By Brittany Haas (Founder, Happily Ever BorroWED) It's a term we coined ourselves...and by we, I mean the dozens of bridal technology startups here in NYC. As I was meeting with fellow entrepreneurs talking about my own startup, Happily Ever BorroWED (formerly Something Borrowed NY), I had so many conversations about the wedding space and how antiquated it is.
The most obvious conversation was how The Knot, formally known as "the" e-commerce resource for weddings, is a mess. Their content is haphazard and organized in a manner that is unhelpful to brides planning their weddings, their vendor matrix is based on who pays the most money to get a higher listing, and their parent company, XO Group, is too concerned with rapidly expanding their other brands and their IPO than concentrating on moving forward with bridal technology.
With the current surge in Wed-Tech companies, I decided to get us all together. There were too many meetings I had with people doing similar "iterations" for us NOT to talk about it. No one (and I say this lovingly), has gotten it "right" yet - besides Pinterest.
And the reason they're such geniuses, and the number one fastest growing website of all time, is because they didn't limit themselves to just weddings. They were able to capitalize scrapbookers, fashion lovers, dog lovers, cat lovers... any lover of anything to just compile their inspiration pictures in an organized manner.
I can speak for my own business and say that my Pinterest has surged to become the #4 traffic driver to my site based on the fact that when people type in "bridal accessories" - I pop up, they pin, and they are directed to my business.
The continuing dichotomy I struggle with is wedding business vs. tech business. Quite frankly, the tech industry doesn't understand weddings unless it's super sexy with algorithms and an app, and the wedding industry doesn't get tech unless it's super user-friendly and picture based. There have been a FEW companies who I've seen be funded by the tech world that have a wedding focus - Tailored (formally known as Dress Rush), Lover.ly and Wedding Lovely to name few.
All of these businesses are essentially picture search engines to help you more easily find vendors and inspiration. They all have different ways of doing it - but they're essentially sharing a common thread. So when other startups that are trying to disrupt (BridesView, Neat Weddings, Happily Ever BorroWED, Knot a Registry, Little Borrowed Dress, etc.), we're automatically lumped into this "wedding space" that the tech world already sees as "flooded".
So if tech isn't interested - how about the wedding giants? This is the way The Aisle NY went. Shara Levy and David Yassky paired with well known bridal giants Mark Ingram and Deborah Moses to leverage their influence in the bridal industry since their "tech" angle was nothing world changing. (For lack of a better term, they're the "Gilt for Weddings") Their press push was impressive, and certainly was noticed, but last I heard their business was not sky-rocketing.
So it wasn't about the money they raised, but about the people they raised it from. Are the wedding industry top dogs NOT as influential as the tech ones? Perhaps. But you'd think if you own a wedding business - that being backed by one of the most recognizable wedding figured in the industry would do wonders for your business.
So now where does this leave me? I can't raise tech funding because my business is not "sexy" enough in the eyes of tech investors. (In efforts to make these ridiculous continual comparisons, Happily Ever BorroWED is the Rent the Runway for brides) Our site is simply an e-commerce site that RENTS accessories to brides for their wedding day.
Of course I COULD make it sound sexier (I want to team with Clothia to have brides virtually try on their accessories from their own home, I want an app that has you fill out details about your dress & wedding style that pairs you with the right bridal accessory, I want to create pop-up-shops around the US to help brides touch and feel the products...) but this requires me finding a tech co-founder and I'm not sure if I want to go that route.
I could try to partner with a top Wedding Planner (think about what BeachMint has done) who backs the concept and leverages our credibility in the wedding space. Yet, this is another gamble knowing that other businesses who have gone this route have not necessarily been as successful as they anticipated.
Maybe the best way to do this - is to have both? A tech backed angel and a wedding angel. Perhaps the combination of the two is the kryptonite we need to leverage ourselves in BOTH spaces and help us grow beyond the potential of either space on its own. If my business is straddling the line between WED and TECH - why not just do both? It seems having support from both sides is far better than just one.
So... Who's In?
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Brittany Haas is Founder of Happily Ever BorroWED (formerly Something Borrowed NY). Always drawing and designing, she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Upon graduation she decided to learn the business side of the fashion industry. Since then, she’s gained experience as a financial merchandise planner and now brings her business savvy to the bridal industry. Follow her on Twitter at @brittanyhaas.