Tech to Unlock the Power of Creativity: Why We Invested in Motley
June 23, 2020
When we think about the future of jewellery, we see Motley: a brand powered by a tech-enabled community of designers — bringing the world’s leading designers and their brilliant designs to consumers at affordable prices and enabling them to, for the first time ever, capture real economic value out of their creations.
At Samaipata, alongside our friends from Speedinvest X, we are humbled and incredibly excited to back Cecily and Ilana on their mission to empower independent designers through tech and build a world of jewellery that is fair to the customer and fair to the designer.
As a woman, I like jewellery — mainly rings, and preferably gold. As an investor, I love jewellery — everything about it.
Jewellery is an industry full of hidden gems for tech investors. Forgive me the easy analogy, but there are so many wrong things in the jewellery industry, that make it ripe to be turned head over heels by tech. A $350bn industry ($5.7bn in the UK, $18.6bn in the US), and counting. Up until now run by men, because it was men who bought jewellery for women. A market where designers have no name, no voice and no means. Highly under-penetrated by tech, all the way from design to manufacturing to sales — online sales accounted to just 5% of the total sales pre-Covid19. Dirty and harmful to the environment. A huge and growing industry with so much room for optimization (and humanization), i.e. with so much room for tech. Jewellery is to the investor in me, what the Tiffany’s floor was to women in the 60s.
We spend a lot of time thinking about the trends that are shaping the world, and what the future will look like in 5–10 years from now. And when we think about the future of jewellery, we see a thriving industry, with growth led by online sales and self-purchase of demi-fine (affordable luxury) pieces. For women, by women — we buy our own jewellery, because we want and we can, so we should be designing and marketing it as well. A future with designers at the forefront of brands, getting a fair share of their creativity. Tech-enabled and digitally empowered, to bring brilliant design at affordable prices. Ever more mobile, social and personalised. Sustainable and environmentally friendly.
When we think about the future of jewellery, we see Motley: a brand powered by a tech-enabled community of independent designers — bringing independent designers (and their brilliant designs) to consumers, at affordable prices. So, at Samaipata, alongside our friends from Speedinvest X, we are humbled and incredibly excited to back Cecily and Ilana on their mission to empower independent designers through tech and build a world of jewellery that is fair to the customer and fair to the designer.
Technology to unlock the power of creativity
When thinking about the trends that are shaping the future, we get very (very) excited about technology that enables creators to become economically independent and build successful business out of their unique abilities. And Motley does exactly that: as a platform for designers, Motley’s technology enables independent jewellery designers to get to customers and monetise their designs in ways that they couldn’t do or afford before.
Creativity is a human superpower, probably the most powerful source of value creation and differentiation we have, and it is unlimited. In history, creators (musicians, writers, painters, designers…) have had a fundamental role in the progress of humankind. However, only a very few have managed to capture enough economic value out of their creativity to live of it. In most cases it was third parties who retained most of the value by controlling the financing (art patrons, producers, etc) and/or the distribution channels (record labels, publishing companies, etc.).
In jewellery this is still the base case: independent designers have it very difficult to get to market on their own, as they don’t have access to the capital and the visibility/brand awareness required for it. Producing their designs requires large upfront capital investments. Moreover, to display and sell their pieces in big retail stores requires hundred of thousands of pounds in inventory consignment (as well as additional expenses such as sales floor representative and PR), which most designers cannot afford. And going direct is not an option to most as they don’t have the funds, the expertise and/or the tech stack to acquire customers on their own.
Today, Motley is enabling jewellery designers to — for the first time ever — capture real economic value out of their creations. Through their platform, Motley gives jewellery designers i) access to very efficient manufacturing/ production techniques/processes, with no upfront cost; ii) access to millions of customers, directly, with no middle men; (iii) revenue share of their designs; (iv) additional input to inform their designs, such as relevant data and customer insights; and even (v) financial support through the Designers’ Fund (recently created by the team on the back of Covid-19 crisis). And designers can just focus on doing what they do best and love the most: designing.
In order to bring independent designers to market, Motley has built a very smart tech-enabled supply chain, all the way from design to product delivery. With tech at its core and combining the fine jewellery idea of atelier (craft-based, small volumes) with fashion jewellery manufacturing at scale, Motley has built a high quality, data-driven supply chain that allows for small batches and quick turnaround — facilitating maximum responsiveness to the demand, mass personalisation and minimum inventory. Moreover, Motley is working hard to bring sustainable and clean practices into an industry in much need of it.
From a business perspective, Motley’s unique model is really smart as it makes it highly defensible and scalable: being powered by a tech-enabled platform of designers, gives Motley an unfair advantage to build a differentiated, powerful and defensible brand. Working with highly acclaimed jewellery designers to bring their pieces to the mass market provides Motley with a (i) unique and highly differentiated product and (ii) unique and differentiated materials to build a powerful consumer brand (i.e. a story) around those products and their designers. Moreover, by building a movement for independent designers and owning the community, Motley is leveraging on strong network effects to ensure the defensibility of their unique supply and differentiated brand positioning (i.e. jewellery designers will only want to work with Motley). At the same time, a smart tech-enabled supply chain that optimises for flexibility and minimises inventory, together with very healthy unit economics, make the model highly scalable.
‘For women, by women’ to target the most powerful consumer segment
Women are the most powerful consumer force in the economy. With global spend at approx. $18 trillion , there’s even a name for it: ‘womenomics’. For the last decade, women have represented, in aggregate, a growth market bigger than China and India combined — more than twice as big, in fact . Yet, they have been mostly ignored. And definitely so in jewellery.
But today women are reshaping the jewellery market, as it moves from gifting (by men) to self-purchase and gifting (by women), becoming one of the key drivers of growth for the industry. In an industry traditionally targeted at men as gift makers, more and more women are buying jewellery for themselves and other women, at a greater pace than ever before and “just because”. So much that DeBeers Diamond Insight Report 2017 suggested that self-purchasing by women has increased almost 50 per cent over the past decade. The future of jewellery is female.
And yet many of the market-leading global brands (e.g. Tiffany, Cartier and Pandora) are still run by men, and jewellery marketing remains targeted at men buying for women. Motley is changing this, speaking directly to the self-purchasing woman. For women, by women.
And in an industry (tech), where $92 out of $100 invested goes into all-male teams , Samaipata and Speedinvest X are proud to be backing a team of two exceptional female founders to take on an industry that is being reshaped by women.
Founders on a mission (and loads of magic)
Co-founders Ilana and Cecily studied history together at Oxford, where they met in a tutorial about witchcraft — because, where else? And then and there, magic was born.
Cecily and Ilana are a wonderfully rare pair, Cecily — pure art — , Ilana — pure business. Cecily, former Christie’s, was the director of Louisa Guinness Gallery, where she collaborated with contemporary artists to make limited editions of jewellery for art collectors. Ilana started her career as a management consultant and went on to become the Head of Commercial & Customer Insight at Itsu. Together — with their highly relevant and complimentary backgrounds — they form one of the teams with strongest founder market-fit we have come across. You should see them in action!
Ilana & Cecily are on a mission to democratise jewellery, for designers (giving them access to market and a fair share of the value they create) and for customers (giving them access to brilliant long-lasting design at affordable prices). And we couldn’t be more excited to back them and their magic.
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Part 1 - How to work with your investors at early stages
One of our goals as investors is to help our portfolio companies be as successful as possible. In addition to financial commitment, we strive to be helpful. Typically, the more information you share with us, the better we are able to understand your business and give relevant advice. To us, communication is the only way to drive alignment.
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