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Company with KC ties raises $35M to ramp up e-recycling efforts

A Dallas-area company with a Kansas City co-founder and Kansas City funding just got big backing from a Silicon Valley venture capital firm for its solution to the problem of e-waste. 

The company, eRecycling Corps (ERC), which partners with global wireless carriers and retailers to manage wireless e-waste as an asset, announced Tuesday it has raised $35 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Ron LeMay, the former CEO of Sprint PCS and current managing director of Kansas City-based OpenAir Equity Partners, serves as chairman of ERC, which he co-founded alongside David Edmondson, the former CEO of RadioShack. This isn’t the first time in recent months LeMay (below, photo from erecyclingcorps.com) has appeared on Silicon Prairie News with his name tied to a big round of funding. In August, we reported on a $10.6 million capital raise by Zave Networks, another of OpenAir’s investments, which was acquired by Google in September.

ERC, which counts Sprint and Verizon among the customers of its “instant in-store credit offering,” buys old cell phones and resells them on a global after-market. The company is establishing a large-scale wireless phone buy-back programs in a way that is highly scalable yet also attempts to address the unique needs of companies and their customers.

Seeing big potential in a market where more than 130 million mobile devices are retired each year in the United States alone, ERC launched in 2009 with original investments from OpenAir and SJF Ventures. ERC’s initial model centers around a proprietary, web-based platform that integrates directly into the point-of-sale system at carrier retail stores, where 60 percent of all U.S. wireless devices are sold. The company completes more than 2.5 million device trades annually.

“The success of eRecyclingCorps among major carriers to date can be attributed to an executive team that knows the wireless and retail industries inside and out,” said Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Partner, Michael Linse. “ERC’s leadership team and the track record of their business has made them the clear leader in this fast-growing industry.”

According to the EPA, 130 million wireless devices are retired each year in the U.S., but only 10 percent are recycled. That means, the EPA estimates, about 1 billion old cell phones have accumulated in households across the country. Recent Compass Intelligence Research has found that 58 percent of customers are most interested in receiving an instant credit and 68 percent of those want to trade in their wireless device at a carrier store.

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