Think Toy Story, but with only Minifigs. While we wish it were shot in stop-motion, it’s all CGI. But with Will Ferrell, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman on board, we’ll still go see it.
Anu Shukla has quite a reputation preceding her. In 2009 she was the CEO of social monetization service, Offerpal. After a very public exchange with Michael Arrington in 2009 concerning Offerpal’s business model, Shukla stepped down from her post, and has since kept a relatively low profile.
RewardsPay is a simple concept: it uses loyalty rewards as a form of currency for payments from various merchants, such as iTunes and gaming companies. Take, for instance, the frequent flier miles you’ve accrued for the past 15 years. Instead of only being able to purchase airfare, RewardsPay allows you to buy goods from retailers who accept the miles as payment for other goods. Shukla told me that, as of now, it has acquired about $4 million of initial funding from angels and early stage VCs.
Shukla just sees RewardsPay as an almost completely untapped market: “Our intention is simply to allow users to use their rewards.” It’s simple enough, and it’s hard to believe other startups haven’t come up with this plan just yet.
The veteran entrepreneur has quite a colorful history. Back in 2009, she was CEO of the social monetization company Offerpal (now Tapjoy). Following allegations by Michael Arrington that as much as 30 percent of Offerpal’s business was garnered due to scamming techniques, Shukla and the TechCrunch editor had a verbal tête-à-tête, calling Arrington’s assertions “shit, double shit, and bullshit.” This led Shukla to step down from her post shortly thereafter.
This business, thankfully, doesn’t involve ad monetization, meaning it probably won’t be saddled by the same kind of accusations.
Shukla told me that every year, $16 billion of unredeemed rewards are accrued. While most of these are in the form of frequent flier miles ($48 million to be exact, according to Shukla), she believes that there should be more ways to spend these awarded bonuses.
She has worked the last year signing on various retailers who would accept rewards as payments. As of now she has as many as 40 lined up, she told me. While she’s not ready to say exactly who all of them are, we should know by the end of the summer. As of now, the merchants RewardsPay houses are a bunch of music and entertainment merchants, such as iTunes, Facebook, Grooveshark, and a subdivision of Disney.
RewardsPay is coming at quite an advantageous time. New and innovative payment platforms are on the rise. For example, there’s Chris Dixon’s belief that bitcoin could be successful as a new, easier way to transact payments. There are other innovative modes of payments, as well, for example Zooz, which is a mobile payment platform that allows for in-ad payments.
All these add credence to why the number of mobile payment platforms have been contunially on the rise, with in-store mobile payments nearly quadrupling last year. Shukla believes RewardsPays takes this a step further by making a platform that utilizes the often-forgotten currency of rewards. In addition, it plans to release a mobile app sometime in the very near future, further aligning with the trend of “new mobile payment platforms.”
The real question, however, will be in how many retailers adopt it. While it’s great that iTunes will now accept my miles, there’s only so many Kanye albums I can download. If retailers like Gap, or, even better, eBay join, then I can see this platform gaining some real forward momentum.
We’ll just have to wait until all 40 are announced. Shukla, however, is sure that people will be excited. Rewards programs, as she sees it, are ways to “engage customers.” She sees the billions of dollars in unused rewards as a means to attract a completely untapped market.
And just imagine what the world would look like if all $16 billion of rewards were claimed this year. RewardsPay will try to bring us closer to this reality.
17-year-old Tim Doner is a hyper-polyglot: he can speak nearly 20 languages, and is said to be the youngest person to achieve such a feat. How did he do it? Through good old hard work. And by watching TV.
If a business model can be applied to women’s fast fashion ecommerce, chances are it has been. Flash sales, subscriptions, mystery boxes, and others have all been in vogue at one point or another over the last several years. But, in the end, none of these models really deliver a great shopping experience.
For the self-confident and experimental fashionistas, mixing and matching items from across the Web is likely a non-issue. But many consumers appreciate guidance and inspiration on how to style themselves. This is counter to the way most ecommerce sites operate, offering photos of a model wearing three to five items, including top, bottom, footwear, and accessories, but making only one of them available for purchase. Also, with the desire to create a false sense of urgency and scarcity, most etailers offer a product one day, but not the next, regularly leaving consumers frustrated and out of luck.
Los Angeles-based DailyLook has developed a complete look-based model that is a welcome reprieve for many women, offering growing a community that strengthens its lock in. The two-year-old company has grown rapidly since abandoning the flash sales model last Spring, focusing instead on solving what co-founder and CEO Brian Ree calls core problems with ecommerce. The company continues to sell complete “looks,” with four new ones introduced daily, but it has also made its archived product and image catalog shoppable and emphasized shopping according to style. The model is rare in the apparel sector, but is similar to the stylist curation offered by ShoeDazzle, JustFab, and others in the footwear category.
