My Startup: Xarista
As part of our weekly My Startup feature, we take a look at some of the best startups in London. This week, its Xarista, a web personalisation platform for retailers.
Xarista is a platform where third-party online companies can personalise their websites based on who is visiting. For individuals browsing the web, this allows them to tailor the content, offers and products to suit their needs and preferences.
The aim is to help online retailers drive conversion and sales whilst also saving users time.
Founder: Isabella Aberle
Founded: May 2018
We caught up with Isabella, who's previously held roles at both PayPal and The Royal Mint, to find out more about her startup.
Why did you start Xarista?
I spend a lot of time online and grew frustrated by all the time I wasted. Personalisation has been a ‘hot topic’ in marketing and consumer services for many years. However, when I go to a retail website, it takes time and effort to narrow down the product range to what I like (e.g. shoe size, holiday preferences). The cookie approach doesn't help much.
I strongly believe it is the right time for the retail industry to take the next step in building out their web experiences via personalisation. There are regulatory pressures (GDPR), commercial pressures (it’s an Amazon world), and users are increasingly sensitive about their data.
It was also the right time for me personally. I had just finished my MBA at Cass Business School. Xarista allowed me to combine my experience in marketing automation, transactional digital products like online payments, blockchain and distributed ledger technology.
Tell us more about (the tech behind) the product?
We empower online retailers to offer relevant, ‘must click’ experiences as soon as visitors land on their site. By the time other personalisation services start acting, a third of visitors have already left. With Xarista, retailers can be the best possible version of themselves instantly.
We facilitate this by allowing customers to set their own preferences. Xarista is a simple and elegant solution to personalise offers and boost conversions whilst the customer remains totally in control of their data. It offers a practical and ethical way forward into a future of distributed data.
Where are you at right now?
We are very excited about where we are in terms of product development, market validation and acquisition of pilot partners and first users.
We have a frontend prototype that showcases the value-add of Xarista, for example in travel (pictured), and the development of the next technology iteration is in progress. User signup is open and prospective users are welcome to sign up and start building their Xarista profile on our website. We're resonating very well in the retail industry, with market research experts, and strategic partners.
We were also part of the top five per cent of applicants to Techstars London when we got started in the second quarter of 2018, and have been fortunate to be part of the Y Combinator Startup School.
What are your aims for the next year?
We launch our pilot in April. We'll use that to refine the Xarista proposition with feedback from pilot partners and users. We hope we can prove the potential of instant web personalisation to early-stage users.
We also want to expand the Xarista ecosystem by finding more clients, users and strategic partners. We are on the lookout for retailers and online sites who want to use Xarista.
What's been the hardest thing about getting Xarista off the ground?
A successful entrepreneur is someone who thinks beyond current limitations but starting a company is a constant struggle of resources, whether it's time, human or financial capital. We needed to ensure that we balanced these pressures in order to get Xarista going. This was sometimes counterintuitive.
We have, for instance, turned down an investment package including development resources, when we were looking for funding as well as development capacity. Fewer dependencies - hence better optionality - helped us move faster and more confidently. It was a tough call.
Getting Xarista off the ground required a fair amount of resilience. But unlocking the necessary pieces of building a company was also one the most rewarding things. We wouldn’t have changed it for the world!
Why should more people use your product?
For users, the main benefits are saving time and enhancing the web experience. Relevant products and contents are preselected, meaning shorter click paths to what users like and look for. They're also given full control over preferences and privacy. Data transparency means users know what's captured, what's used, and where.
Do you believe you are filling a gap in the market? Why?
Retailers find it increasingly difficult to attract, convert and retain customers in an Amazon-centric world - as well as observing GDPR. Customers are confronted with an abundance of choice - alongside a growing interest in 'digital detox', and more sensitivity around data privacy.
Many elements of our daily lives can be personalised already. We bring website personalisation to the next level - providing instant value both for retailers and customers.
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