Featured Startup Pitch: Born in Mexico City, Toplist wants to enable New Yorkers to get shopping recommendations from friends in ‘a matter of seconds’
Elevator Pitch: Toplist reduces the process of getting shopping recommendations from close friends to a matter of seconds.
Toplist is a social shopping recommendation destination. It’s based on a simple concept—follow those you trust to find products you love. We built an interface where users discover products, see what their friends like, and get recommendations from them instantly. After all, users are one click away from buying everything they see. With this users won’t have to rely on product reviews anymore; they will get advice directly from their closest friends. The service will at first only be launched in iOS for iPhone—it’s currently in private beta.
We are a team of three guys: Pablo Rivera, Jose Arrieta, and me; born and raised in Mexico City. We’ve been friends since we were around 12-years-old, and a couple of years ago we decided we did not want to follow the conventional corporate path most guys our age take. Pablo came up with the first idea in 2012 about building a website where people could shuffle around products, pretty much like StumbleUpon does, but instead of entertainment it was about shopping.
So we set out to do it. We worked really hard to launch a first prototype, a website where users shuffled around cool products curated by their own interests. After launching the site, we noticed that people didn’t really use all the great features we had built for them, they were not engaging with the amazing products we had curated for them, but worst of all they were not coming back. Our site was unsuccessful, but not everything was a complete failure—we learned a lot about working together as a team and especially about building products that were engaging and easy-to-understand for users; we learned from our mistakes.
After all this experience, we decided to pivot the project into a cool new product with a mobile-first strategy. The first thing we did was quit our jobs and go all in on our startup. The three of us had good jobs in multinational companies working in areas like finance and marketing, but we decided that if we wanted to do this the right way, we had to take the risk and leave that ‘comfortable’ life to build a new company. We were able to raise a first investment round with Angel investors in Mexico City, and with that we’re developing the app and moving to New York City for the big launch.
All of Toplist’s marketing efforts will be directed at only one city: New York City. We want to do a very lean launch, just focusing on one market and a specific target user. For promotion we are developing a series of strategies that go from approaching influencers (to gain organic growth), to activities around the city to gain the attention of the public. At the moment we cannot disclose the specific activities we will perform.
Our market opportunity relies on the fact that we took something that happens in real-life and put it on a mobile platform. People really ask for recommendations from their friends when it comes to shopping decisions. We have seen a trend of people sending pictures to their relatives (couple, friends, family) while they’re in a fitting room—they usually ask for opinion or approval on the item they are about to buy. Toplist replicates this in a mobile experience, making it fast-and-easy for users to receive recommendations from the people they trust.
We compete in the social shopping sector where Wanelo, Fancy, Svpply are big players. But we do not consider them to be a recommendation destination as we are.
How We Differentiate From the Competition
Our competition has based their success on showing entertaining products curated by people in the network, and allowing users to have an interaction through those products. This model has turned out to be very successful for them. But we go beyond that—Toplist’s proposal is to reduce the process of getting recommendations from close friends to a matter of seconds. We based the concept on saying that you should only trust the people you know when it comes to receiving a recommendation towards a product. Why should you trust reviews on ecommerce websites when they come from people you have never heard of?
At the moment our revenue stream will come from different affiliate programs that many online companies offer. This will allow us to expand the burn rate of the investment and gain more value for our first round. But the real business is behind big data. Our main objective is to build a large active user base that will provide us with a lot of information valuable to different brands and companies. With our system, we will know how users react towards a whole brand or a specific product, but most importantly towards the brand’s competition. We believe that with enough users and analytics we can build a really valuable business model through the use of big data.
Our plans are to move to New York City in early 2014 to launch the app and gain traction from active users. We will need a new round of funding around Q2 or Q3 so we can expand the operations and the team.
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Headquarters: Mexico City
Investors: Angel investors in Mexico
Year Founded: 2013