“Women have an emotional need to look stylish, but many just don’t know how,” says Ree, relaying feedback from DailyLook’s early customers. “We’re solving a problem that exists both online and offline. Where can you go to get ‘styled’ at a reasonable cost? Not Forever 21. Not H&M. And nowhere else, to my knowledge, online.”
Today, the company has a catalog of 2,700 items in stock and aims to reach 5,000 by year’s end. But these items are mixed and matched into thousands of complete looks, searchable by genre, brand, and category. Items can be purchased individually or as complete looks. There are risks associated with shopping according to looks, including looking like a walking mannequin or committing the fashion faux pas of wearing a single brand from head to toe. But Ree believes the look and style-based search experience is the best way to offer a massive product catalog without being overwhelming and inefficient. The data seems to back up his claims.
DailyLook has 400,000 loyal email subscribers, 12 percent of which visit the company’s site more than 100 times per month, according to its CEO – it’s hard to imagine that many H&M stores see their best shoppers even 100 times per year. Another by-product of the look-based model is increased conversions, according to Ree, who says that the average purchase consists of 2.2 items, well above industry average. Finally, according to sources close to the company, DailyLook generates more than $1 million in revenue each month and has what were described as “very healthy gross margins.” This is rather impressive for a two-year-old company that was bootstrapped for most of its early life and just recently raised significant funding via a $2.5 million Series A round in April of this year from GRP Partners, Rachel Zoe, and others.
Now, the company is less than a week away from launching internationally. DailyLook’s market expansion could come any day now, as it’s running a promotion tying the launch to milestone of signing up its 50,000th international member. The company currently has 41,983, according to a counter on its website, with four days and change until its June 23 deadline.
The majority of DailyLook’s traffic is direct, according to Ree, meaning people typing in its Web address into their browser, followed by its daily email newsletter. But once consumers are on the site, there’s a community element that keeps them highly engaged. One big driver of engagement is pulling hashtagged content from Instagram including photos of customers unboxing and wearing the company’s looks and then displays these images alongside the respective items within its product catalog. Along the same lines, the company has plans to launch a “Be the Stylist” program in the near future which Ree expects to drive rabid engagement.
There’s no one model that is right for every consumer, but DailyLook seems to have settled on one that could appeal to the masses. Ree is a highly capable entrepreneur who many VCs I’ve spoken to believe understands the ecommerce business and his customers’ psychology better than many industry veterans. His next challenge is porting this success to other markets, which due to the number of variables involved, is no sure thing.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]
Using the power of the sun, the SolSource can grill, boil, steam, fry and bake food as fast as or even faster than conventional stoves and grills. Under maximum sunlight, its highly reflective plastic panels can heat food up to 1,000ºC.
Forgive us for dwelling on it, but there were just so many great moments in our fireside chat with Fred Wilson last week. It was really one of my favorites this year. And two of my favorite moments were about the venture capital business.
Wilson — a man known for his strong opinions — was at his most rabid on the topic of corporate VCs. “I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to do that again,” he said. Adding in one more “ever!” just in case we didn’t quite get it. He explains why in the clip above, and notes that Intel Capital and Google Ventures might be two exceptions to his rule. But those two aside, Wilson says it’s repeatedly gone so badly in the past that it might be the one thing that makes him leave a board in the future. (He’s not the first to throw mud at corporate VCs on this site…)
This exclamation aside, Wilson spoke elsewhere in the evening about how he was at a disadvantage as a VC when it comes to giving a lot of advice, because he never had operating experience. It took him longer to learn how to excel as a board member as a result and says he wouldn’t recommend his particular career path to those wanting to break into venture capital.
There’s just one benefit to his lack of operating experience, he says: He will never assume he can do a better job than the CEO. “I have a lot of respect for the job the CEO is doing, and I don’t personally feel that I could do it better,” he says.
Huge thanks to Wilson for sitting down with us. If you’re in San Francisco, there are still tickets available to this week’s fireside chat with Github founder Tom Preston-Werner. We’d love to see you there!
(NSFW: Language) Created in collaboration with Keiji Inafune, Yaiba is a spinoff of Ninja Gaiden about a ninja who was killed by Ryu Hayabusa. Instead of difficult battles, the game is a fun, zombie-filled hack-and-slash. More here.