YBuy’s Subscription Service Lets You Try Gadgets for 30 Days

Subscription services are back in style.

Popular right now are monthly shoe clubs that send you a new pair every 30 days. But here’s a twist: A site that lets you try out consumer electronics and home and kitchen gadgets before buying them.

YBuy.com, which launched today, allows members to try out a product, such as an iPad, a Jawbone headset, a Keurig coffee maker or an iRobot Roomba vacuum, for 30 days before deciding whether they want to keep it.

Members must pay $25 for the service. If they decide to keep the product, the fee applies toward the item’s purchase price. YBuy says shipping is free both ways.

The Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company was started by Stephen Svajian and Kevin and Tim Wall, and has raised $750,000 in funding from angel investors.

The concept is based on the theory that product returns are already costing the consumer electronics industry a lot of money. In 2011, YBuy estimates that 68 percent of products were returned because they did not meet customer’s expectations, costing the industry $16.7 billion.

Thus, if users get the chance to use the product before they buy it, the number of returns will drop. YBuy says it offers new products, but will also refurbish unwanted products before sending them to another customer.

Other subscription services have received large investments recently with a new twist on the business model introduced in the 80s with the CD club.

For example, ShoeDazzle, which was co-founded by celebrity Kim Kardashian, raised $40 million in capital last year, and JustFabulous raised $33 million with the help of former model Kimora Lee Simmons, who was previously married to Russell Simmons.

Unlike the onerous subscription services of the past, YBuy says subscribers can cancel anytime or choose to skip a month and have that month’s fee applied toward the purchase of a future product.

Right now, YBuy is invitation-only as it ramps up.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik