by Rose Powell
One of Australia’s most active venture capital funds has announced a $2 million investment in an ecommerce company seeking to wean young Australians off their dependence on IKEA by making quality furniture cheaper and available online.
AirTree Ventures, has backed 18-month year old startup Brosa, a marketplace business where furniture designers and creators can sell directly to their customers. On Brosa customers can view a wider and more unique range of furniture as well as buying it without the retail mark-up.
It was first launched in February 2014.
Airtree partner Craig Blair said that, while Brosa was a fairly young company, it was ready for a “true series A round” given the company’s considerable growth and the strength of its founding team.
“We’re confident they’ll be able to double in size every year for a while because the market is just so huge, provided they can coordinate the logistics of shipping large pieces of furniture around the country,” Mr Blair said.
“It’s already growing at ridiculous rates and it’s really rare to get founders, each with industry experience in a different area as well as startup experience,”
Brosa co-founder Ivan Lim was previously working in digital marketing before stepping into a similar but broader role in Melbourne-based startup Tweaky. The company, which changed its name to Elto, was sold to GoDaddy earlier in 2015.
He said it was his family background in interior design that motivated him to launch a furniture business. He said he noticed a potential market for Brosa after he bought a home in the Melbourne suburb Richmond and was stunned by the high prices and similarity of pieces of furniture at trade shows.
“I knew there were heaps of talented furniture designers out there, but there was no easy way to buy or even see their stuff. After talking to friends, I realised there was an appetite for better furniture but no suitable online option,” Mr Lim said.
Mr Lim, alongside co-founder Richard Li has since grown the team to five and says sales volume is growing between 40 to 50 per cent month-on-month.
“We’ve had profitable months and we are profitable on a yearly basis, but we sought funding because wanted guidance and to be in a position where profitability isn’t our number one priority so we can focus on growth and customer service,” Mr Lim said.
The $2 million Airtree money will go towards growing the team, with Mr Lim and Mr Li particulary keen to hire an in-house digital marketer as well as developers. They are currently working out their employee share scheme option but aren’t anticipating the hiring process will be easy.
“It’s great that the profile of Australian startups as grown so much, but hiring people will still be the hardest bit of growing. It’s still a challenge to get people to take less pay for longer hours than corporate jobs, even in exchange for equity,” Mr Lim said.
Brosa becomes the latest addition to a wide-ranging portfolio at Airtree, which includes rostering software Ento, online cleaners marketplace TidyMe, online design platform Canva, crowdsourcing platform DesignCrowd, and online pet-minder marketplace Pawshake.
Fairfax Media Australia