My 1st Years, a startup that sells personalised gifts for babies and children, raises further £5M

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Putting the “intelligent” machine in its place

My 1st Years, a U.K.-based e-commerce startup that offers personalised gifts for babies and children, has picked up £5 million in growth funding.

The round, which adds to the £2 million raised previously, was led by Beringea, with participation from funds managed by Hargreave Hale. The company says it plans to use the new capital for operations, marketing and international expansion into the U.S.

Founded in 2009 by Daniel Price and Jonny Sitton, My 1st Years claims its personalised baby and child gifts — a concept, I’m told, inspired by NikeID tags — has since become a favourite with celebrities including Dannii Minogue and Elton John as well as the British royal family.

“It was actually during university that we came up with the idea,” My 1st Years’ Price says. “We were working on a project on the baby clothing industry. It really showed us how huge the baby gifting market is, but we also noticed a big gap. We’re both pretty big fans of NikeID, and given that personalisation was a rapidly growing trend, it seemed surprising that nobody was doing it in the baby market”.

Price says the resulting e-commerce site and brand is targeting situations where, for example, someone close to you has had a baby and you want to give them something “timeless, personal but at an affordable price” — a problem anyone who has lived through their 30s knows far too well.

“That’s what we aim to do, and the market opportunity is definitely there,” he adds. “Women in the U.K. spend over £200 million on gifts for baby showers each year, and that’s before you even factor in birthday presents, new born gifts etc., and the things parents buy for their own children”.

Personalisation is also a growing trend, says the My 1st Years founder, citing YouGov research that predicts consumers will spend £1 billion on personalised gifts in 2016.

“Because we were early to the party when it comes to personalisation, we’ve been able to grow with the trend, and react to it. Customers are no longer prepared to wait for a personlised product, so we ship things the same day. They’re also not prepared to compromise, so everything we produce is top quality. We’re now in a position to continue to grow our technology in this area, and to be proactive about expanding our offering”.