Allume wants to change the way women shop online and announced today that is has raised a $3 million seed round to launch its product out of beta. True Ventures led the investment, with participation from several angel investors.
Clients begin their sartorial journey by taking an online quiz on the Allume website. The startup then uses the data to match each customer to a personal stylist with similar tastes — and no, it’s not a bot, it’s an actual human being who helps you shop. Stylists consult directly with each client over text messaging to better understand her style and goals and then shop the entire internet to find a selection of items, which are presented in a virtual lookbook.
Clients select items that they like and then pay and order through the Allume website to get their items delivered to them from each store. The only downside? Customers handle returns themselves. But Allume makes every effort to work with stores that have extremely favorable shipping and return policies, according to Allume cofounder and CEO Mauria Finley. The chief executive previously led the Home and Fashion divisions for eBay, and also serves on the board of Fossil Group.
Founded in 2016 out of Menlo Park, California, Allume is launching its service out of beta today and claims to already have styled several hundred customers. The startup monetizes through partnerships with online brands and stores.
“Much like a blogger makes a commission from sales, Allume collects a percentage based on orders placed through our personal shoppers,” Finley wrote in an email to VentureBeat. “The key to our ultimate financial success will be in generating repeat business from existing customers.” Whether it’s an outfit for a wedding, accessories to accompany a new purchase, or a seasonal closet overhaul, Allume wants to become the go-to shopping solution for women.
To date, Allume counts about 50 partnerships with brands and retailers, including large established brands and smaller emerging designers, both in the U.S. and internationally. Finley declined to name any partners at this stage.
“Most of our customers feel underserved by current options,” argued Finley. “A subscription service like Stitch Fix ships a ‘mystery box’ of clothing, and most items get returned. Brand-owned services like Trunk Club (which is owned by Nordstrom) are limited to a single company’s inventory, limiting choices for customers.” Allume hopes to stand out with its personalized shopping experience and wide array of clothing options.
On the funding side, the match with True Ventures seems to be a good fit. Finley knew Ann Crady Weiss — whom the firm brought on as its first female partner in early 2016 — from her time at Citrus Lane. At the time, Weiss ran the consumer division of BabyCenter. “As a fellow entrepreneur and mom, I understood and admired what she accomplished and celebrated her successful exit,” wrote Weiss, in an email to VentureBeat. In addition to her investor role at True Ventures, Weiss is also the cofounder and CEO of Hatch Baby, which True invested in at its beginnings.
Allume will use this seed money to launch the shopping service, build out the platform, and onboard new clients, brands, and stylists. The startup currently has seven employees.