Startups like Lodie and Couchelo are setting the bar for curated marketplaces

- July 3, 2014 2 MIN READ

So far it would be quite accurate to say that premium, curated marketplaces have been a bit of a theme in 2014.

It’s a natural progression. First come those that disrupt the market with a broad brush stroke, such as Airtasker (outsource any task you like) then come the next wave of startups to the market close behind with a more selective niche approach like Sidekicker (outsource these particular B2B tasks only).

In the competitive world of interior design two Australian startups are currently making inroads with premium play, curated marketplaces.

Couchelo, founded by Si-Si Dai, William Fan and Fei Yao, is focusing on unique vintage and designer furniture. Lodie, founded by Melbourne-based entrepreneurs Gabrielle Kelly and Simon Doukas focuses more on the homewares and gift market, including fashion and jewellery.

What is interesting about both of these companies, is they chose to run with a pure smartphone play first. Neither company albeit early days have achieved massive traction yet. Yes, they have a list of early adopters and both companies have paying customers – but are not exactly scaling. That doesn’t mean I don’t think they will.

Mobile is the future, yes. That is why Google currently has (and have had for years) the mantra “mobile first” before everything they do at the company. It’s just that right now, the customers for the mobile versions of the startups don’t exist yet enmasse.

Well not in Australia.

Couchelo have identified their error in judgement on this and are currently building a desktop browser version of the business. This is because they want to get the Australian market right first before expanding the service to other countries.

Couchelo-co-founders1 (1)

Couchelo founders Si-Si Dai, William Fan and Fei Yao

On the other hand Lodie has announced no such plans to follow these footsteps, but have clear plans to expand into the Asian market. A place where scalability occurs regularly in the fashion and interior design industries, due to the saturation of smart phone usage.

Especially in South Korea.

I said in the title that both these startups were setting the bar. How are they doing that given I just said they have not achieved scalability?

Mobile will take off in Australia for them over the next few years, that’s inevitable. But the key to what will make them so successful is the partnerships they are currently building. They have extremely high branding standards and have not diverted from them once. Both companies realise that they will live and die on the quality of their suppliers and the exclusivity of the products they are selling.

Incidentally getting suppliers that already enjoy a comfortable living with a small fan base to partner with an startup, which for many brings a technological aspect into their business for the first time is a daunting task. Undoubtedly there are a lot of hurdles. However in this phase where neither company has taken any equity yet, it is important they solve the supplier conundrum first.

It’s early days, but it will be a massive achievement if both Lodie and Couchelo are able to stick it out during the scaling of their supplier base.

This systemised approach both companies are taking is core to creating a strong backbone for their businesses, so that future users will not be disappointed.