One of my Investment themes at Advent is Personalisation.
eCommerce is clearly one of the few bright spots right now and we’re still in the realm of simple investment stories around backing companies selling stuff online. The Chemist Direct investment thesis? The “Superdrug” of tomorrow. ASOS? The Arcadia of tomorrow. ChainReaction (my personal favourite) is the Halfords of tomorrow. Vente Privee the TKMaxx of tommorrow. Etc etc.
So we’re getting better and better at selling standard product online.
However, there’s an interesting batch of companies who’ve been funded which I expect to see more and more money chasing: Retailers selling product SKUs of 1. A product that personalised and unique to each purchasers.
How can this stack up?
The web is one low-cost route to market and can be leveraged to offer everyone the tools to create their own products. The challenge for businesses is getting the back-end right to be able to manufacture and fulfill.
On “simple personalisation” Europe has some excellent first-wave companies. Spreadhshirt and personalised t-shirts, still growing nicely. Moo.com and cards. Graze.com and healthy food boxes.
What interests me is the second wave of far more complex manufacture & fulfilment or completely new products. GlassesDirect is a great example: something made specifically for me. Not to mention the operational ball-ache of made to order glasses and the drop shipping challenges of fulfillment.
Tailorstore is another great example: We all want tailored shirts but here’s something made in Asia, and delivered to the UK via Germany, from a business based in Sweden.
There is real innovation here: at the technical, operational, manufacturing and financial level. This is a great playground for die-hard entrepreneurs: intellectual challenges, people saying “it can’t be done”, creative solutions and grinding out deals.
I would love to meet more companies in this sector.
There is also a level beyond this: companies coming up with products that are not currently available. I love the idea of being able to design a new car online specifically for me or design a new gadget and get it made by a 3d printer. It’s just I’m not yet convinced this is en-masse right now. Tell me if I am wrong.