A Q&A with Smartzer founder Karoline Gross. The London-based visual commerce tech startup announced last week that it has raised a total of $400,000 in Angel funding from entrepreneur Jamie True and other, undisclosed, investors. It was founded in 2012.
SUB: Please describe Smartzer and your primary innovation.
Gross: Smartzer aims to provide a seamless shopping experience through shoppable content. We add an interactive overlay to videos that allows viewers to click on specific areas within the video to see additional information and make instant purchases.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Gross: Our target market is the fashion and retail industry, primarily in the UK. Our end users are customers visiting retailers and brands’ websites where the shoppable videos are embedded.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Smartzer from the competition?
Gross: There are a number of video tagging companies providing variations of the service. Smartzer is fully-focused on fashion and retail, and providing a long-term multichannel solution that solves a specific problem for each client.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $400,000 in Angel funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funds?
Gross: The funding we have now announced was raised in steps over time and has helped us with technical development and acquiring our initial clients. It will be used further to expand our team in both technical and business development sides of the company. It was necessary for us to raise the funds taking into account the need to move fast in a relatively competitive space.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds, and do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Gross: As mentioned, the funds will be used to mainly grow our team and further technical development as we are constantly innovating our product.
We will be raising a further round of funding which will be towards expansion to the United States.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Smartzer? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Gross: The initial idea revolved around shoppable TV shows and movies through a native application. Through several issues that emerged with this concept, the idea slowly evolved into a web-based solution targeting retailers and videos on their own websites. This came about as we noticed a rapid growth in the usage of videos in the fashion and retail industry to showcase items.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Gross: The first step was finding a developer who could help me build a prototype that could then be used to raise funds.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Gross: I was going through options for a number of names that would still have a ‘.com’ available for a small fee. The idea was to create a smart way to watch TV, which is where ‘Smartzer’ came in.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Gross: The biggest challenge has been to build a good team to cover all areas of the business, from technical side to business development, design, operations, and legals. We have finally got there with a brilliant team.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Gross: We generate revenue through a combination of setup fee for player customization and video tagging, a monthly fee, and sales commission.
SUB: What are your goals for Smartzer over the next year or so?
Gross: The major goals are securing additional clients, expanding the team and closing our next funding round.