E-commerce startup citiesocial raises $2.75M led by Alibaba’s fund for Taiwanese entrepreneurs

Citiesocial, a Taipei-based startup that helps emerging brands break into Asia’s e-commerce market, has raised $2.75 million led by Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund, a non-profit backed by Alibaba Group to support local startups. CDIB Capital and returning investor Cherubic Ventures also participated. The capital will be used to expand citiesocial into China, South Korea and Japan this year through strategic partnerships.

Citiesocial differentiates from other online retail businesses by focusing on young companies with innovative or unusual products that see an opportunity in Asia, but need help getting there. Launched in 2011 as a group buying site, citiesocial now has 600,000 users in Taiwan and Hong Kong. According to the company, Asian consumers are more adventurous about trying new things than their counterparts in the United States, but the problem is that many emerging brands don’t know how to cross cultural barriers or worry about getting lost on major e-commerce platforms. Citiesocial, which currently manages sales for about 2,000 brands and more than 60,000 products, serves as a fixer, helping with branding, marketing and customer support.

In a press statement, Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund executive director Andrew Lee said “We have witnessed a trend of Asian consumers, especially in Mainland China, increasingly seeking out products that let them express their own individuality. This is why we have chosen to partner with citiesocial. They have shown us that they have the grasp and capability to fully address these trends.”

The company’s most important verticals are home items, including appliances, kitchenware and furnishings; consumer tech accessories and peripherals; and lifestyle items, like bedding and organization products. Examples of companies it has worked with include travel jacket maker Baubax, which sold more than 1,000 jackets during its first two weeks on citiesocial, and men’s accessories brand Vanacci, which says about a quarter of its sales now come through citiesocial’s site.

Citiesocial works with about 150 social media “influencers” to help products get exposure in Asia and localizes marketing material, including social media pages and video. It also takes care of sales, cross-border logistics, customer support, sales forecasting and inventory management.

“For a large percentage of the brands we work with, we are their only retail partner in Asia and there are clear reasons for that,” Citiesocial spokesperson Matt Ryan told TechCrunch. “Emerging brands don’t have a lot of resources, in terms of personnel, time and money. A lot of the time they come from a design background and have little experience with the retail or marketing site. This means they need some fostering and TLC from us.”