Jean Z. Poh tells an anecdote of a client who sought her advice in the design of an engagement ring. Once the design and a diamond were selected, Poh simply needed the ring size of the client’s then-girlfriend. Six months later the client came to her distraught. His girlfriend dumped him because she thought he had commitment issues; but he just wanted to figure out the ring size without tipping her off to his plans. Poh calmed him down. He told her the name of a bar that she was at. Poh walked in, stealthily sized up the girlfriend’s hands and determined her ring size (a trait she’s honed over several years in the business). The ring was made. He proposed and has been a client ever since.
That’s Poh’s recently launched start-up. The e-commerce company sells fine jewelry from nearly 40 brands, including Jade Jagger, Cosima Buc, Casato Roma, Elena Votsi and Walters Faith. Another 15 lines are in the pipeline to be added to the site with the goal to have around 100 brands available by year’s end.
Poh is a fourth-generation jeweler who, at 28, began investing in companies such as the Real Real and then later began designing jewelry.
“When I was designing for clients, I kept hearing how much difficulty women were having [jewelry shopping],” she said. “With men, that difficulty is exponentially worse.”
The New York-based company employs a team of six and has raised an initial round of capital of which Poh declined to provide details beyond the investors that include Carmen Busquets, an early investor in Net-a-porter. The company is raising another round of capital, according to Poh who was recently in Santa Monica for a conference aimed at connecting potential investors with companies.
Poh sees herself as a marketplace for fine jewelry first and technology company second. She wants to be the jeweler there to help her clients — 42 percent of whom are men — and brands by using the technology her company has developed. Visitors to the site fill out a questionnaire and recommendations are made based on taste and continue to get “smarter” the more a person browses and makes purchases on the site. There’s also a “vault” area for shoppers to save items they like and share it with a select group of people. Kinks on software that will help people determine ring size based on a picture — a major pain point or hurdle in closing the deal — are being worked out.
Prices start at about $300 but the company is not looking to compete in e-commerce with competitive pricing, “which turns a luxury product into a commodity,” Poh said. “Our thesis is that by learning [about the customer], we’re reaching scale by matching and forming relationships between brands and consumers.”
The company intends to expand internationally with a presence outside the Web eventually expected, although Poh said she is not looking to roll out traditional brick-and-mortar and will focus more on experiences and events.