Social online shopping: the new way Kiwis buy stuff on the Internet?

Former IdealogLive Pitch Circus winner, Curate, has just won the ‘established businesses’ category of the Equitise business development competition. Now the plucky start-up is looking to take its ‘social shopping’ platform to the mainstream.

Online shopping is as ubiquitous as a trip to the supermarket these days, but it’s that ubiquity that makes it hard for new businesses to compete, particularly with behemoths like Amazon gobbling up an ever-increasing market share.

Curate is a Kiwi company looking to do just that however, and so far it has been holding its own in the battle for shoppers’ digital dollars.

The secret, says co-founder Nicky Walsh, is social media.

“Members use Curate to save products they find while shopping online and to build a wish-list of all their favourite products in one place,” says Walsh.

“So when it comes time to buy, those products are easy to find. By following their friends and favourite stores, they curate a personalised feed of products that interest them so they never miss a thing.”

Translation: shop online. See something you like. Save it on Curate. Watch as other people like, comment and share your potential purchase. Then decide whether or not to buy it.

Founded in early 2014 with her brother Sam, Walsh, an Auckland University of Technology graduate, says the social media aspect that allows potential customers to build a shareable digital wish list also directly benefits businesses.

“For retailers, Curate is a platform for their products to be discovered and socially shared,” she says.

“It increases product awareness and drives traffic to their website because each product has a link back to the webpage that it was saved from.”

Though the Curate site was only launched publicly this past December, Curate’s quickly racked up accolades in Aotearoa.

The company garnered a first-place finish in the “established businesses” category in a competition sponsored by trans-Tasman crowd equity platform Equitise that saw over 300 entries. The win netted Walsh and Curate $10,000 in waived fees on the Equitise platform, assistance from Equitise to prepare an offer document and promotional video, and $5,000 in waived fees for financial modelling and structuring advice for capital raising from Deloitte Private.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for us, since equity crowdfunding avoids a lot of the complexity and work required by traditional fundraising options,” Walsh says.

“If successful, we’ll gain the support of a crowd of invested and passionate shareholders – something which a social shopping platform is sure to benefit from. We’ve bootstrapped Curate to get it to where it is today, so this will be our first raise. We plan to raise around $200,000 to take Curate to the next stage.”

Will Mahon-Heap, New Zealand country manager for Equitise, says it was Curate’s grassroots growth in a challenging market that stood out. 

“Curate is a great bootstrapped business making inroads in the online shopping space,” he says.

“We really saw a lean business with huge growth potential. All Curate needs is a capital injection.”

Other qualities stood out to Mahon-Heap as well.

“Nicky is a very impressive individual, with an expansive vision for the business focusing on socialisation of her offering and significant partnerships with companies such as Shopify,” he says.

Curate also walked away the winners of Idealog’s first-ever Pitch Circus back in September, taking home $1000, business mentoring from patent attorney AJ Park and business/marketing guru Mike Hutcheson, and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue.

“The timing was perfect – we were gearing up to launch and the Christmas period,” says Walsh.

“We spent the prize money on advertising, primarily social media as we’ve found it to be the most effective so far.”

In discussing plans for the future, Walsh seems more than happy to laud the company’s plans for expansion, while emphasising the inclusiveness of social sharing.

“The money raised will help to accelerate our growth, enabling us to expand the team, continue to improve and monetise the product and take our platform to international markets,” she says.

“And what better way to grow a social platform than through a funding process that everyday Kiwis can be a part of?”

Equitise’s Mahon-Heap says Curate’s growth can partially be traced back to a “history of adventure” in New Zealand that encourages risk-taking – a culture other companies are eager to be part of.

“New Zealand’s colonial roots have engendered a start-up, No.8 wire, mentality from its inception,” he says.

“NZ is the ideal springboard into the tech diving pool of the world. It’s a big and sophisticated enough tech market to showcase to the world what Kiwis are capable of. We may be at the bottom of the world, but we’re at the top of the diving board for the rest of the world [in terms of innovation].”