“It’s straight up just a text.”
That’s how Shop or Not’s co-founder Kate Myers described the e-commerce startup she co-founded only a year ago — it’s just a text.
“The number one most important thing about it is that it’s not an app, it’s not a website… it’s exclusively SMS text message,” she said. “Texts have a 100 percent open rate. That’s where you are all day, every day.”
Myers and her co-founder Kelly O’Malley founded the company in Los Angeles in the spring of 2016. They are currently raising a seed round for an undisclosed amount, Myers said, and will close the round by the end of the summer.
But “Shop or Not” is really the umbrella name for three mini-companies running under it: Happening, JoeText, and Late Night. While the three vary in products and timing, the concept remains the same: they text you a product. Those interested in buying it just need to respond “yes,” to purchase.
The first time users buy an item, they’ll be prompted to provide billing and shipping information. After that, Myers said, “you can literally buy something with a thumbs up emoji.”
JoeText will send subscribers a text every Monday with a new type of coffee. Late Night will text at 11 p.m. every Saturday with any sort of random goofy item, like a cheese gun or light-up ice cubes.
It’s so intimate and direct if you’re texting with someone, rather than just getting an email from a company.
Myers said the company is making a big push to focus for now on Happening, which launched about a month ago.
“When you sign up, you get a welcome text and let us know when you have some important dates coming up in your life,” she said. “We’ll text you ahead of time with some gift options, and you just reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ … We have a virtually 100 percent response rate when we ask about the dates coming up in their lives.”
“SMS texting is just the best reminder there is. There’s nothing else like it, to get that text that your anniversary is coming up, and it’s like, ‘Don’t be a dummy. Don’t forget.’ It’s pretty great.”
There are a few other SMS e-commerce platforms out there, like a juice cleanse one in California or another specific to comic books, but Myers said Shop or Not is the only one with an overarching, wide reach of different products and services.
“We feel like we really are owning this SMS commerce space for sure, and what’s awesome about it and why texting is the best is that the engagement is so high,” she said. “People write back. It’s so intimate and direct if you’re texting with someone, rather than just getting an email from a company.”
Myers and O’Malley moved to D.C. in January (and brought Shop or Not with them) for a pretty straightforward reason: they just liked it here. They are working out of Logan Exchange, a co-working space in Logan Circle. While they originally worked out of 1776, Myers said they parted ways about a month ago.
“We just outgrew it,” she said.
Myers added that relocating the company to the District was an adjustment, after having lived in Los Angeles for several years. O’Malley moved to D.C. from New York City.
“We love D.C. It’s small, and that’s good and bad. It’s good because we feel like we know everybody. Kelly and I are both really social, we’ve been able to meet a lot of people… we feel really connected to the tech community,” she said. “But on the flip side, we are consumer-facing. We’re not like a cybersecurity firm or something. D.C. is so focused on that, that sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge.”
“But I think D.C. is growing into being more multidisciplinary with having multiple different kinds of startups, and we’re happy to grow with it.”
Image courtesy of Shop or Not