My latest investment: InspirationalStores lands €10M for high-end e-commerce

I am delighted to announce the closing of my latest investment, in the form of a €10M round of funding (along with existing investor OTC Asset Management) into an exciting e-commerce business by the name of InspirationalStores.  I am very bullish about this new addition to my online portfolio (which today includes DailyMotion, PriceMinister, Seatwave, Sporever or Zoopla).

For clients such as Laduree, Delvaux or Caviar Kaspia, Inspirational Stores offers a complete turnkey offering covering every aspect of e-commerce, together with a consumer experience that completely reflects and respects the brand ethos and universe. To date the company has announced no less than 12 customers and established itself as leader in this next wave of luxury and niche e-commerce. It is about to launch its UK operation to accompany the local development of Laduree, which has recently opened a spectacular new Tea Room at Harrods designed by Roxane Rodriguez, as an homage to the French “Art de vivre”  (yes, I am borrowing from the press release but, hey, I wrote it :-)).

Why do I find this attractive:

  • IS really designed itself from the outset as the long-term strategic partner to its brand partners.  The partners can focus on what they are the best at (great products, great brands) whilst IS can focus on optimised online marketing, CRM, operations, logisitics etc.  Online complexity is increasing, particularly on the marketing side; it take specific expertise and talent which is getting harder to find in the market. 
  • This is a good example of touchless e-commerce.  Hence the operating leverage remains attractive.  Low cost of customer acquisition (partly because the brands are known), low returns (because the consumers know the products they are buying already), but high average baskets and reasonable margins all make for a sound business model.
  • The team are veterans / pioneers in their field.  Michel de Guilhermier and Martin Genot were the founders of Photoways, the leader in online photo finishing (led today by the reportedly brilliant Stan Laurent.  Martin and Michel are true entrepreneurs who can knock down doors like no-one else and are masters of their trade (business and commercial development, back-end and logistics).  But these guys also knew their shortcomings and how to build a better team, so they brought on Erik-Marie Bion (one of the best known online marketers in France and a great people manager, as in his last role as MD at HiMedia) and Bruno Emsellem (CTO of GridXpert, IndustrySuppliers etc) to put together a kickass team with a very broad talent set.
  • We just, you know, got along.  It’s all about the social contract !


<— Erik-Marie Bion with the “I got Flair” French look on him

Anyone who knows e-commerce will tell you it’s all about execution, execution and execution.  With this team behind the wheel I am very confident that we have the right kind of obsessive, ambitious, high-impact people to build a really exciting property.  I don’t like my entrepreneurs to be wilting lilies and these guys certainly qualify as true proponents of the unique “suspension of disbelief” required to make these project fly.

As a quick aside I am also glad to be finally doing a deal with my friend Greg Revenu at Bryan Garnier.  An added bonus.

Real all about it too on Michel de Guilhermier’s Blog who added some nice quotes from some of the company’s CEOs (and could not help post before TC got their hands on the story :-)).

image <— A high end umbrella from Alexandra Sojfer epitomises the kind of brands Inspirational Stores want to work with: great, best of breed niche products

Now on Techcrunch too courtesy of Ouriel (about 10 minutes from communication to post — wow !!) here

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