The cell phone recycling kiosk is slowly invading malls near you

ecoATMJust got the iPhone 5, and don’t know what to do with your perfectly fine iPhone 4? (Jerk). Well, there’s a growing amount of cell phone recycling kiosks coming to malls near you that will pay you cash for your discarded gadgets. ecoATM, a startup that is building out these networks, has just raised $41 million in debt financing from private equity firm Falcon Investment Advisors, according to a filing, which could help it start pushing out a much higher volume of these kiosks.
Five-year-old ecoATM’s kiosks use technology to identify the recycled item (like your basically new iPhone), quantify its condition and worth, and offer you compensation in cash or coupons. The company has about 300 kiosks across 20 states as of now, spokeswoman Anita Giani tells me, which is up from the 50 kiosks they had installed about a year ago.
That’s steady growth, though a bit slower ramp up than they had expected a few years ago. But Giani says that ecoATM is looking to install hundreds of kiosks more this year, and has also expanded the types of devices it can accept to recently to include tablets.
ecoATM’s kiosks also have wireless connections, and the boxes use software from startup Axeda to run diagnostics and do remote management. The company can do remote software refreshes on its kiosks, and it can also fix any problems with the kiosks without having to send a technician in person out to each kiosk.
ecoATMThis debt round is separate from the company’s previous equity rounds. Before that Series B, ecoATM had also raised $14.4 million Series A round in early 2011. The company has a set of strategic backers that could be a strong asset to get its kiosks into more stores, including change kiosk giant Coinstar, Oakland venture firm Claremont Creek Ventures, Tao Ventures, and Singapore billionaire Koh Boon Hwee.
I’ve been watching the company’s site for a few years, and it’s now added a lot more information about the technology and methods they are using to combat theft. The problem with the kiosks is that if someone steals a new iPhone, and takes it to the kiosk, it could provide an easy way to get cash for the stolen device. After a friend’s phone was stolen recently in San Francisco, the police actually told her to go down to check an area that had recycling options, as it wasn’t uncommon for phones to end up there.
ecoATM says to fight theft, they have established methods like: requiring a drivers license to recycle goods, the recycler has to be 18 or over, the recycler gives a thumbprint, the devices are kept for 14 days as a precaution, the kiosks use remote cameras to take photos of and monitor the recycler, and serial numbers are kept of the devices to check against reported stolen goods.
This story was updated at 9:308AM to confirm that ecoATM’s debt round was separate from its former equity rounds.
This story was updated at 2:56PM to add that the $40 million in debt funding came from private equity firm Falcon Investment Advisors.