We’ve seen a lot of fashion tech and fashion e-commerce startups pick up steam in the form of users, revenues, and venture backing. But because content remains king, less tech-heavy sites, working in the area of amassing intelligent data, are also growing. Business of Fashion, a London-based B2B blog that chronicles the ins and outs of the fashion industry, is today announcing that it is picking up a seed round of $2.1 million.
The funding led by Index Ventures and with participation from a number of movers and shakers in the fashion, online and media industries, including LVMH; Samos Investments (investor in Betfair and online shopping site Ocado); Net-a-Porter investor Carmen Busquets; Novel TMT Ventures; and Advancit Capital, an early stage media, entertainment and tech fund launched by CBS/Viacom’s vice chairman Shari Redstone.
Prior to this, BoF had been bootstrapped by its founder Imran Amed, who tells TechCrunch that he first founded the site six years ago “on my sofa” after deciding to take a break from consulting at McKinsey. “I decided to become a fashion polyglot,” he says. BoF was a natural extension of that knowledge. Today’s announcement, appropriately, is being made as the site relaunches with a new design, and coincides with London Fashion Week.
The funding will be used to further build out the site — until a few weeks ago BoF only had 1.5 employees in addition to a network of blogging contributors worldwide, says Amed; now it has five.
While so far the site’s straight purpose has been to publish analysis and news about the fashion industry, it will also start to explore new business models, including launching events, analytics services and premium content. But it will not delve into affiliate marketing or e-commerce, which Amed calls “low-hanging fruit” that grew out of Fashion 2.0.
Indeed, that is a space that has been explored by a number of others, some successfully and others not so much, so staying away from that moving target, and focusing instead on delivering strong fashion editorial, is perhaps the best way of remaining distinct. Indeed, as a commenter pointed out below, sticking to content is also a route taken in other B2B verticals like travel (eg, Skift.com from my former boss Rafat Ali) where most others are focused on applying technology to different aspects of travel transactions.
This is also what attracted investors like Index.
“At a time when the fashion industry is grappling with the challenges and the opportunities that the digital revolution is presenting, BoF is providing insight and information in a way that is vital in meeting these challenges” said Robin Klein, partner at Index Ventures, in a statement announcing the news. “BoF is founded on the principle that the highest quality information and content is as essential to the business of fashion as to the business of anything. Imran is a fantastic entrepreneur and we are looking forward to working with him as he continues to build this important next generation media company.” Index has invested in a number of other fashion startups including leading a $40 million round in LA’s Nasty Gal.
Of course, there are a number of other fashion blogs out there, both strong offerings from small, lone-gun outfits; and those from major fashion powerhouses like Vogue. BoF has had a number of people approach it for acquisition, Amed admits, but it has so far chosen to keep itself independent.
“Business of Fashion is at such an early stage of its development that selling at such an early stage would be detrimental,” he says. “Part of our success has been to be nimble, but part of being in a large structure is that you’re limited in what you’re able to do. On your own means less resources, but it’s my preference at this stage. My mission is to create something that will be around for a long time.”
That independents goes in another direction, too. Like the strongest blogs covering other industries, BoF’s strength has come from maintaining editorial independence from the companies that it covers. Amed says that will be even more the case with companies like LVMH as backers.
“We’ve been clear on editorial independence being critical to our success. It’s why we’ve been so successful so we maintain it, but having the expertise of LVMH is important because we’ve been looking for investors who know the area that we cover,” he says. Having said that, he adds that LVMH doesn’t have any input into what BoF covers. “We have it enshrined in our company documents and every investor had to sign that,” he says. “The general response is, “of course that makes sense. If we jeapordize that, we jeapordize our investment.'”
Currently BoF’s readership — which is not a scale play at this point, numbering at only in the hundreds of thousands — is about 60% fashion industry people, 30% “affluent prosumers” obsessed with fashion but not directly working in the area, and 10% students — the site features prominently on fashion school reading lists. Amed says he’s looking to build out in all of those areas.
* THE BUSINESS OF FASHION ANNOUNCES $2.1m IN SEED FUNDING TO BUILD NEXT GENERATION FASHION MEDIA COMPANY CONCEIVED FOR TODAY’S GLOBAL, DIGITAL AND CONNECTED WORLD *
* INVESTORS SPAN THE FASHION, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY SECTORS, AND INCLUDE INDEX VENTURES AND LVMH *
LONDON – 18 FEBRUARY 2013 – The Business of Fashion (BoF) announced today that it has raised $2.1m in seed funding, securing a minority investment from a group of prestigious global investors spanning the worlds of fashion, media and technology.
The investment round was led by Index Ventures (investors in groundbreaking fashion sites Net--a--Porter, ASOS, Etsy and Nasty Gal), and included participation from French luxury goods group LVMH Moet Hennessy--Louis Vuitton; Investors in leading online businesses, Betfair and Ocado, Samos Investments; major founding investor in Net--a--Porter, Carmen Busquets; the technology and media investment firm of Hong Kong--based Novel Group, Novel TMT Ventures; and Advancit Capital, an early stage media, entertainment and technology fund launched by CBS/Viacom’s vice chairman Shari Redstone.
Founded by Imran Amed in 2007 as a personal blog delivering sharp insight and analysis on the global fashion industry, BoF has since been bootstrapped by Amed and grown to become an indispensable professional resource for hundreds of thousands of fashion executives, creatives and entrepreneurs in more than 200 countries and territories. BoF content has been incorporated into the curricula of leading fashion and business schools around the world and has also attracted a growing audience of affluent and highly--educated consumers who are fascinated by the global fashion industry and crave access to BoF’s authentic, insider perspective.
“Over the past decade, the fashion industry has been radically reshaped by the forces of rapid globalisation, disruptive technology and a post--recessionary economy, which has created a dramatically changed landscape for executives, investors and other industry professionals to navigate each day,” said Imran Amed, BoF’s founder and CEO. “Our mission is to inform, stimulate and arm these individuals with a forward thinking, globally--minded resource for everything they need to perform in today’s fast--paced, high--stakes fashion world.”
BoF’s highly respected and influential voice, sitting at the very heart of the $1.5 trillion global fashion, luxury and apparel industry, will enable the company to expand into new products and services for the sector. The new funding will be used to build the team and technology platform required to realise this potential.
“Today, BoF enters a new phase of growth, with a great group of investors to support us,” said Amed. “Each investor brings real strategic value to the table, and will be able to assist us in building a model for a next generation fashion media company suited for our increasingly global, digital and connected world.”
“At a time when the fashion industry is grappling with the challenges and the opportunities that the digital revolution is presenting, BoF is providing insight and information in a way that is vital in meeting these challenges” said Robin Klein, partner at Index Ventures. “BoF is founded on the principle that the highest quality information and content is as essential to the business of fashion as to the business of anything. Imran is a fantastic entrepreneur and we are looking forward to working with him as he continues to build this important next generation media company.”
As a first step in this journey, today BoF launches a brand new website, with responsive design for easy consumption on mobile, tablet and web. www.businessoffashion.com