Zola Inc., an online wedding-gift registry founded by former Gilt Groupe employees, raised $10 million in Series B funding in its bid to compete with Macy’s, Williams-Sonoma , Amazon.com and other registry destinations, VentureWire has learned.
The New York startup has set out to develop a sustainable online-shopping business model, something that has eluded plenty of traditional and upstart players in the market. Zola is consciously avoiding the flash-sales model favored by Gilt and others, for example.
Canvas Venture Fund led the new round, with Thrive Capital returning to reinvest. Several seed funds made an unusual later-round investment here, including AOL Inc.’s BBG Ventures, Female Founders Fund and Forerunner Ventures.
About 100,000 couples have used Zola for wedding registries, requesting wine-tastings, cash, and traditional home goods, since its launch in October 2013, said Shan-Lyn Ma, co-founder and chief executive, formerly senior director of product management at Gilt. Zola expects to sell $40 million of goods and services this year, up from $8 million last year, she said.
The company has learned from troubles at other e-commerce startups, Ms. Ma said. Like a large store, Zola has a customer-service department and curates the goods it sells. But the company doesn’t hold items in inventory, a cost that can be onerous. Instead, Zola works directly with manufacturers, such as Cuisinart, that ship directly to the couples.
Zola has been able to get a cut of about 40% on the purchase price for products and about 20% for experiences, Ms. Ma said. That is in line with traditional retailer splits and much higher than affiliate fees collected by shopping marketplaces, she said.
Ms. Ma co-founded Zola with Nobu Nakaguchi, formerly senior director of user experience at Gilt, and Kevin Ryan, co-founder of several New York startups, including Gilt, Business Insider and MongoDB.
Read the full article on Zola’s approach in VentureWire.