What happens when you combine the concept of personal shopping, luxury goods such as Kotur and Etro at deep discounts with the web and SMS alerts? You get Ideeli, a web service from an eponomously named start-up based in New York City that has just raised $3.8 million dollars from Boston-based VC firm, Kodiak Ventures and some angel investors. The company that soft launched in May 2007 will announce it’s most recent round of funding on Monday.
“Ideeli is an invitation only shopping community,” says Paul Hurley, founder and chief executive officer of the company. “Think of it as an advertorial that combines mobile, e-commerce and community.” By keeping the service invitation only, Hurley says, Ideeli is an attractive option for designer labels who want to maintain exclusivity but want to tap the web for its commerce potential. “We have built this from a brand owner’s perspective.” Oscar De La Renta and Baccarat have already signed on as partners. Why not? The service has a precedent, and is inspired by super-successful French site, vente-privee.com.
The website offers luxury goods such as clutches and bags from high end designers at discounts of between 50-to-90 percent. Ideeli sends out the members an email every week letting them know what products are going to go on sale in the coming week.
Then, every day a single such product (or brand) goes on sale, and the date and time of the sale is kept a secret. The members of Ideeli are sent an SMS alert or an email when the products go on sale. In addition, the company also offers weekly giveaways, typically one exclusive item. In order to become a member of Ideeli, one needs to invited by a current member.
There are two tiers of service – the basic service called Second Row. The premium option that costs $7.95 a month is called First Row and entitles you to get SMS alerts and a one-hour head start over others as far as sales are concerned. The First-come first-serve nature of the service is one of the reasons Hurley believes people will sign-up for the premium SMS alert option. So far, they have seen about 10% conversion among their beta testers. (Warning: ideeli doesn’t work with T-Mobile for now.)
The company plans to expand into other verticals sometime in the future, but for now they are focusing on the Cosmopolitan-set. When I showed the service to some of my lady friends, they approved the selections on offer, though were quick to point out that some of the stuff wasn’t that au currant. Would they bid? Of course .
What’s my prognosis on Ideeli? If they manage to get the viral growth they are hoping for, they will have suitors in big fashion-oriented publishing houses: CondeNast, Hearst, Hatchette and even Time Warner.