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This NYC Startup Just Raised $2M to Bring The Sharing Economy This…

 

Flont_FITA

This installment of Funded in the Alley is presented by Bond Collective. Leading the way in hospitality and luxury offices space, Bond Collective designs workspaces to empower individuals and companies to be themselves. Rather than fit you into a limited, traditional office environment, Bond 60 Broad features larger 15-50+ person suites customized around your needs: privacy with access to community, concierge service, views of the Statue of Liberty, sound booths, and designer furnishings, just to name a few. Focus on your dream, and we’ll handle the rest.

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If you need a dress, you can simply rent a dress from a startup like Rent the Runway. If you need a car, you can rent a car from the Hertzs of the world. But what happens when you need luxury jewelry without wanting to buy it? Introducing Flont, the recently-funded jewelry borrowing startup that’s the newest entrant into sharing economy. Founded by serial entrepreneur Cormac Kinney (5 exits), the Flont platform features the ability to rent fine jewelry from leading brands like Asprey, Buccellati and Tiffany & Co. Need to a buy a gift but not sure if the recipient will love it?  Every piece can be rented and then purchased. For a few hundred bucks a month, you can “flont” thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

AlleyWatch chatted with Kinney to learn more about the latest edition to the sharing economy and its first round of funding.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

Simultaneous to our launch, we closed a $2M Seed round led by the ultimate fashion-tech investor, Carmen Busquets, plus 15 leading executives from the consumer, luxury, media and finance industries. These include the Chief Marketing Officer of Google Asia, the Chairman of Avon, the former CEO of Revlon and President of Coca-Cola, the former head of NYTimes.com, and the former Chief Marketing Officer of Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus – among others.

Tell us about your product or service.

Flont.club is leading fine jewelry into the sharing economy, creating a better way for consumers to discover, borrow, and buy designer fine jewelry. For $249 per month, members Flont $60,000 of jewelry per year, choosing a new piece every month — from a curated world class collection, supplied by leading artisan designers and the top global brands. Borrowers can try new jewels, and keep the ones they love at a great discount.

We carry 12 exclusive brands, plus world class collection of signed jewelry from top brands including Asprey, Buccellati, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Gucci, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels.

What inspired you to start the company?

Consumers love sharing – from ZipCar to Rent The Runway, but nobody had solved the challenges of jewelry sharing. I have a unique background as a technology entrepreneur, and for 3 years was president of a sister brand to Cartier. The second factor was solving a problem for jewelry artisans and brands. My wife is a famous jewelry designer, Mimi So – so I observed the challenge first hand. A high-touch sale is hard to make through a computer. Flont.club’s try-then-buy feature lets consumers fully experience the jewelry, then decide whether to keep it. Either way, new consumers develop a fine jewelry interest, which is good for the brands as well. My history and insider viewpoint led me to start Flont.club – to benefit consumers and artisan designers.

How is it different?

Right now, we are unique – sharing $5,000 fine jewels from all the leading brands and many artisan designers. Flont.club is an exclusive partner with the artisan brands, and help them to be discovered. We have 12 exclusives already, including several leading New York artisans found in Neiman Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue and Barney’s — these are Mimi So, Deborah Pagani, and Pamela Love. Since our clients choose a new piece every month, it’s easy to try a new designer. We also offer a unique Gift Card, which is a hit with men and mothers. It is a beautifully packaged in a suede pouch and box, and says “Flont $15,000” That is the eye-popping amount of jewelry the recipient gets to Flont, but only costs $750. Men are always afraid that their wife or girlfriend won’t like a piece they buy – this way they choose from several pieces and keep the favorite at a discount.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

The fine jewelry industry is a $20B per year, according to McKinsey.

What’s your business model?

We offer the membership, rentals without commitment, gift cards, and also sell all of our items. We also license our platform to large global brands, and have two pilots in development. I saw that after ZipCar was proven, Cadillac, Mercedes and Audi all started to develop sharing services. This way, Cartier, Tiffany and Bulgari can simply license it from us, should they wish to move in this direction.

Are a lot of users buying the jewelry after they use it?

So far, 10% of our members have ended up purchasing an item they Flont, or ordered a piece from the designer they discovered.

What was the funding process like?

This is not my first rodeo. I have previously launched and sold five startups to public companies. I have raised over $500 million, including $50 million from VCs. Even with my background, I approached over 100 VCs and none were interested. So I funded the initial development, then reached out to people who know me. We are fortunate — all of our investors are friends and incredible advisors, and that became my goal. Now we are thinking about a VC-led Series A, but might just stick with angels and strategic investors.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

It is a huge commitment of time to develop leads, get introductions, and get the contributions. It took six months to get a meeting with Carmen Busquets, and it was only after the fourth person suggested that she take a look — and by then we had an operational site to show her. While I would have loved it, an incubator was never an option, because we needed our own jewelry workshop (we maintain everything) and a secure jewelry vault.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

Our investors believe in the concept, the market and that the team can execute. They believe we have a sustainable advantage. The early investors knew me well, for example I worked with Miki Iwamura of Google when we were both at Richemont, and Denise Warren of the New York Times when I ran a startup funded by Rupert Murdoch. Three others have known me for ten years or more.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

I always work to bring a startup to breakeven, and then double down from there. We will achieve that first. We have a core team of 6.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

Beg, borrow and steal to get a prototype that you can show potential investors and incubators. If you don’t have connections, look for an incubator or opportunity to pitch to a group.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

Now that we have proven the concept, we are expanding the team, and preparing to expand internationally. It’s not efficient to ship jewelry because of customs, so we are developing partnerships in London, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul and other cities.

What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?

My wife loves to try new restaurants, it’s her entertainment. A new favorite is Majorelle on 63rd near Park, which is French-Moroccan-Mediterranean, and led by our friend Charles Masson of La Grenouille.

 


 

Bond Collective

This installment of Funded in the Alley is presented by Bond Collective. Leading the way in hospitality and luxury offices space, Bond Collective designs workspaces to empower individuals and companies to be themselves. Rather than fit you into a limited, traditional office environment, Bond 60 Broad features larger 15-50+ person suites customized around your needs: privacy with access to community, concierge service, views of the Statue of Liberty, sound booths, and designer furnishings, just to name a few. Focus on your dream, and we’ll handle the rest.

About the author: AlleyVoice

AlleyVoice is a platform that allows startups and marketers looking to connect with the AlleyWatch audience to provide content of interest – and giving them the opportunity to actively participate in the conversation.

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