24. October 2013–
Most online shopping junkies are well acquainted with this situation – you find a shirt/dress/belt that you love, but is way out of your price range. You decide to wait for it to go on sale and vow to check regularly to make sure you don't miss out. You promptly forget about it, miss the start of the discount and are disappointed to discover your coveted item is now only available in a hideous lilac shade that wouldn't suit anyone.
Enter Spottster, an online platform launched by the young and highly ambitious Freya Oehle. It tracks products for you and lets you know when they go on sale to make sure you never miss a bargain again. We caught up with Oehle to find out more...
Who are you and what are you doing?
Hi, I'm a 24-year-old business graduate and the cofounder and CEO/CFO of Spottster.com – a Hamburg-based internet startup. Spottster is the first digital shopping (wish) list that keeps track of products and prices in more than 900 online shops. Spottster takes into account individual price preferences and informs its users about recent price drops with the “spotted” products they're interested in.
How did you come across your idea?
I came across the idea in my last semester abroad, during an MBA investment banking course in Chicago. We were presented with a case study of a startup called Hukkster, but I was more interested in the actual idea than in the investment. So I researched Hukkster and realised that the idea had great potential yet its realisation was not comprehensive and quite technically complicated in terms of usability. That's when I decided to call Tobias, an IT-expert, and ask him whether he would be able to develop something more pragmatic – that was the beginning of Spottster.
Who are the founders and how did you find each other?
I founded Spottster with Tobias Kempkensteffen, he's also 24. We've been friends since high school and passed our final exams together. I've always been into number crunching and communications, and Tobias is a really talented software and web developer – so we fit together well as a team. After our final exams, I studied international finance and accounting and graduated with a Master of Science from a top German business school in January 2013. Tobias is still studying but is working as a software entrepreneur at the same time. Together, we founded Spottster.com in February 2013, right after I turned in my Masters thesis.
What makes you different from everyone else?
Spottster's most obvious and important USPs are applicability and comfortability. With Spottster, you can shop wherever you like and when there’s a product that you’d like to keep in mind, you can simply “spot” it and it will be saved and tracked reliably on one single, integrated shopping list. It then tracks price drops as well as available vouchers for all your spotted products – meaning you could end up saving a lot on the purchase. You can also treat your lists just as a Dropbox so you can plan, coordinate and shop online with your friends and buy joint presents.
How many users do you have?
We've been online for about six weeks now and have reached a four-digit user base without any marketing campaigns so far, so the next months will reveal our potential once we start marketing more heavily.
What is your business model?
We have a two-fold business model: First, we operate as a general affiliate publisher, meaning that whenever we generate a sale for one of our 900 partner shops, we're granted a small revenue share as commission. So we already have some cash inflow. Secondly, we provide quite an astonishing data backend as we do not crawl websites but use a solid data base that we generated in cooperation with our partner shops. We'll probably not be able to fully explore our data potential until the end of next year, when our user base has grown to a significant size.
As far as market potential is concerned, it's definitely a growing market – German eCommerce companies generated revenues of €28bn in 2012 alone with a compound annual growth rate of roughly ten per cent. So whatever conservative conversion we apply, we are quite positive about our market potential. That's also because we've been preparing to expand to other European markets.
Who is financing you?
Tobias and I have been bootstrapping. The entire market entry has been financed by the two of us via the savings we accumulated during our student jobs plus our parents provided some capital. In September we received our first seed investment from a business angel.
Is there something you're missing?
As we're already growing faster than expected, we're looking for backend developers who are willing to handle big amounts of data. We want to expand internationally as fast as possible so we're also preparing for a second round of financing towards the end of the year, once we've generated a solid business base.
Who would you like to have a lunch with and what would you talk about?
I'd love to have lunch with Ranulph Fiennes, he's a British adventurer. We'd talk about his sources of motivation, self-discipline and unorthodoxy
Any advice you'd give for fellow startups?
ASK QUESTIONS – as many as you can!
Where will you be in a year's time?
We'll be a well-known Dropbox and Google combination for online shoppers.
Image credit: Gifts Flickr user stevendepolo
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