Shauna Mei, a former Goldman Sachs analyst, called her startup AHALife because the idea for the online luxury good marketplace came during an “Aha” moment.
At the time she was in Sweden working as COO of luxury active wear group Cassal.
“It was really cold at night and dark in the winter time,” Mei told Business Insider. “The sun goes down at 4 pm so I had a lot of time on my hands.”
She started researching and found that the luxury industry hadn’t gone online. She realised that eBay and Amazon didn’t really cater cover high end goods.
“At that time a lot of luxury brands didn’t want to sell online,” she says. “They thought the internet was the antithesis of luxury.”
The shift has happened slowly, with two tipping points. The first was the recession and luxury brands had to get sales so they tried flash sale sites. The second point was the rise of social media.
“We identified this and we needed to build a marketplace like Etsy but helping premium luxury brands,” she says.
Five years later, the New York-based AHALife listed on the ASX. The 45 cent shares, which raised $20.4 million million to expand the business, opened today at 49 cents before settling at the issue price.
There are now 2,500 independent design vendors selling their goods on AHALife and 303,000 registered buyers or users. The company ships to 220 countries.
The average spend is about $180 per order. Compare that to about $25 from Etsy.
AHAlife is part of a growing group of US companies which have come to Australia for a listing. This includes 1-Page of Silicon Valley.
The business has already pulled in $US23 million in venture capital when she decided on the ASX.
“At the point where we are in the stage of our business, essentially the next natural thing is to raise another round of venture capital funding, a series C,” Mei says.
However, another raising meant that those putting money in, mainly venture capitalists, would require more control.
“When we looked at the economics of layering more capital, with heavy preferences … it wasn’t that appealing,” she says.
“We heard about the ASX and that this was a potential market with a group of institutional investors.”
Doing the same thing in the US, going for a public listing, would mean they would be a very small company in a large pond. In Australia, they decided they wouldn’t get lost in the crowd.
And a ASX listing also means that current shareholders convert their holdings into common stock holders.
“It does provide liquidity (after coming out of escrow in 14 months) for some of these who have been holding their investment for five years,” she says.
The company’s investor and advisor network includes the former CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, Steve Sadove, author Deepak Chopra and the founder of New York Fashion Week Fern Mallis.