Livestream shopping may not be as popular in the U.S. as it is in other parts of the world, but BOND founders Maddie Raedts and Sam Robinson believe they’ve cracked the code with an inspiration-driven shopping platform that focuses on creator influence rather than product-led.
To Raedts and Robinson, “inspiration-driven” means taking a creator and content-first approach to livestream shopping and putting the “creator in the driver’s seat and at the forefront of the experience,” Robinson said. BOND offers a place where creators can connect with their audience in a more interactive way and then with a frictionless shopping experience.
“BOND connects creators, brands and consumers across more premium lifestyle categories,” CEO Raedts told TechCrunch. “For the first time, there is a platform that aligns all incentives and is the missing piece of the puzzle that hasn’t been there before. Based on the amazing traction that we’ve already been getting from our creators and our brands, the hunger is there for something to happen in this space.”
Prior to starting the company in 2022, Raedts, who has a background in influencers, fashion and beauty, was founder and former chief creative officer at influencer agency IMA, which was acquired by S4 Capital in 2019. Robinson has an operations background and previously spearheaded the North American rollout of Soho House’s Soho Works and worked in operations and strategy for WeWork’s expansion into Japan.
The company launched its platform Tuesday with over 65 creators and 50 brands already enrolled. Some of the creators include Valeria Lipovetsky, Kit Keenan, Allegra Shaw and Alyssa Lynch. Together, those initial creators have an audience reach of over 35 million, Robinson said in an interview.
Attracting new customers has become more difficult in recent years amid privacy regulations and new technology that has increased the cost of acquisition. So much so that Business of Fashion reported that “brands spent more than three times the amount to acquire each customer in 2022 than in 2013.”
BOND is in a crowded space that is working to solve this problem. The space includes social media giants, like TikTok and YouTube; retailers like Walmart; and commerce tech companies, including NTWRK, WhatNot, PopShop Live, ShopThing, Upmesh, buywith, Firework and Drip. Others, like Instagram, started livestream shopping, then decided to shutter those programs when they didn’t rise in popularity.
It also means that creators and brands have to get creative. Traditional marketplaces have creators sharing their story on social media and then selling on separate platforms. With BOND, creators can engage with consumers via either live content or prerecorded content that continues to sell as long as the product is available, Raedts said. Shoppers can check out creator profiles and product discovery.
On the back side, BOND manages data insights and post-purchase operations, including logistics, customer service and returns. In addition, APIs connect to a brand’s real-time inventory so the brand can utilize BOND as a new sales channel.
In terms of revenue, BOND gets a small take rate from brands on each product sold on the platform, a portion of which goes to the creators.
“The creators are incentivized to sell products to their audiences,” Robinson said. “The brands are incentivized to participate in the platform because they see it as a new channel. And shoppers are incentivized because they have a new way to discover products and be inspired.”
The launch follows a $2 million pre-seed investment that closed earlier this year. Nordstar led the round that included participation from Day One Ventures, Nomad Capital and a group of individual investors, including Daniel Gutenberg, Intermix founder Khajak Keledjian, Magic Mind founder James Beshara and Mint House CEO Christian Lee.
The company plans on using the new funding on product development, hiring additional employees and on overall growth.
“We are definitely heads down on launching and making our product really great,” Raedts said. “New features will be released on a regular cadence that focus on enhancing the shopper, brand and customer experiences. You’ll see personalization of the data and a loyalty and rewards program. Long-term, we see BOND as the ultimate destination for discovery, entertainment and commerce by making BOND part of people’s everyday lives.”