If you have ever moved into an apartment or house, you know the incredible challenge of trying to fill the place up with home decor that actually works in the space. Too big, too small, too bold, too old fashioned; these are just some of the many quandaries we are left with as consumers as we try and figure out what actually makes sense from a design perspective.
Unfortunately we can’t all be Property Brothers or HGTV design stars. So for the rest of us, we rely on the old ‘eye it’ method or just go for broke and order online hoping it won’t be terrible when it finally gets to our home.
Enter WeLivv. Think of it as Instagram meets home decor. This team is working to provide a unique solution to search for that perfect piece that will finish off your living room or bedroom. With millions of product images uploaded, 1000’s of professional designers onboarded and over 40,000 products for purchase, this team is creating an engaging and tailored home decor curation tool for finding and buying the best furniture online.
We sat down with Founder Andrew Christodoulides to learn more about what he and his team are building to make all of our lives easier when it comes to getting that just right couch pillow!
Can you tell us about the genesis story of welivv?
The day after my first company was acquired, I was signing an office lease for Original Pad, which I launched as a home décor e-commerce startup. My team and I grew that company to over $4 million in annual revenue in less than five years. The traditional approach to online search and e-commerce, however, is something we always felt could be done better.
We believed we could substantially improve the overall user experience that encompassed everything being searched and sold online, from commoditized items like roll towels and toothpaste to luxury, high-ticket products like fashion and home goods. While continuing to operate and grow Original Pad, we spent almost two years developing and testing various parallel models.
By 2016, we had strong proof of concept around an innovative approach to what we believed would improve the earlier stages of user journeys from search and discovery, to presentation and understanding. This model became the basis for WeLivv, which was beta launched in July 2017.
For those that don’t know how do you define welivv as a business?
WeLivv is a home furnishings marketplace that will enable product discovery and shopping through photos of people’s homes.
How much capital have you raised prior to this round and what have you accomplished with it?
We have raised $1 million in outside capital, which has enabled us to develop and launch the foundation of the WeLivv platform and prove critical aspects of our model. We also enrolled more than 8k of the best design professionals to the platform, giving us access to approximately 4 million curated interior design photos.
And on the marketplace side, we’ve onboarded approximately 200 sellers, making over 40k products available for on-platform purchase.
Is the traction you have to date opening up discussion with larger furniture brands?
Most mid-to-higher end brands are typically unwilling to sell through new digital channels out of concern that more sellers, would only cannibalize their existing business. The amazing success we have had attracting such brands is based largely on an approach which focuses on capturing the untapped portion of the market.
This is something we’re achieving through a significantly more personalized product discovery experience, and richer, more immersive presentation of products that captures an expanded portion of the market.
If you had to pinpoint the differentiator of welivv versus a platform like houzz, what would you say it is?
There is too much noise out there. Whether you’re searching for something on Google, Pinterest, or Houzz, or virtually anywhere else, the results are generic and overwhelming. It’s difficult for customers to distinguish between anything they see because of the amount of linear options, often sorted based on which advertiser is willing to pay more.
Rather than being an open platform where anybody can share or sell anything, we are carefully vetting the project images, design professionals, and products being offered through WeLivv, facilitating a uniquely curated, cohesive experience. And while we think this model can be applied to improve any vertical, it’s a particularly serious problem in the home-goods category given the relatively unrecognizable brand names behind each of the products.
Instead of cannibalizing other furniture channel sales, you see yourself as increasing the overall sales pie. how are you accomplishing this?
For starters, a curated/vetted context the market can rely on is more likely to be a context the market will rely on.
Further, we’re doing this through a significantly richer, more authentic presentation of products, rather than the generic studio photography most other sellers are using, which can make it difficult for customers to distinguish between similar-looking products on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of general caliber.
What is the data play here? what can you collect and how can you monetize it?
There is a significant data moat being established related to object recognition. This data will uniquely enable a more efficient search and discovery experience relative to today’s norms through Google or any other search channel. We believe we have a significant first-mover advantage with the approach that is enabling the level of granularity we are experiencing in terms of SKU-level object detection/tagging.
Further, the data we are amassing is at the core of the contextualized, interactive search and discovery experience we are developing, which itself is expected to offer unique insights to the perceptions and behaviors at each step of the user journey, in ways that the linearity of today’s search results does not reveal.
How will you build out the team with the capital raised?
We have narrowed down our search for technology and operations leads, and intend to use proceeds to place them in this same order. Beyond these immediate hires, we have established a comprehensive HR plan which will coincide with our Series A, planned for later this year.
Will you ever move to manage inventory or do you truly want to just be the mechanism for sales, not actual distribution?
We don’t expect to ever manage inventory. Where we believe we will offer significant value differentiation is in the earlier stages of a user journey. Specifically related to their search and product discovery, as opposed to the actual purchase transaction.
Accordingly, we want to focus on what we expect to be the best at, and leave it to the product brands and retailers to deal with inventory, fulfillment, and everything else at the end of the customer shopping journey. We also see this as the most efficiently scalable path.
What type of feedback do you get from manufacturers and customers? how will you leverage that to grow the company?
We’ve had extensive discussions with hundreds of users before and since we started. The key high-level takeaway from customers is that searching and shopping the category is hard, especially online. Because of this, the market has been slower to move away from traditional retail, relative to any other product category.
Product brands and design professionals alike have found it difficult to leverage digital channels to effectively increase market penetration.
The original vision we had for WeLivv was very much validated by the challenges faced on both the market and supply sides.
If you take nothing else from this discussion, I want you to pick up on one thing. Home decor is an industry where brand matters very little. Think about going into Pier 1 or Home Goods or Crate & Barrel. It is rare to care or frankly know who made the piece of furniture or home decor that you are buying.
The reality is, we often use brands as identifiers for quick shopping. Home decor is so much more challenging and nebulous, which is why an interactive, customized and tailored solution like WeLivv makes so much sense for a market like this.
That is what will make this business successful. Stay tuned for our continued coverage of the business.
About: Chris lustrino
A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.