A Q&A with Grabble co-founder Daniel Murray. The London-based startup, which is a social fashion discovery and commerce platform for the UK, launched out of beta in late September. It was founded this spring by Murray and Joel Freeman.
SUB: Please describe Grabble and your primary innovation.
Murray: Grabble is a platform featuring the best online fashion products chosen by its members. It allows people to discover, recommend, and purchase online fashion, all within the same platform. In other words, every item on Grabble has been endorsed by one of its users. The result is a rich online shopping experience that is all about community discovery. It’s a social way to buy clothing and accessories, allowing users to recommend items or request feedback from friends before purchasing.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Murray: Grabble was built as a means of introducing fashion retailers, especially boutique chains, to a larger market audience through social commerce. Our platform can help all fashion brands, but we are especially keen on bespoke retailers who want to create lasting relationships with people who love unique clothing and accessories.
We see our target users split across two categories: those who love discovering new fashion and are proud evangelists for those boutiques they unearth, and young consumers who enjoy online shopping and sharing because it’s fun and adds value to their experience.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Grabble from the competition?
Murray: Our main competitors in the UK are Nuji and Pinterest—however, neither offer consumers a great fashion shopping experience because they both merely scrape pages. Pinterest is a fantastic business we admire greatly, but it’s an amazing place for keeping all sorts of things—not necessarily the fashion items you want to save or come back to later when they go on sale.
Whilst our competitors take a picture from a web page, we take key product information—including stock levels, price, and size. We can then provide our users with a complete information package and, most importantly, notify them when items they ‘grab’ go on sale.
SUB: You just announced your launch out of beta. Why was this the right time to launch?
Murray: I think internally we really see it as a soft launch—there is still so much to learn and we are adding new features every week. But that being said, there are two main factors that helped us feel ready to take the site out of private beta.
The first being that we’ve spent a substantial amount of time gathering feedback from our users and making tweaks to our platform. While Grabble will continue to evolve, we’re confident that our latest release is working to the required standard. Secondly, we’ve secured some fantastic partnerships with some world famous fashion brands, including ASOS, Adidas, Boohoo, Coast, Dune, Miss Selfridge, Topshop, and Urban Outfitters. It just made sense to tie in our launch with the announcement of these partnerships.
Oh, and in typical entrepreneur fashion, we have read and try our best to adhere to the rules laid down by the great Eric Ries and his Lean Startup methodology. It would stand against everything he taught to continue to tweak our site without proper user feedback and conversion tracking to optimization.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?
Murray: Yes we have. We’re very fortunate to have the support of some fantastic investors, who all bring substantial experience and knowledge to the table. Our challenge is to take their advice on board and put it into practice. They include fashion and technology entrepreneurs, so that mix of experience is invaluable to us.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Grabble? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Murray: We simply spotted a genuine gap in a market we love. We recognized that there was a large number of young UK fashion entrepreneurs and young consumers looking for unique items. Grabble was created to help them find each other. What we didn’t anticipate was the uptake from the well-known brands who were very excited to come on board. We have had to deal with a lot of inbound demand from many great businesses that we just weren’t expecting.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Murray: A lot of the initial development of the concept happened around kitchen tables and Shoreditch cafes. But the first major step was defining the brand values, logo and corporate language. It’s an important first step because, from my perspective, everything else is built upon that foundation.
Once the office was set up, we set about finding the perfect ‘style editor’ that was just as passionate about fashion as they were about startups. After a long search, we found the perfect candidate. Since raising investment and being able to hire staff, we’ve had much more time to consider our strategy, rather than getting stuck down in all the day-to-day admin and planning.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Murray: The name Grabble stems from how our platform works. Our community thrives on a concept called ‘Grabbing.’ After they have registered, users can install a ‘Grab’ button to their browser tool bar. This allows them to essentially ‘bookmark’ their favorite online fashion discoveries on any external webpage, which then pulls that product’s information into their personal Grabble collections.
I don’t know where the ‘ble’ part really comes from. I think I’ll have to let Joel take credit for the name and I’ll try and take credit for everything else.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Murray: Absolutely. We have some extremely exciting and innovative concepts we are currently exploring on both the publisher and boutique side of our platform. To put them into action on the sort of global scale that we envision for this business would certainly require serious funding, so we are always on the lookout. Neither myself nor Joel will be happy until one of us is on the phone from the San Francisco office to the other in the Tokyo office. If you are going to dream, there’s no point not dreaming big.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Murray: One of our difficulties has been finding talented developers. There is a digital talent shortage in the UK, especially in London where there is a huge demand because of multi-national technology companies and government policy. Thankfully, we’ve managed to get our hands on some excellent developers who have become key members of the Grabble team.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Murray: At the moment, we work on an affiliate basis, so our business depends on us selling clothes. That aside, we do have a multi-sided revenue approach and we are working on some very exciting new propositions which are unfortunately top secret for now.
SUB: What are your goals for Grabble over the next year or so?
Murray: The UK fresher market is a promising area for us, so we’re aiming to use this demographic as a learning curve to continue iterating and improving our product. We’ve secured an exclusive content partnership with the UK’s largest Internet service provider to the student market, putting us in front of over 50 percent of the fresher population on a daily basis for the rest of 2013. Hopefully they’ll love the concept as much as we do.
Grabble – www.grabble.co.uk