Social Shopping Fashion Q&A Platform, Motilo, Bags Another $2.5M For Expansion & Marketing

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London-based social fashion platform Motilo, which offers a home for fashionistas to float their sartorial dilemmas, has taken in another tranche of post-seed funding from private investors.

The startup, which was founded in April 2012, secured $3.3 million during 2013, and has now topped that up to $5.8 million with another $2.5 million from the same group of private, U.K.-based investors — to splurge on expansion and marketing.

The platform offers a blend of traditional fashion editorial content, generated by Motilo staff and extended by the community of users. But its main focus is to gravitate around a Q&A interface designed to help users out with their fashion crises.

The site includes a drag-and-drop interface where users can create looks to illustrate their fashion dilemmas, or provide a visual ‘style answer’ to another user’s cry for sartorial help. They can also search for and browse past Q&As, so the platform is building a visual database of ask & answer fashion content. Yep, Q&A as a format keeps on cooking.

The ‘problem’ Motilo is aiming to fix is to recreate a social shopping experience online, says co-founder Sofia Barattieri, allowing people to track down elusive fashion items with the help of other fashionistas, or get feedback on prospective purchases before clicking the buy button. And being as it’s positioned in the vortex before people make a purchase, it’s sitting pretty for monetization via the likes of advertising.

“I wanted to create a place where I could connect with people — either friends or likeminded people — in order to get their referral for shopping online,” Barattieri told TechCrunch. “Something that was easy, that was not just a magazine, or a social media, something that was focused, that would offer me a service.

“So I go to Motilo because I can ask somebody that I trust, a place that has an authority, ‘what is it that I should wear at London fashion week?’… Or ask somebody that I know, a friend that I trust, and ask them to create a look for me.”

Since launching its visual Q&A platform in mid-September (kicking off its marketing efforts three months later), the site has amassed 70,000 unique visitors, and 3,000 registered users, according to Barattieri.

It’s month to month growth rate has “recently” been around the 30% mark. The platform’s initial launch and early growth promise have allowed it to unlock this latest tranche of funding from its original investors, she added.

“We had to build our platform, [our investors] wanted to see a launch, they wanted to see it growing, it was purely for that reason, just to make sure that we were taking the right steps and milestones were achieved,” said Barattieri.

“Marketing will be one of the biggest places where the new investment money is going to go. Part of that is going to go to PR because Motilo is building a brand, because we want to serve the fashion industry and create a focused community.”

The visual clothing & accessories content that users can interact with on the platform feeds in via partnerships Motilo has secure with a range of fashion brands. Their content populates the Motilo shop tab — and currently features brands including Net-a-Porter, Matches, Harvey Nichols, Moda Operandi and Avenue 32.

Motilo has around 65 fashion store partnerships right now, according to Barattieri, and is aiming to ramp that up considerably. Its business model is some revenue from affiliate clothing sales, with the main money-making focus on partnerships and embedded advertising with fashion brands.

What about all the other social fashion platforms attacking this space, such as Trendabl, or even larger visual curation players such as Pinterest, or indeed Instagram – which has designs on becoming a fashion commerce platform? How does Motilo stand out in a very smart-looking crowd?

“One of the first differentiators is the fact that here you can get specifically ask a question, and get an answer,” said Barattieri. “That is specifically about fashion dilemmas. It’s not about uploading photos, uploading photos of themselves. It’s about sorting a specific problem that you have — so immediately what to where, how to where, or where to find it is something that is there.

“We want to attract to Motilo the people that don’t know what to do. We don’t want to attract the people who are going online because they are shopping. Then they go to Net-A-Porter [etc]… Because when people know what they want to do they just go to ecommerce and search for what they’re looking for. Here are the people who are not sure what to do, they want inspiration, they want guidance, they want referral. And immediately you can find an answer.”

“The other thing we are committed to is the brand,” added Barattieri. “The fact that we want to create a fashion hub, we want the brand becoming online, and we really gaining lots of credibility with up and coming fashion brands which are the most difficult to go for, because all the very young successful designers tend to be very cautious about where to expose themselves, where they are being seen.

“So we have the Motilo girls, we have all the up and coming designers that are opening up a profile in Motilo, so we’re creating a fashion hub where people want to be seen.”

Motilo