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Dragons’ Den — better known as “Shark Tank” in the U.S. — has proven to be a formidable platform for budding British innovators to pitch entrepreneurs for investment, with millions of TV viewers looking on. Scottish “Tinder for fashion” startup Mallzee was one such company that faced the wrath of the dragons this past Sunday, with CEO and founder Cally Russell seeking £75,000 ($115,000) in exchange for a 5 percent stake in his company.
Tycoon Peter Jones offered Russell the £75,000 he was looking for, but in return sought 20 percent of the business — a figure Russell managed to whittle down to 15 percent. However, rather than shaking on the deal, Russell eventually rejected the dragon, with the Mallzee man telling VentureBeat that it was ultimately too much to give away. “He (Peter Jones) kept on talking about how we could end up being a £100 million business, so it made me realize that we couldn’t give away so much of the business so soon,” he said.
Mallzee is striving to be the go-to mobile shopping destination for clothes, aggregating a myriad of online retailers’ wares within a single app. You can browse by category, and thanks to a Tinder-style interface, you can “favorite” items by swiping to the left or indicate your disdain by swiping to the right. You can then go straight to each retailer’s website to complete the transaction.
Needless to say, part of the appeal for any budding entrepreneur pitching on Dragon’s Den is the free PR — even if they don’t receive a dime in investments, they get invaluable exposure to millions of people. In Mallzee’s case, it found its way into the top 10 lifestyle apps on iOS, and at one point only Amazon, eBay, and Tinder stood between it and pole position.
“It was an incredible 24 hours — we’ve also had several investors get in touch wanting to know our plans,” said Russell.
Hot on the heels of Russell turning down a £75,000 investment, Mallzee revealed a tie-up with Samsung, a deal that was in the works long before the Dragon’s Den appearance. Mallzee will be made available through the Galaxy Apps store, where it will be promoted via the Galaxy Gifts channel.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for over six months now, and it’s come together nicely over the last couple of weeks,” says the 27-year-old.
In terms of how Mallzee makes money, it takes a cut from the retailers it links to, and with a user-base “well into six figures” it’s now offering analysis and trend data too. But the one big upgrade on Mallzee’s radar is full e-commerce functionality, meaning users may soon be able to shop through multiple retailers without leaving the Mallzee app.
But it had better be quick. The space is becoming increasingly competitive, and there’s at least one other U.K. startup offering something similar, with Grabble already providing e-commerce functionality.
While Mallzee has largely been U.K.-focused since its launch in 2012, it did release a version for the U.S. market back in November, just in time for Black Friday.
This all sets Mallzee up rather nicely for what looks like a fruitful 2015. Having already raised north of $1 million through a series of angel rounds, the Edinburgh-based company is aiming to close a bumper Series A round this summer, as it looks to take the online clothes shopping world by storm.
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