Online start-up Made.com has raised £2.5m from investors including Brent Hoberman — founder of MyDeco.com and co-founder of Lastminute.com — Profounders Capital and others.
Made.com aims to use the internet to cut out the middleman by connecting buyers directly with producers of contemporary furniture. The company is the brainchild of 28-year-old entrepreneur Ning Li who has already set up and sold his 50% stake in a Paris-based company that employed a similar business model.
Using Ning’s previous experience to improve on the original model, Made.com aims to more than halve the price of contemporary furniture by cutting out the wholesaler and the retailer without compromising on the quality or the design.
“From an investment trend perspective we see an exciting transition from retailing to ‘metailing’ where consumers are in control, influencing which designs make it into production and with a more direct connection to the factory,” says Hoberman. “Made.com is good news for talented designers who struggle to achieve scale production as it will showcase the best new talent to the buying public and generate demand for their products.”
“There are still a lot of inefficiencies in the furniture retail industry,” adds Ning Li. “It is very common to see a piece of furniture being sold for six to ten times its factory price. The internet helps us provide total transparency and strip out the middlemen. Our ambition is to bring appealing design to as many people as possible, revolutionising how furniture is sold and how you buy it.”
Made.com also offers customers the ability to vote on furniture designs showcased on the website. The most popular designs go into production and the people who voted can go on to buy at a discount as a thank-you for playing a part in the selection process. Orders are then placed direct with a manufacturer for mass production in container quantities. Once completed, the orders are shipped to the UK and their progress is trackable in real time on the web site.
“The upside of this business model is no unsold inventory and no wastage as the factory only manufactures the exact number of items ordered,” the company explains.