Mobile shopping startup Dote is announcing $12 million in new funding, as well as a new feature called Shopping Party.
Founder and CEO Lauren Farleigh said her initial goal was to create “a truly native mobile experience” that made it “easy to check out across a lot of different stores.”
Over time, recommendations from social media influencers have become a big part of the app. With Shopping Party, they’re taking center stage — the feature allows them to share live video while browsing different products on Dote and chatting with fans.
Farleigh said the idea came from a trip she took with Dote influencers to Fiji last fall. She described watching them shop and talk together at the airport, and in what she said was an “ah-ha moment,” she realized that there’s an experience that was “lost when we stopped going to the mall with our friends.”
She added that influencers embraced the idea, with some telling her, “We love going live on Instagram [but] it’s challenging because there’s no shared experience for us to have that meaningful interaction over. It usually turns into the same Q&A over and over again.”
Shopping Party offers one solution to that issue, because you’re actually browsing and talking about specific products in the Dote app. Apparently this was a real technical challenge — Shopping Party is leveraging Apple’s ReplayKit 2 framework to deliver two live streams (one from the phone camera, one from the Dote app) while also incorporating live chats.
Farleigh, who previously worked as a product manager at mobile gaming company Pocket Gems, also compared this to game streaming on Twitch, except for shopping.
To kick things off, Dote plans to host two Shopping Parties every hour from 6am to 10am Pacific time for the next two weeks. (The company says the average Shopping Party lasts about 15 minutes.) There also will be Shopping Parties sponsored by specific brands.
As for the funding, it was led by Goodwater Capital, with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Harrison Metal. Dote has now raised a total of $23 million.
“[Dote’s] customer-centric shopping platform uniquely blends innovative technologies such as live-streaming with relevant and fun social features, setting the standard for how all major brands and retailers will connect with Gen Z,” said Goodwater Managing Partner Eric Kim in a statement. “We’re thrilled to partner with them to accelerate this transformation.”