Amazon, eBay and other giants of online commerce are not fully present in Southeast Asia, and that has led to a glut of online shopping startups rising up across the region. At times it can get hard to keep with all the options — from Rocket Internet-backed Zalora and Lazada, to small players — and that’s where iPrice hopes to help.
The startup, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a single place where consumers can shop for products from a multitude of retailers. Initially focused on fashion, it has expanded into other verticals including electronics, jewelry and home and currently stocks over 3 million products. It claims to differentiate itself from price-comparison sites by focusing on discovery rather than price, thanks to meta search and visual results.
“We’re trying to imitate the offline experience as best as possible,” Heinrich Wendel, iPrice CEO and a former product manager with Microsoft in Seattle, told TechCrunch in an interview. “New stores and services launch every week; it’s hard for young people to find their way through this e-commerce jungle.”
To help move things along, the startup, which makes money by commissions from sales, has raised a $550,000 seed round from Asia Venture Group (AVG). The capital is set to be spent developing the iPrice product — in particular its search feature — and recruiting retail partners.
Covering six countries in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, iPrice started out as a coupon site and it still “tags” coupons into its deals, Wendel explained, because they are popular with shoppers.
iPrice initially launched in early 2015, but it began to ramp things up when a redesigned version of the site went live in March. Over the past three months, the service has handled $1 million in sales, and it clocked 250,000 sessions last month, Wendel revealed.
The iPrice CEO said the company banks anything from 5-15 percent commission on purchases depending on the retail partner. With zero cost and effort needed on the part of e-commerce stores, he said he believes the model is a “no-brainer” for partners.
“Our pitch to e-commerce stores is simple,” he explained. “We give you traffic and get commission if someone buys your product.”
Despite the simplicity of the offering (Wendel likens iPrice’s role to that of an online marketing partner) AVG founder Tim Marbach said the niche hasn’t been a focus for many entrepreneurs in the region.
“E-commerce is growing so fast in Southeast Asia that there are so many opportunities in lead generation,” Marbach, who is also a co-founder of grocery delivery startup HappyFresh and an investor in iMoney, told us. “Everyone is paying attention to price comparison, but iPrice is well positioned to take a large slice of the market.”
Wendel and Marbach said that iPrice decided to raise a relatively modest round because the team didn’t want to overly dilute its holdings and, besides salaries, its business isn’t overly capital intensive.
“The deal is about horses and jockeys,” Marbach added. “I really like the horse and I really like the jockey; Heinrich is a really strong product and tech guy.”