The Eye of Photography talked with Matt Barker, CEO of MPB, the leading online platform for second-hand photography and videography equipment.
Reselling and buying second-hand equipment is at the heart of the MPB model, created eleven years ago. How did your personal practice of photography and of the photographic market lead to the creation of this company?
MPB began as a side-hustle whilst I was completing my studies and it came from my passion for photography. It quickly became clear that there was a huge demand for used photographic kit, but that the fragmented nature of the market meant that the process of buying and selling the equipment was challenging for customers: There was a high degree of risk around whether the kit they were buying would actually work; and if they were selling, would they get a fair price or even receive the payment promised? Not to mention the difﬁculties of packaging and sending these delicate items securely. I realised that there was an opportunity to make the circular economy a reality by offering a dedicated platform to give photographers – of any level and with any budget – a simple, trustworthy and safe way to do all of this.
Did you immediately feel an expectation from photographers in an already existing second-hand market (especially via Ebay)?
Consumer trust remains one of the biggest challenges when buying or selling used. Our platform and offer has been speciﬁcally designed to make this process safe, easy and transparent for customers to do both of these. For those who choose to sell on ebay, the addition of platform fees means they won’t achieve more for their kit, and it’s a far less convenient option. For buyers, we give them a 12 month warranty on their purchases, which you don’t get on ebay or Leboncoin.
MPB is now a global company. How do you manage to gain trust of photographers around the world in a second-hand market where the question of reliability is essential?
Gaining and maintaining our customers’ trust is key, which is why we are transparent at every stage of the process – from offering upfront quotes with no hidden costs, to providing free shipping and insurance on kit you’re trading in whilst it’s in transit; using product images showing the actual product you’ll get, and making sure you get paid quickly and at the value you agreed. All of our kit comes with a 12 month warranty and our dedicated customer experience teams are also on hand to provide support along the way to ensure every one of our customers has a positive experience with MPB.
Do you still face distrust regarding your offer ? How do you try to convince them ?
First impressions are the most important and we are proud that once a customer has traded with MPB, many of them will do so again. We are also very proud to have achieved a Trustpilot score of 4.8/5, reﬂecting the customer-focus we have throughout MPB. Another way we build awareness of and reinforce trust in our brand is by working with a variety of photography communities and lending them kit for events so that they can get to know us, see the quality of kit and experience our offering for themselves.
MPB highlights the team of professionals who inspect, analyze and categorize the photographic material before putting it back into the circuit of sale or exchange. Can you explain this process to us?
Once a customer has decided to sell or trade their kit via MPB and received our quote, their kit is sent securely and at no cost, to our Berlin warehouse where one of our team of experts will perform a detailed check and assess each item. We will increase the quote if the kit is in better condition than expected, and if we make any changes that lower the quote, the customer can choose to have the kit returned for free. After we are given the greenlight, we will send payment straight to their preferred bank account. We recirculated more than 485,000 products in the last year – all of which come MPB-approved with a twelve-month warranty. I’m proud that every single item of equipment which comes to us will ﬁnd a new home with another photographer and absolutely nothing ends up in landﬁll.
What are the countries/markets in which MPB is most established? How do you explain it?
The company was born to buy and sell kit, globally. We are headquartered in Brighton in the UK, which is still our biggest market, and have expanded our operations to the US and Germany to facilitate this. Our US business grew very quickly, highlighting the exciting market opportunity and appetite from US-based customers for our offer. We have a tailored website in French and a and are planning to launch further language-speciﬁc sites in Europe shortly.
How is the company established in the French market? What are your goals for the future ?
The French market is an important one for MPB and we have been present since 2018. We currently offer French-speaking customers a tailored website in French and have a team of dedicated French-speaking customer experience specialists to answer questions and provide additional support. As part of our international growth strategy, we continually evaluate new market opportunities for expansion and already have plans in the pipeline to support more European-based customers in their local languages.
MPB also ﬁnances and promotes photographic studies and projects. Are there any new projects in progress ?
We collaborate with and support many different partners and projects across the globe that align with MPB’s purposeful mission to: open up the world of visual storytelling in a way that is good for people and the planet. In the past year we have sponsored over 15 visual storytelling events or awards with a focus on the environment, diversity and accessibility. A recent example which comes to mind is the 17:15:40 Project, which is offering support to women, trans and non-binary people in photography and video in the UK today. In France we are currently working with La Bourse du Talent to support emerging photographers in their journey.
You are a photographer yourself. Do you have a favorite equipment, a favorite kit that you will never sale on MPB ?
I’m regularly inspired by and reminded of the creative power of great visual storytelling through MPB’s collaborations with photographers and videographers. Running a global business means that sadly, I don’t have much time to shoot, but when I do – and it’s usually when I’m travelling – I use a Leica M10.