Smartphones have a shorter lifespan than almost any other device. Few people in Germany use their smartphones for longer than three years, and more than 200 million old phones are gathering dust in cabinets and drawers across the country. For Sajid and Jamil Ahmed, used mobile devices are their daily business. But they don’t deal with individual phones: instead they handle the massive quantities that are discarded by large companies or specialist dealers. "We give smartphones a second life," summarises Jamil Ahmed. Their company Way2Buy purchases large quantities of smartphones, tablets and notebooks, erases the data, reconditions the devices technically and visually, then markets them worldwide.
"In recent years, we have built up an enormous network of distributors, wholesalers, specialist retailers and manufacturers," remark the two brothers. "On behalf of our customers, some of whom are automotive manufacturers, logistics companies or systems vendors, we seek out interested buyers around the world and also arrange for new goods based on individual requests." For instance, they have shipped thousands of Blackberry phones to Canada for their "second life," or supplied a large customer in Hong Kong with 55,000 media receivers. Whether the task is data erasure or a complex procurement process, the entire process is always documented painstakingly to ensure transparency. "Data erasure, in particular, is a highly sensitive area where we work with certified software in compliance with the GDPR. Here the relevant file path is not only erased but actually overwritten multiple times," says Sajid Ahmed.
Medical device engineer Sajid Ahmed and industrial engineer Jamil Ahmed already had a passion for smartphones during their studies. They established initial contacts at trade fairs and started a business in new products. "We received more and more enquiries from companies wanting to know what they should do with their old devices. They would say: There is still data on them and they’re nice devices. We don’t just want to put them through the shredder, maybe they could be donated?" In fact, many companies now choose not to receive payment from Way2Buy, instead, they engage the company to donated the proceeds to a previously determined non-profit organisation. Way2Buy also invests a portion of profits for good causes. "For example, we work together with a few animal parks that accept used smartphones from visitors as donations. We often pay them hundreds of euros more than the devices are worth."
The Way2Buy company history bears a strong resemblance to a classic start-up story from Silicon Valley. At first, the brothers stored their products in their parents’ garage in Norderstedt. "After three months, we moved into a 20 m² office." After another stint in the north of Hamburg, in 2016 they moved to their current premises in Norderstedt – almost incognito in an unassuming industrial courtyard. "We also have the latest smartphone models in stock, all together this adds up to very high value goods that we need to protect," says Jamil Ahmed.
In mid-2023, the pair of brothers plans to open a new headquarters in Henstedt-Ulzburg. "After an enquiry here in Norderstedt, the business development office EGNO connected us with all the NORGDATE communities, so we simultaneously received multiple offers that met our requirements." The new location had to remain easily accessible for employees, be situated near the motorway, offer a good infrastructure with options for shopping and be in a popular area for companies that aim for further growth like Way2Buy.
In Kirchenweg in Henstedt-Ulzburg, Way2Buy purchased a 1,800 m² property on which they plan to construct a two-storey office and warehouse complex. "To protect our valuable inventories, it will be constructed entirely of concrete, and we will build an extra vault on the inside using reinforced concrete," remarks Sajid Ahmed. Apart from sufficient storage capacity, the building needs to offer enough space for all employees and customers, with spacious individual offices, common areas and attractive conference rooms. "Our pure construction costs will amount to roughly 1.9 million euros," says Jamil Ahmed.
The entrepreneurs are fully satisfied with their collaboration with the Henstedt-Ulzburg business development office. "We had excellent support throughout the entire process, from the offer for the space to drawing up the purchase agreement as well as the appointment with the notary," says Jamil Ahmed. "During contract negotiations, we always managed to find a good middle ground between our expectations and the community’s requirements. And whenever we needed to talk with specific contacts about the construction planning process, help was available immediately." The team of brothers has big plans for the period after relocation. "I enjoy establishing new companies," reveals Jamil Ahmed. "We're definitely going to expand our services in the mobile communications sector."