You know the story: two guys obsessed with sneakers and streetwear get together and start a company built around the things they love. They then raise over US$2 million in funding. Novelship CEO Richard Xia gives us a view of the company’s path into the future now that they’ve got the bag.
While Novelship – touted the “Carousell for sneakerheads” – isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, the company is built for customers in the Asia-Pacific region and has raised over US$2 million in funding. Not many sneaker-and-streetwear marketplaces can say that about themselves.
To understand the inner workings of Novelship, like, for example, what makes them so confident about their authentication process (they offer a “100% authentic or 200% refund” guarantee) and how Novelship is different from other online resale platforms, we speak to Richard Xia, Novelship’s co-founder and CEO.
How did the idea of Novelship come about?
Chris (Xue; pictured above left) and I actually got involved in a startup from our second year in university. Before graduation, we already had the dubious distinction of having two failed ventures under our belt. We sat down and had a long discussion about what is something that we can both be passionate about and make a career out of – very naturally our discussion came to this topic with Chris’ more-than-a-decade long obsession with sneakers – and the NBA – and my eight-year interest in streetwear.
Congratulations on raising over US$2 million through a seed funding. What are some areas you’ll be channeling these funds to?
Thanks! In general, our expansion plans will cover three areas in the countries that we want to expand to – Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. We’ll be channeling our funds into marketing to offer local language support, physical event sponsorship and localized campaigns. We look to establish local operations base including logistics and customer service.
That’s a lot of talk about “local”.
It’s easy to see where our focus lies. In the next one to three years, our focus will be to buttress ourselves firmly in the respective markets with hyper-localized services and extreme attention to the local conditions. We want to do this fast and give our users in this region a more tailored service. I wish to say to users that your complaints are heard and now that we have the resources to deal with these issues, we’re working very hard on improving.
What are the key differentiating factors between Novelship and other similar platforms in the market?
Other similar platforms mostly focus on the US, European and Chinese sneakerheads. While we take inspiration from their product features and business models, our market in select Asia-Pacific countries has different needs and user behavior from what we see in those other countries. We’re not looking to compete with these giants in their home markets where they’re most competitive, rather, we are looking to hyper-focus and localize our services for the APAC countries.
What are some services you offer that see you catering specifically to the APAC countries?
We offer convenient local payment methods like cash payment at convenience stores in Jakarta, where credit card penetration is low, and local pick-up services in Kuala Lumpur.
Is Novelship’s panel of authenticators made up of internal or external staff members? What are their credentials?
Novelship houses internal sneaker authentication experts and also works with external experts. The internal team, that includes ex-brand staff, has over 10 years of experience in sneaker authentication collectively.
You also have an authentication database that you compare products against – how have you gone about collating this database?
We collate this database via sneakers sold and authenticated via Novelship. So far, we have a database of approximately 25,000 photos, so it’s pretty comprehensive.
Which are the countries that Novelship currently ships to?
We currently ship to 21 countries, or, territories, they are: Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Brunei, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, US, UK, UAE, Philippines, Netherlands, Myanmar, Japan, Germany, France, China, Canada.
During the same period, Novelship sellers enjoy a discounted selling fee of only 2.9%, down from the usual starting fee of 9.0%. Sellers can take advantage of this fee as many times as they want throughout the promo period.