Ahalife.com, a marketplace for discovering creative products from around the world, was listed this week on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The company has a market cap of 70 million Australian dollars, or $51 million at current exchange.
Shauna Mei, founder and chief executive officer of Ahalife, launched the New York-based company in 2010. Since then, she’s tapped a high-profile group of investors including William Morris Endeavor, Rakuten, DCM and FirstMark Capital and angel investors such as former French Minister of Commerce, Renaud Dutreil, philanthropist and filmmaker Abigail Disney and Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn. Deepak Chopra is on Ahalife’s advisory board.
The company raised $23 million in several series B funding rounds through 2014.
“When you’re trying to build a company that’s going to last, going public is way to go,” said Mei. “If you keep on taking money, your investors are eventually going to want to monetize their investment. The ASX is very friendly for small cap firms. We would get lost on the New York Stock Exchange.”
Another reason for listing on the ASX is that Australia is Ahalife’s third-largest market after the U.S. and Canada. “The core business tripled last year,” Mei said.
Mei said Ahalife will use the money raised by the IPO to continue to grow the business. “It’s definitely about global expansion,” she said. “We’re going to release a gift app at the end of the year.” The company also wants to open stores, starting in 2016.
Mei likens Ahalife to a “high-end Etsy.” Ahalife features 2,600 designers from 65 countries selling everything from fine jewelry, apparel and accessories for men and women, furniture, art, beauty products and high-tech gadgets, among other things. A network of 70 curators including Bobbi Brown, Iris Apfel, Wendi Murdoch, Donna Karan and Petra Nemcova scout designers and artisans and refer them to Ahalife.
“It’s not a full-time job,” Mei explained of the curator role. “If, in the course of your life, you run across a great find, you jot down the name and send it to us and we onboard the designer.”
“We’re helping indie designers and artisans sell their stuff online,” Mei said. “Independent designers don’t have distribution. Stores like Barneys New York are doing more and more private label and they have tougher terms for vendors.”
Ahalife gives brands the tools to build out and design their own digital storefronts. “Once a brand goes live, we promote it to our growing mailing list,” Mei said. “We send out editorial stories every day. We do SEO, Facebook, Pinterest and Polyvore. We manage customer service and returns and ship to 220 countries around the world. We provide services such as public relations and digital marketing.
“We’re basically almost like a department store where we buy at wholesale and sell at retail prices,” she said. The only difference is that Ahalife doesn’t hold inventory. Brands drop ship with Ahalife’s shipping labels. “It’s a technology platform telling a story,” Mei said.
Limited production isn’t a problem for Ahalife. “Brands can replenish at any time,” Mei said. “We’re more focused on accessories, which aren’t seasonal. We sell a lot of artisan products. A lot of artists aren’t interested in cranking out thousands of items. We’re finding artisans who can continue to make things by hand but they need awareness to let people know they exist.”