On day one of the Infinity Ventures Summit 2013 in Kyoto, I had a chance to speak with Hirotake Kubo, the CEO of Japanese fashion flash-sale commerce site Muse&Co. The startup was launched back in 2012, and raised 350 million yen (approximately $3.4 million) from several Japanese investment companies including Infinity Venture Partners back in May.
According to Kubo, their monthly sales are now almost double what they were a half year ago, and have reached 100 million yen ($1 million).
The Bridge: Your company has grown rapidly in the last half year. What happened?
Kubo: We were only providing flash sale services, but it might not have been interesting enough for users. So we added curated content about fashion, and this helped us improve our conversion rate among our users.
The Bridge: Adding curated content is not such a unique strategy to build a userbase. What was the key?
Kubo: A list of items recommended by other users will not have such a great impact. So we used celebrities and asked them to recommend their favorite items on our site. But consumers are very smart and will only buy items if they are good. So we carefully choose people who recommend good items, and we’re not so much focused on selling our products through that effort.
The Bridge: This kind of editorial operation is expensive I’m sure. How are your finances doing?
Kubo: I think they’re reasonable. Our editorial flow is not complete. We’re outsourcing the work, and managing it at all times with consideration of how to get better results for our money.
The Bridge: Can you share any specific growth figures?
Kubo: Our userbase keeps growing 15% every month. We have 30,000 monthly downloads of our mobile app and 40,000 new visitors on desktop. The growth rate more than doubled that of half a year ago.
The Bridge: What about the number of brands on site, and the number of users?
Kubo: We’re serving almost 1,000 brands to 400,000 users right now.
The Bridge: How much more sales you can expect to see?
Kubo: Our competitors are making around 5 billion yen ($50 million). So we can probably reach 400 million yen ($4 million) on a monthly basis.
The Bridge: Any idea on how to achieve that milestone?
Kubo: I have something in my mind, but I can’t disclose it. One thing I can share is that we’re looking to get our service out of the flash commerce business. Flash commerce helps us trigger potential customers, but we need to keep providing them with trending items at all times.
The Bridge: Thanks for talking with us!
Fashion magazine-style curated content can go a long way to helping users find things they like where a simple text search will not work. So I believe some media entities will launch e-commerce platforms in the near future, which may give consumers better accessibility to a wide variety of eye-catching items.