We featured Japanese flash sales e-commerce startup Monoco recently when they announced they had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Fuji Startup Ventures. At the time it was mentioned that Monoco would be launching its Monoco Showroom in Shibuya, so we were delighted to receive an invite to swing by the opening this past Friday. The company sells items from designers around the world, their new showroom is a place where you can see some of them on display. But it also doubles as an office, and considering the beautiful furnishings there you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer place to work.
Many of our readers may already be aware that Monoco was previously known as Flutterscape. I had a chance to speak to Monoco co-founder and CTO, Ari Awan, about that transition. He explains that the process was anything but simple:
We started Flutterscape in February of 2011, but in February of last year we figured it wasn’t working. User growth was ok, but transactions and revenue were not growing. It was really hard to raise funds at the time, so we really had to figure out something.
Flutterscape used a C2C model that let indie designers and makers export their products abroad. But this market turned out to be not especially big. Ari says one of their advisers introduced him to Fab as a possible model, and given that they had so many designers already, maybe they could go in a B2C direction.
Two weeks of sales for Monoco were the same as Flutterscape’s sales for a year.
Of course, business is rarely that simple. Ari says that he brought the idea to the board and they just didn’t want to do it. While Ari is not a particularly tall guy, he does give the distinct impression of being someone you don’t want to mess with. That turned out to be the case here, as what happens next is truly badass:
I asked our people to come in to the office on on the weekends. I said we have to do something or else we’ll go bankrupt. We started working on Monoco secretly, building it two weeks. We started selling things but no one knew it was us. Two weeks of sales for Monoco were the same as Flutterscape’s sales for a year.
From there, selling the transition to Monoco to the board was obviously not a hard sell. The site now has 87,000 members in total, with the average user falling in the 25 to 40 demographic. They have over 1100 partner designers, the vast majority (about 1000) located outside Japan. This means that many of the 50,000 items Monoco has on sale are not otherwise available for purchase in Japan, making it a great destination for design-minded consumers on the lookout for something extra special. There are now over 50,000 items available for purchase, with the most popular ones being in the categories of fashion accessories, t-shirts, posters and art, and smartphones accessories.
The Monoco event was attended by lots of folks from the design industry , and both Ari and CEO Takehiro Kakiyama addressed the crowd on Friday night. Ari spoke to the company’s mission statement, and what he hopes Monoco can do for the design community in general.
There are some who see us as a threat disrupting traditional design retail and the supply chain. Yes definitely we cause some disruption but I think what we are trying to do is to disrupt people’s perception of design.
I think the more people talk about design the better awareness there is. And the more awareness that is spread about design, then the bigger the pie is for everyone in the industry.
Stay tuned to see how they do in fulfilling their mission. Given their progress to date, I wouldn’t bet against them.
You can find more pictures from the event below, including many of the design pieces that were spotlighted at the showroom.
I’ve never seen so many scarves worn indoors before! ↩