’s a leaderboard. What’s that?
Hassan Nawaz: The word “BidThrone” is an interesting term. There’s “bid” like bidding, and then there’s “throne”. As you win auctions, you get a rank. If you win the first auction, you’re a joker and it goes all the way up to a king. You can see how well people are doing across the world or compete to become the leader.
TM: How do you choose which items go on your website?
HN: We only put up luxury items and we handpick them. From precious metals to iPhones, MacBooks, purses—always the best brands out there. We get them directly from the manufacturers with full warranty, so you can be sure of the quality.
TM: Can you tell us about the different auction styles—for example, how are the Japanese and citizen auctions different?
HN: The way Japanese auctions work is [that] you don’t buy any bids. There is a private auction and everyone must join before the timer closes. As soon as the timer runs out, bidding happens at random intervals and the last man standing wins. […] The way it works is that the price goes up in random intervals through algorithms that we don’t even know. Our coders have made it and that is how we are showcasing transparency.
The main difference between both the [Japanese and citizen auctions] is that [in the] citizen [auctions] you buy bids and place them. You can join in any time and the last person standing will win. There’s basically a war happening and we set the clock to 15 seconds […] You have to outbid the other person to win in this [particular] auction [style].
TM: What about the Candle and Pandora auctions—when will those be released?
HN: We’re hoping to launch them in the next six months.
Back in the day, elites would sit in one room with a boxed candle. They would keep bidding until the candle would go out. No one knows when the candle will go out [as] it [is] random. […] I want to take that online [as the Candle style auction]. I was fascinated with that whole approach. The way it’ll work on our platform is, again, random [time] intervals based on when the candle will go out.
[The Pandora auctions] are for people who are most active on our forum. We want to give them a last-minute luxury auction on a product that they know nothing about. So it’s a Pandora’s box, basically. We will give hints back and forth on [things such as] the description, the price ranges. They [will] receive enticing hints [and have the chance to bid on these mystery items].
TM: How are you different than something like Quibids or eBay?
HN: When you think about auctions, you often think about eBay. One of the things that makes us different from eBay is that eBay is mostly peer to peer—[for example], someone from Scotland or China has an item to sell that’s used or like new. You can check the feedback ratings, but you still have no way of knowing if that item is the one you want.
Quibids has negative connotations associated with their bids. For us, [for a citizen auction], if the auction passes and you did not win, we give 5 percent of all your bids back. If the bids do not pass the minimum sale price, you get all of your bids back plus 5 percent. We are also the first to have multiple auctions under one platform.
TM: What’s the price breakdown like—what percentage do you receive?
HN: [The Japanese auctions] works on basically a buy-in. So based on how many people participate in that auction, we make money out of that. And once they win at a certain price, they have to pay that price to win the product. Most of it, so far, we are breaking even. We’re not making any profits, but soon enough, once we have more people on the platform, that’s where we’re heading.
The second way we’re making money is basically […] [through] paid placements […] [There are] multiple companies that provide luxury products, but are not well known. For [a] specific example, promoting small businesses who are making some exceptional products but are not getting as much a spotlight.
TM: How are you funded?
HN: I’m not funded—I started this platform with my own savings. I put in X amount of money and now it’s basically growing itself.
TM: What inspired you to get into this business?
HN: I’m very into startups. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do with my skill set. I was inspired by the medieval era and found that auctions have happened throughout history. Auctions were actually one of the most luxurious hobbies. So it reflects in our products.
TM: What was one of the biggest troubles you’ve had on this journey?
HN: Definitely the art of engineering. On the front end, it seems very simple. But on the back end, there were nights and nights of coding. I worked with a team in Ukraine and I helped with debugging. There were many sleepless nights to get it working without any flaws at all.
TM: If you had any advice for any other students who wanted to start their own business, what you would say to them?
HN: Believe in yourself and believe in your idea. Find ways to make your idea happen. The world is full of resources—you just need to know where to find them. You just have to live your dreams and make it happen.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.