We’ve all been there: you move somewhere, get your own place, then your mom comes to visit and you get an earful about your lifestyle choices. But what if your mom’s also an interior designer and insists you don’t buy any IKEA furniture?
Then you’re probably entrepreneur Ivan Lim and you spend four weekends running around showrooms and dealing with salespeople, dropping a bunch of money on designer furniture – and finally decide this is a problem that needs addressing.
We are in equal parts a furniture business and a technology business.
Together with co-founders Richard Li and David Wei, Lim decided to start Brosa, an ecommerce brand for designer furniture that aims to help customers find nice-looking products on the website, buy them for affordable prices, and have them delivered to their home.
“We are in equal parts a furniture business and a technology business,” Lim, who’s CEO of Brosa, tells Tech in Asia. The startup has built its own enterprise software to automate and optimize the processes involved in designing and sourcing products, packaging them, and scheduling shipments to customers.
At the same time, it uses machine learning and data science to plan for future demand and gather more information about its products.
Brosa has just clinched a series B round worth US$3.9 million. Existing investor AirTree Ventures returned for this round, which was joined by Bailador Technology Investments and BMY Group.
The startup will use its new resources to improve its tech and hire senior staff across a spectrum of roles, including software engineering and business. It will also revamp a number of physical outlets it has created to act like offline showrooms for its products.
Taking the market online
Brosa is poised to take advantage of the rising trend in online furniture retail as well as a global market valued at US$13 billion by Euromonitor International. The firm found that six percent of sales value worldwide in 2016 was online, up 13 percent from the year before.
Before Brosa, Lim oversaw growth at Elto, a marketer and developer marketplace that was acquired by GoDaddy in 2015. Wei co-founded group buying website Crowdmass, which he sold to Groupon in 2011. Li was running his own furniture manufacturing and exporting business.
Brosa is eyeing both Australia and other Asia-Pacific markets.
As Brosa scales up, it’s eyeing both Australia and other Asia-Pacific markets. Finding the right talent to do that is one of the greatest challenges it faces, according to Lim. The firm has increased its headcount from 25 to 70 since its series A in 2015.
Brosa doesn’t reveal revenue and gross merchandise volume figures. Lim offers only that order volume from customers has grown more than 10 times since its previous round. The startup has designed and launched over 2,000 new products and has its own 10,000-square-meter distribution center in Australia.
There are quite a few websites, both local and international, offering designer furniture in Australia. Singapore has its own share, including local startup HipVan. Brosa claims its competition is traditional offline retailers – which may be true, but both online and offline retailers often compete for the same customers.
Lim thinks Brosa’s advantage lies in its end-to-end service, which is built around the customer and offers them options in how to shop for furniture. “They can purchase online, call in or chat online with a stylist, book a styling appointment at our Brosa Studio, book delivery times via SMS and even watch their delivery arrive to them in real time. We create a far more painless experience,” he says.
Converted from Australian dollars. Rate: US$1 = A$1.28.
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