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Faces of Innovation: Expese's Akash Modi

With a booming tech industry and a daily influx of new gadgets, tech lovers often face a difficult decision: do they buy the latest device or wait to try it before purchasing? For a perfect solution, turn to the founders of Expese, a Boston-based startup. The company offers a subscription service that lets users pick from their expansive online catalog, try it out and easily send it back in exchange for their next pick. Subscribers can keep the gadget for up to 21 days.

“As consumer technology becomes more complex and the product offerings more diverse, the standard retail experience of tinkering with the product for a few minutes on a showroom floor just doesn’t cut it any longer,” said Expese Founder Akash Modi. i3 caught up with Modi to see how Expese can help give millennials the retail experience they’ve always wanted.

How does Expese wish to change the retail landscape?

Our goal is make the latest and greatest technology accessible and easy to experience without needing to spend too much. Expese lets consumers skip the need to blindly buy items without trying them, or wastefully resell them after only a couple of uses. We offer a monthly subscription to our service that lets users select from a long list of the latest tablets, computers, speakers, drones and other devices. The service exists entirely online, allowing users to easily sign up, build a list of the products they wish to try and then have it mailed out to them.

What inspired you to start Expese?

I’ve been involved in retail technology stores for 10 years and previously owned a brick-andmortar retail store. One of the most important things I realized is that even if a company has a great, innovative product, if they did not have a large brand name behind it, convincing consumers to take a risk and buy it was incredibly difficult. Often, users come in to briefly try out the product, only to buy it online. I thought there had to be a better way. Expese was also a service I wanted and would use, too. As a huge fan of consumer tech and someone who always needs to get the latest gadget, I knew a service that gave high-tech enthusiasts a modern way to try then buy the newest item could be in high demand.

What are some of your challenges?

When we first started in beta [two years ago], we had zero subscribers for the first month. Part of overcoming this was changing and tweaking our messaging and marketing, but we also had to rethink our price point. We had originally charged $49.99 per month for our subscription service, but we saw little engagement. We realized our service is best suited for people who want to save money — to spend just a few dollars a month to try something instead of spending hundreds on something they might not want later. To appeal to those looking to save, we lowered the monthly cost to $29.99 and made it cheaper to extend the rental period on the devices. The changes have helped, and we’re on the fast track to 1,000 subscribers and plan to exit beta towards the end of the year.

How does Expese align with consumer trends in retail experiences and ownership?

Expese is driven by the shopping patterns of millennials and what I believe will dominate how people shop in the next 15 years. To be honest, younger consumers don’t like going to stores like generations in the past did — sites like Amazon have clearly shown the importance of convenience and on-demand access for this generation of shoppers. Of course, tech-savvy shoppers want to buy their devices in a tech-savvy way. Today’s consumers rank experience over ownership, making a rental program or subscription service like Netflix and Expese more ideal. 

Caitlin Cine & Jeremy Snow