PawnGuru brings pawnshop business model into 21st Century

Many people see pawnshops as something that should be avoided. The guys behind PawnGuru see them as a big opportunity in the new economy.

“We knew there weren’t a lot of startups tackling the problem pawnshops face,” says Jordan Birnholtz, director of marketing for PawnGuru.

The Southfield-based startup specializes in bringing pawn shops into the 21st century by digitizing their business model. Specifically, the company brings customer engagement for pawnshops online.

“We believed we could get shops to engage customers and make offers online,” Birnholtz says.

That turned out to be much easier said than done. When the PawnGuru team started approaching pawnbrokers with the idea of online engagement a little more than a year ago, the nearly all said no. They wouldn’t make an offer on an item over the phone, or via email with photos. It had to be in the store.

PawnGuru’s team kept asking. Eventually they found a pawnshop willing to buck tradition and try PawnGuru’s new platform. Today it has serviced 15,000 people, helping them choose between multiple offers from pawnshops.

“Mostly in Detroit, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta,” Birnholtz says. “More than 1,000 pawnshops have signed up and more than 100 are very active.”

PawnGuru’s team of six people plans to continue growing across North American in 2016. It has landed a $600,000 convertible note earlier this year to help make that growth happen, including attracting seed capital from Invest Detroit.

“We’re raising a $1.5 to $2 million seed round right now to grow more,” Birnholtz says.

Source: Jordan Birnholtz, director of marketing for PawnGuru
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.