The Perfect Valentine

I’ve found the perfect Valentine’s gift for that geek girl in your life.  Actually, it works fine for non-geeks but given that you are reading my blog, I’m pretty sure your wife or girlfriends is somewhat of a geek.

That gift is a subscription to RocksBox.  It’s an affordable subscription to great jewelry — have something new, fresh and beautiful to wear every day, all for less than $20/month.  Not cheap plastic stuff, but real high quality pieces, generally $100+ pieces with a lot of style.

On behalf of Matrix Partners, I have just led the company’s most recent round of funding, and I couldn’t be more delighted.  When I met the founder Meaghan Rose the first time, I was very impressed, but early stage commerce ideas are hard to evaluate in advance of market data other than whether it’s a product you would use… and I don’t wear a lot of jewelry.  Despite how much I liked Meaghan, I wasn’t ready to write a check.

Meaghan did something smart at that point: she gave a free trial to a couple of Matrix folks, and after those people repeatedly reminded me how delighted they were with the product, I knew I should take another look.  When combined with the continued success in acquiring and retaining subscribers in the open market, I had more than enough information to bet on Meaghan and her company.

A value proposition that you can deliver profitably that truly delights consumers is the first thing I look for in e-commerce.  Execution demands in this space are extraordinarily high, so that’s not enough.

Matrix is lucky enough to be Series A investors in two of the top 5 e-commerce startups of the last five years, JustFab and Gilt.  Neither existed five years ago, and together they’ll do well over a billion dollars of sales this year, profitably.  Despite (or perhaps because of) the great success of these two fashion companies, we have been very selective — these are to date our only inventory-bearing e-commerce investments, and I’m pleased to add RocksBox to that list.

Jewelry and accessories is a huge ($33B) market that is poorly served online.  BlueNile, started by two of my friends from Bain, has done well at the very high end of the market — but that was formed in 1998!  Jewelmint exists at the very low-end, but there is nothing in the middle.

This durable, easy to ship item is great for e-commerce, but women really want to try it on and experiment, which hasn’t leant itself to online purchase.  Blue Nile solves that by selling to men — the bride-to-be wasn’t going to get to try it on anyway.

RocksBox solves it with an innovative subscription program — subscribers get three pieces to wear at all times, and they can send them back and get new ones anytime they want.  While RocksBox makes a little on the subscription, it really serves as an opportunity to try-before-you-buy.  When you find that piece that really works for you, you can buy it.

JustFab has taught me the power of subscription and making a product that has great value and that customers love.  One of the key failings that makes it hard for most e-commerce startups generate profits is the episodic nature of purchasing, and thus the need to pay to reacquire your existing customers over and over.  A subscription model, even if it weren’t profitable on a standalone basis, is a far better method to retain engagement.

Give it a try and tell me if you agree.   For $100 you can give a six month subscription to your mom, sister, girlfriend or wife.  Be sure to remember to compliment them when you see them wearing something new!


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Written by Josh Hannah
Josh Hannah joined Matrix Partners after a career as a serial entrepreneur (Betfair, eHow, wikiHow.) Read more about Josh.

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