Just as Uber made it easier for passengers to find drivers, and AirBNB made it easier for people will a spare bed to find people to sleep in it, eporta is a new attempt to do the same for a new industry: The design world. With thousands of interior designers, architects and retailers out there, the platform is designed to make it easier for them to trade with each other – and makes transforming a new space into something stylish more efficient than ever before.
To find out more about the business we spoke to founder and CEO Aneeqa Khan.
Can you start by describing in your words what eporta does?
We connect the global design industry by providing a platform for buyers and suppliers to do business online.
eporta is a trade only marketplace that allows professional buyers to discover and order interiors products (both residential and commercial) directly from suppliers. It makes the buying and sourcing process quicker, more efficient and diverse.
For professional buyers we solve their two main issues of access; by making it easy to find suppliers, and capacity; by reducing admin involved in working with suppliers we allow them to work with a greater range.
We have more than 2000 buyers and 800 suppliers from more than 45 different countries on the platform including established global names such as Conran, Cassina, Tom Dixon and Roche Bobois through to little known craftsmen, potters and designers. We let the products speak for themselves which creates meritocracy in design and ultimately raises standards for all.
What this means for the end consumer is ultimately access to better designed products and better designed spaces.
What’s your personal background and what inspired you to start the company?
I’ve always had a passion for technology and interiors.When I was working at Zoopla as their Strategy Director, I bought my own house and started going through the process of doing it up. I realised just how difficult it is to access great design despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of amazing suppliers out there.
Digging deeper, clearly the issue in the industry was the fact that trade professionals (that’s an interior designers, architect or boutique retailer) found it very difficult to find items which is why the best designers don’t get showcased to the public.
What is the story of the company from launch until now? How big is the company now?
We set up as a company in September 2014 and by Jan 1st 2015 we had built our initial product, had started working with our first furniture brands and we’re working with a few retailers. In less than a year, we now hold the largest global databases of interiors products and have more than 2000 trade buyers using eporta. The growth has been fantastic and is testament to how much the industry needed an online platform.
There are 14 of us in the core team at the moment and growing.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your company?
The biggest challenge we have faced since launch was persuading the interior design industry to embrace technology and work with it – as soon as they do, they don’t look back but it’s an industry that is by its very nature less embracing of technology than say the retail or travel sectors. I would certainly say that is now changing.
Finding and recruiting the best staff is also a huge challenge as we are expanding quickly and require new talent. Recruitment is time consuming as we are inundated with CV’s but when you find the right person it was always worth the wait!
You’ve partnered with around 750 brands now – how did these partnerships come about?
Initially through sheer hard work – explaining what we can offer and how it can grow and support their businesses. Suppliers could very quickly see the benefits. We are now in the position where we are approached by suppliers on a regular basis but we do have standards about what we put on the site – it has to be high quality and of good design. We have also invested a lot of time and energy in our sourcing team who scour the trade fairs, design schools and leading art colleges for the emerging talent and design stars of the future.
What is your business model? How have you monetised your product?
We will continue to grow the business globally. We monetise through transaction fees on sales.
What’s the next step for eporta’s growth – is the intention to grow the business independently, or look for an exit via acquisition or similar?
At this stage, we are focused on growing the business globally and independently.