A Q&A with Bridestory co-founder and CEO Kevin Mintaraga. The Jakarta, Indonesia-based wedding vendor marketplace announced in late August that it has raised an undisclosed amount of Seed funding from Sovereign’s Capital, BEENOS Plaza, East Ventures, and Fenox Venture Capital. It was founded last year by Mintaraga and COO Etienne Emile, and this was its first round of outside funding.
SUB: Please describe Bridestory and your primary innovation.
Mintaraga: With 21 categories of wedding vendors, Bridestory.com showcases a wide range of themes, creative ideas, and unique expertise.
Essentially, we want to help create dream weddings by providing more options and connecting engaged couples with the wedding vendors that fit their own personal set of criteria and preferences. Engaged couples can search for vendors not only by wedding themes and concepts, but also by filtering results based on their specific budget criteria.
For vendors, one of the key benefits is that they are not limited to the Indonesian market, but are given an opportunity to reach customers located in regional and international markets.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Mintaraga: We serve both wedding vendors and engaged couples between the ages of 21-to-35.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Bridestory from the competition?
Mintaraga: Our closest competitors are Weddingku, SingaporeBrides, WeddingSquare and Bridalbook. However, many of them are publishers—we, alternatively, are a platform.
As publishers, their revenue is generated from an advertising business model, and our business model is based on lead generation and subscriptions. Most importantly, we are different from other popular services used by engaged couples because we offer both the creative ideas and the ability to connect to the vendors who can make each vision a reality.
Also, unlike most of the existing wedding websites that have massive content and sales teams, Bridestory runs a very lean operation. All the contents are generated by wedding vendors, and most of the revenue from our subscription-based business model is generated by our self-service monetization platform.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve closed a new round of Seed funding. Can you reveal the amount raised?
Mintaraga: The exact sum is undisclosed at this time.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Mintaraga: We have experienced fast growth. We have had strong traction from wedding vendors who have been receiving many leads and new clients from our platform. In addition, our user engagement rate is twice as big as that of our competitors.
Lastly, we have been able to generate leads for our vendors at a cost lower than the revenue we get from generating these leads—we would like to scale this margin.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Mintaraga: We plan to use the funds to increase product development, grow our workforce and expand to major cities in Asia-Pacific.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Bridestory? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Mintaraga: I got married in 2012, and after our wedding my wife became a wedding planner. From her work, I learned about the amount of money her clients spend on weddings, and realized the huge potential for the wedding industry. I started to do more research, and found that the wedding business has a massive annual market size of $300 billion globally.
After careful analysis of the current wedding market players, I saw weaknesses and areas that needed improvement. Instead of developing another wedding publisher business, I wanted to develop a marketplace for wedding vendors, which makes the business easily scalable.
Bridestory was created with a very unique approach—combining a conventional wedding directory site with an inspiration site like Pinterest. Since weddings can be a cross-border event, we have seen an increasing trend in destination weddings, where wedding service providers like photographers, videographers, and designers are interested in getting more international exposure and overseas work.
Currently, there is no other global wedding platform that vendors can leverage to reach broader audiences or that couples can use to create their dream destination wedding.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Mintaraga: As an entrepreneur, I had a vision of a product that I wanted to build. However, in order to accelerate my vision, I needed to partner with a co-founder who complements me in technical, operational, and international expansion. Together, we bootstrapped and self-funded Bridestory until we got traction and raised this Seed funding.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Mintaraga: Every engaged couple has their own love story, and these unique stories drive their vision of a dream wedding. Their wedding planning journey is part of this story, and our platform aims to offer ease and efficiency along the way.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Mintaraga: 1.) Understanding the wedding culture in each country and how we can localize our platform to meet each country’s specific needs and behavior; and 2.) finding a strong local partner that is well connected within the wedding business industry to accelerate the growth and progress of Bridestory in every country.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Mintaraga: We created a totally new monetization model that combines lead generation and a subscription-based business model. For example, when a wedding photographer first joins Bridestory, we will provide them with free credits, with one credit equaling one business lead. When a user sends a vendor an inquiry, one of the credits is used up. Once a vendor runs out of credit, they will then need to subscribe and pay a monthly subscription. The monthly subscription will be our basic business model. It’s like trying a free game or app in your mobile phone—once you are addicted or feel the benefit, you will then be happy to pay for extension or extra service.
SUB: What are your goals for Bridestory over the next year or so?
Mintaraga: For next year, our goal is to expand and strengthen our business in key cities in Asia-Pacific.