Discovery shopping startup Flayr announced this week that they have raised €5 Million from Candel and Partners, Merifin Capital & C3P Capital. Co-founded by Olivier Cotinat, Nicolas Baudran and Jerome Pellegrin, and joined by Philippe Huysmans (formerly EMEA Director of Mobile-Local-Commerce at Microsoft) as CEO, the startup already counts a team of over 20, working with 7,500 merchant partners and a catalogue of 90 million products.
Though in French only today, Flayr‘s site looks pretty clean; however, ‘pretty clean’ might not cut it, given that they are competing for digital shoppers’ attention with the likes of Pinterest (in terms of social sharing & visual discovery), Fancy & Shopcade (in terms of e-commerce positioning). Huysmans wasn’t shy about naming some of his competitors, but says they fall short on the overall value proposition:
“There is a lot of activity around the ‘Discovery Shopping’ space but very few players offering the combination of three key services: Visual discovery, Social Sharing and Personalized Recommendations based on your behavior.” – Philippe Huysmans, CEO Flayr
Still, 5 Million euros is no small sum, even if it comes from three VCs that I admit to being quite unfamiliar with. Commenting on the deal, investors on the whole seemed impressed both by the technology and the team, though given they are a B2C company working on visual discovery, it was curious to see that the ‘product’ was not mentioned much by investors:
“Our technology team has been developing shopping solutions over the past three years, which puts us in a great position to rival with the best in terms of our recommendation engine. And we have a lot of great features that are being developed now and that we will progressively release in 2014 with our partners.” – Philippe Huysmans, CEO Flayr
Huysmans, however, did mention that the bulk of the fundraising will go to “engineering and product.”
Still, despite the fact that there is no clear-cut winner just yet in the market of social shopping, I can’t help but feel that Flayr is just a bit too late to the market. From a user perspective, they aren’t re-inventing the shopping experience, the way Pinterest’s novel display re-invented visual discovery, and they have so many different actors just pining at a piece of a pie yet to be cooked. Still, ultimately, if the product’s success is determined by its ability to recommend exactly what users are looking for, then Flayr may have an edge over the competition – my only fear is that, in this case, for this market segment, recommendation is not the determining factor.