Sunday's New York Times Fashion & Style section featured an article about how the world of fashion is slowly jumping on the social shopping bandwagon. Sites like Motilo.com – where users can create and buy virtual outfits, The Love List from Marc Jacobs – which enables consumers to tell friends via social networking which products they love for friends to ultimately purchase as gifts, and finally, Upstart Labs alum Chirpify.
Chirpify brings e-commerce to Twitter and Instagram with the click of a button. It's a natural fit for the industry given that shopping is, by nature, social. However, the article explains that these advancements are big doings for the fashion industry, which is typically not framed for early adoption of technology.
So far, the results speak for themselves.
Chirpify’s “frictionless transaction” — there are no virtual shopping carts or baskets, as found on many e-commerce sites — has seen it turn 4 percent of its browsers into shoppers, according to its founder, Chris Teso, double the usual e-commerce rate of 2 percent.
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We've been raving about Chirpify – our very first Upstart Labs graduate – for a while now. And we're certainly not the only ones. Today Fortune/CNN Money named Chirpify 1 of 7 social networks to watch in 2013, along with a handful of other impressive platforms including Pheed, Medium and Thumb. Check out the full article here, and then give Chirpify a spin, if you haven't already.
I spend a lot of time explaining the Upstart Labs model to people I meet. Our portfolio is small – just seven companies to date – and you won’t see us packing an auditorium for a demo day twice a year. As an early-stage investment fund, we’re more likely to be found behind the scenes than introducing our latest crop of companies.
Upstart Labs is different because we invest in the form of professional services rather than cash. We provide access to a team of 13 – developers, designers, project management, marketing, business development and sales – in addition to mentoring from our executive team and business services such as legal and accounting. Rather than giving startups a pile of cash and waiting for them to hire employees, our portfolio companies hit the ground running on Day One.
When pitching investors, startup founders try to cut right to the chase with their “ask” – how much money they need, and what, specifically, they’re going to use that money for. One of my favorite things about the model that we’ve established at Upstart Labs is that it gives founders the ability to modify the specifics of that “ask” during their time with us, as conditions dictate.
Hiring employees is expensive; hiring creative and development agencies is even more so. We’ve heard angels complain that a quarter of their investment (or more) is “wasted” by startups on contractors and other pricey purchases. Companies in our program avoid those expenditures during their tenure, and get more time to refine their model – and generate revenue! – before pulling the trigger on long-term expenses.
Our team augments a startup’s existing team. With our team’s help, companies in our portfolio who have products in the market can expand their features, add platforms and services, and enter new markets. We’re investing in this way – services first – because we believe it works. Need more evidence? Just read what our Upstarts say about us.