WedPics and SimpleRegistry: A Triangle Startup Marriage
How proximity and partnership are giving two startups an advantage in the wedding industry
BY LAURA BAVERMAN
Filed Under: NEWS: Startups
They have a mutual goal of transforming the wedding industry using technology, but completely different ways of going about it. And that's why a new partnership between Raleigh-based WedPics and Durham's SimpleRegistry makes so much sense.
The two companies have generated a lot of traction in the two years since each launched their platforms for brides and grooms. About 150,000 couples around the world have used WedPics's free app for crowdsourcing wedding and wedding-related event photos from guests. The startup is hoping to grow its 8 percent U.S. market share this year, and is exploring international expansion. It also raised money, which ExitEvent reported last May.
But a big goal of the year is to start generating money. And SimpleRegistry plays right into that strategy, says David Cullen (pictured right), WedPics business development officer.
SimpleRegistry, meanwhile, had about 15,000 couples register for gifts using its site last year, but founders, Brandon Warner (pictured left) of Durham and Tony Alexander of Cincinnati are preparing for faster growth in 2014. The men have deep experience in the wedding industry. In 2004, they built one of the first honeymoon registry sites Traveler's Joy, now the official honeymoon registry partner of the three largest wedding information sites.
As Traveler's Joy grew, the co-founders saw an opportunity to bring the entire registry online and launched SimpleRegistry in 2012 (I wrote about its funds-raise for the Cincinnati Enquirer that year.). SimpleRegistry makes it easy for couples to register for items anywhere, from Etsy stores and independent bricks & mortar boutiques to Crate + Barrel and Home Depot, using a mobile app and a 'Pin It'-like button for gifts (collecting a 5 percent fee on every purchase). It's also easy for groups to split gifts. And it doesn't involve shipping; the couple gets the cash value of the gifts to make purchases themselves.
2013 was all about fine-tuning the business model and trying out some marketing tactics, Warner says.
The WedPics partnership came out of those brainstorming sessions, and will be a key buzz-generating (and money-making) strategy for 2014. Since January, WedPics has integrated SimpleRegistry's platform inside its own so couples have the opportunity to register for gifts without leaving WedPics. SimpleRegistry pays WedPics a referral fee for each couple that signs up and receives at least one gift.
On the flip side, when a couple signs up for SimpleRegistry first, the pair is prompted to also join WedPics.
"We love that as WedPics integrates more and more, the couple and guest and gift giver is going to have one-stop shopping," Warner says.
For WedPics, the partnership represents a first opportunity to test an affiliate model, Cullen says. Additional affiliates will be added over time, as they make sense for WedPics users.
"We're not going to go create a partnership with everybody. If we don't add significant value to the bride and groom and guests, then it's going to look bad on us," he says. "What SimpleRegistry is doing is really unique and we think this is the type of behavior and desire that's going to be wanted more in the future."
The Triangle area isn't necessarily known for its consumer-oriented startups, but the numbers of companies building apps or products for people (vs. companies or employees) is growing. If any common ground can be found among companies in one area, it only makes sense to find a way to partner.
Warner met WedPics co-founder Idan Koren at a DukeGen (alumni entrepreneur networking organization) event a couple years ago and they kept in touch. As both grew their platforms and began to explore revenue generation, it made more sense to find a way to partner, Warner says.
Warner and Cullen say the proximity of their businesses helped them feel more at ease sharing their plans and strategies. Being nearby helped them build a relationship in person, versus over a whirlwind weekend at a conference or via phone call and Hangout. And it helped them start small.
"Being so close together let us start very small and test things out," Cullen says."We now feel very confident with each other about the flexibility of our partnership; we expect it to grow and change and manifest into other things over time."
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