Blue skies ahead for mobile retail app with $10 million in sales – here’s how they did it

6:46AM | Friday, 6 June

Online shopping app Bluesky had announced it has reached retail sales of over $10 million, with the app reaching 210,000 shoppers and hosting over 500 brands since its launch in May of last year.   As StartupSmart previously reported, Bluesky was founded by David Mah and Nigel Ang following a previous venture called UniSquare. It has raised $1.3 million from Angel investors so far, and hopes to hit 1 million users by the end of the year, and was recently named a finalist in the Big Pitch.   When asked about the secret to achieving sales success in a mobile environment, Mah told StartupSmart the key is “to focus on content users care about”.   “When we designed our app, we really thought about it from a customer point of view,” Mah says.   “You have to embrace the customer. You have to make big decisions, move fast, and reverse engineer from the customer’s point of view.”   The app is currently available both for iOS and as a web app, with an Android version in the pipeline. It works by bringing together products from a range of fashion and lifestyle brands, ranging from big names, such as Target or Myer, through to small brands, such as Beginning Boutique, and allows retailers to promote products directly to customers.   By the time they launched the app, Mah and Ang had already persuaded a major retail brand – Kmart – to use the app.   “It really came down to luck. We knew people who had direct contact with their executives. Before we launched, we managed to convince them to meet with us – this was before we had a completed app,” Mah says.   “We created a prototype with a copy of the Kmart catalogue. The executives were very impressed with just how responsive it is.”   In one of its major achievements of its first year, Bluesky managed to reach number 13 in the Australian iTunes app store charts in the lead-up to Christmas.   “That was during December, which is a key shopping period, so the timing was perfect.   “Really, it was due to a combination of content, timing, visibility, ratings and social media.   “The way the app store charts work, the more visibility you have, the more people will download your app.   With parts of the retail sector struggling in an increasingly mobile world, Mah says the secret for retailers is to embrace their customers.   “We want to help mobile-enable the retail industry. We see ourselves as a new way to shop instore and collect your products. We want to make it quicker and easier to shop in a way that matches your lifestyle,” Mah says.

First venture failure transformed into the core of (now funded) second start-up

10:59AM | Tuesday, 1 October

After failing to sufficiently monetise his first venture, David Mah became obsessed with finding new ways to support content-driven companies, and from this constant musing his second venture was born.   He and co-founder Nigel Ang launched their second start-up, iPad shopping app Bluesky, to market in May this year. They recently closed their first seed funding round at $700,000 raised from local angel investors.   Mah says the failure of his first venture UniSquare, an online social diary, was one of the most difficult experiences of his life.   After developing the idea for UniSquare in the Melbourne University Accelerator Program in early 2012, and growing the user base to over 50,000 active users across eight Victorian universities, Mah and Ang decided to shut down the venture in December 2012.   “We shut it down because we couldn’t monetise the platform sufficiently. We had been getting a lot of advice to go with advertising, but I was always opposed to that because while we would benefit, I didn’t think it was aligned with our users so we were looking for a new and better way,” Mah says, adding they tried events and sponsorship but neither were sustainable models for them.   “It was terrible. We had to let go of eight really passionate and intelligent people, and we’d all invested a year in something we just couldn’t make work,” Mah says.   The challenges around monetising sites continued to haunt Mah and Ang, who spent months discussing new ways to support free content online.   “Even after I closed UniSquare, the question of monetisation kept bugging me. There had to be a way to align advertising with the user. We kept discussing new models, and we realised that maybe instead retailers putting up ads, it could actually be content,” Mah says.   Bluesky is an online shopping platform developed from retailers’ existing catalogues and linking out to their sites for the purchases.   The Bluesky business model is driven by a small fee paid by retailers per unique browser view, and has already partnered with over 150 retailers.   “We were lucky to get Kmart signed up before they launched, and that really helped us our anchor retailer. We got all the retailers on one by one, via cold calls and lots of meetings,” Mah says, adding they also provide their retail partners with data about how users view their products.   Mah says they will be focused on user growth and new partnerships with retailers.   “Because it’s a two-sided marketplace, the difficulty has been getting the content to get the shoppers, but the retailers won’t sign up without the shoppers, so what we decided to start with the retailers,” Mah says.   They’ll be launching the iPhone app of Bluesky in a few weeks, and are currently developing the Android app. Mah adds they expect to reach profitability in three to six months.

THE NEWS WRAP: Coles records 15th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth

3:02AM | Friday, 15 March

Wesfarmers-owned retail giant Coles has recorded its 15th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth, along with a 5% growth in second quarter sales to $7.71 billion.

Four business sectors cashing in during Australia's heat wave

3:12AM | Monday, 11 March

While the country may be sweltering through some of the hottest days ever recorded, some businesses are actually enjoying some success as the mercury rises.

Entrepreneur Shane Yeend’s Imagination Entertainment buys 50% of export start-up Aussie Inc

3:51AM | Monday, 11 March

Up-and-coming export start-up Aussie Inc has received a major leg-up from global entertainment company Imagination, which has purchased a 50% stake in the business.

The five customer service sins of our major retailers

9:20AM | Wednesday, 26 September

Start-ups should take note of the customer service “sins” committed by major retailers such as Harvey Norman, which received the poorest feedback in a ‘shadow shop’ conducted by Choice.

THE NEWS WRAP: Australian manufacturing industry must embrace Asia, Federal Government taskforce says

8:14AM | Friday, 17 August

Australia can maintain a sustainable manufacturing industry into the future, but only if it embraces the opportunities provided by Asia, according to a Federal Government taskforce.

Start-up exporting woe

5:30AM | Wednesday, 2 May

Australian start-ups may be regularly told that they are playing in an increasingly global marketplace, but the view beyond our shores currently isn’t very enticing.

eBay, Amazon lead the way for Australian shoppers

3:57AM | Thursday, 17 March

The most popular site for Australian shoppers is eBay, with other major retailers dominating the top 10, according to a new report.

THE NEWS WRAP: Business failures may rise again despite a five-month low in insolvencies

12:55PM | Sunday, 5 December

Political and media scrutiny on the banks doesn’t look likely to abate this week, with shadow treasurer Joe Hockey challenging his opposite number Wayne Swan for a public debate on competition in the sector.