Circular: Subscription Service Keeping Devices Out Of Landfill


Circular, a tech subscription service backed by Y Combinator, is making strides in Singapore and Australia by offering consumers the opportunity to subscribe to high-end electronics such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy devices, iPad Pros, and MacBook Pros. Their mission is not only to provide people with access to devices at lower prices but also to keep these devices in circulation for as long as possible, thus reducing electronic waste.

Key Takeaway

Circular is a tech subscription service in Singapore and Australia that allows users to access high-end devices through affordable monthly subscriptions. The company is committed to sustainability and aims to reduce electronic waste by keeping devices in circulation for as long as possible. Circular offers both new and refurbished devices and provides free damage protection. With a growing demand for sustainable business models and used devices, Circular plans to expand its operations and cement its position in the market.

The Singapore-based company recently announced the closure of a seed round of funding, totaling $7.6 million. This funding, led by AirTree Ventures, brings Circular’s valuation to $30 million. Other investors include YC Continuity Fund, Global Founders Capital, Partech Ventures, and January Capital. The round also saw participation from prominent angel investors, including the founders of PropertyGuru, Funding Societies, Stashaway, Carousell, and Nutmeg.

Embracing the Circular Tech Subscription Model

Circular recognizes that the tech subscription model has gained popularity in Europe, with companies like Grover raising $330 million in 2022. However, this model is relatively new in the Asia-Pacific region. Circular aims to capitalize on its position as a first mover in the market. In the past 12 months, the startup has experienced threefold growth and plans to further expand its presence in Singapore and Australia in the coming year. While there is another tech subscription service in Singapore called ITEZ.SG, it primarily serves businesses rather than individual consumers.

Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability is one of Circular’s core principles. CEO and co-founder Nick Ramsay highlights the environmental impact of constant device upgrades, as many consumers discard their old phones, letting them gather dust in drawers or ultimately ending up in landfills. Circular addresses this issue by minimizing waste through its business model. The company offers both new and refurbished devices and collaborates with industry-leading refurbishment specialists.

Established in Singapore in 2021, Circular’s subscription services come with free damage protection, covering up to 90% of the cost of repairs. On their website, customers can find various products, including the Apple iPhone 15 Plus, starting at $74 per month, the Apple iPad Pro M2 12.9″ for $64 per month, and the Lenovo Thinkpad T14 (Gen 3) 14-inch laptop for $94 per month. For instance, subscribers of the iPhone 15 Pro Max 256GB can save up to SGD $955 compared to purchasing the phone directly from Apple. Recently, Circular expanded its Singapore catalog to include gaming products, complementing its existing offerings of phones, tablets, and laptops.

Promoting a Shift in Consumer Behavior

Nick Ramsay, a strong advocate for the circular economy, believes that people are increasingly questioning the trade-off between access and ownership in the realm of technology. He emphasizes the need to address pressing issues like climate change and the wastage of underutilized tech products. Ramsay, formerly the chief product and technology officer at MoneySmart Group, one of Southeast Asia’s largest financial product aggregators, realized that existing financial products reinforced the linear economy and traditional ownership concepts.

Circular aims to reshape the consumption paradigm by “mythbusting” and dispelling misconceptions. Ramsay points out that while some Singaporeans prefer purchasing devices upfront to recoup costs when upgrading, they often fail to recoup those expenses. People also underestimate the cost of depreciation and the inconvenience of dealing with secondhand devices. Circular’s solution lies in educating customers on the benefits and affordability of their subscription model.

The Role of the Singaporean Government

Circular is fortunate to operate in a country where the government prioritizes reducing e-waste. Singapore’s commitment to sustainability will play a critical role in accelerating the adoption of circular economy practices. As inflation and cost-of-living concerns continue to affect customers, many are turning to Circular to subscribe to older models like the iPhone X and iPhone 11 at a more affordable price point.

Towards a Sustainable Future

Circular aims to achieve approximately six subscription cycles for each device. Once a device can no longer be rented out, it is recycled, ensuring that the materials used can be reintegrated into the production process. The company plans to use its recent funding to consolidate its position in Singapore and expand its presence in Australia. Additionally, Circular will focus on its B2B offering, Circular for Business, catering to startups and small and medium-sized enterprises.

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