Japanese fashion startup Muse & Co raises $3.4 million

Japanese fashion startup Muse & Co raises $3.4 million

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See the original story in Japanese.

Here’s more news from Japan’s fashion commerce space. Apparel-focused, flash marketing startup Muse & Co has announced that it has raised series B funding worth 350 million yen, or about $3.4 million. Investors include Itochu Technology Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, and Infinity Ventures Partners (IVP).

According to IVP’s managing partner Masashi Kobayashi, this round brings the total money raised by the startup to a sum of approximately 500 million yen ($5 million). Previously, IVP invested in the startup back in May of 2012.

Consumers love fashion startups

To see a seed-stage startup fundraise such a huge amount, it reminds us that there’s a real trend emerging at the intersection of fashion, e-commerce, and smartphones. Some of our readers will remember, for example, mobile commerce startup Origami also raised about the same amount last month.

Muse & Co is a members-only flash sale site that gives users a substantial discount off the market price for a limited time. In Japan, there are some similar sites in this space. Gilt Groupe has been operating a joint venture with Softbank since 2008. Other competitors include Glamour Sales, Brands for Friends, and Monoco.

According to startup’s CEO Hirotake Kubo, Muse & Co targets the so-called ‘F1 layer’ in Japan (female users in their 20s and early 30s), thus differentiating from conventional competitors. In terms of differentiation from similar smartphones services, they expect to showcase items in the casual fashion category, which may be not so sophisticated but better suited to wearing on a day-to-day basis.

Over $500,000 in monthly sales, 70% traffic from mobile

Muse & Co sells merchandise on commission and has no inventory stocked at all. They showcase clothes from three brands every day, and in total about 30 new items are sold every day. The duration of the flash sale is usually about seven days, but most items sell out on the first day. Their flash marketing starts at 8pm every day, the peak time for user traffic.

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Kubo explains that the site’s monthly revenue has reached around 50 million yen, with 50% coming from mobile, and 20% from the smartphone app. They’ve never made any promotion efforts for smartphone users, so it’s not unlikely that these access metrics (in terms of mobile/desktop ratio) are common for most e-commerce sites in Japan.

A good start

Muse & Co was established back in February of 2012. The startup’s founder, Hirotake Kubo, previously worked at global consulting firm AT Kearney, where he has been conducting due diligence on the apparel industry for five years.

From my experience seeing the apparel industry, I wanted to help domestic fashion brands solve the problems they’re facing. Beyond that, I also want to contribute to the strengthening of our economy.

Currently Muse & Co is 20-person team including 5 merchandising staffers. They have acquired approximately 200,000 users since launch, and are hoping to surpass 1 million users in the near future.