Back in November, we met Toplist, a social shopping app made in Mexico for the U.S. market. With their product in private beta, the team was quietly preparing for launch, getting ready to unveil their application to the world and prepping for a move to New York City. “We believe Toplist will take hold because we see that people really ask for recommendations from their friends when it comes to buying products,” company CCO Andrés Teran told us at the time.
Four months later, and quite a bit has changed. Toplist went public on the App Store in February, and the team is working to delver deeper and deeper into the New York City startup ecosystem. They’ve encountered a few bumps in the road along the way, but all in all, things are going well.
We caught up with Teran to find out what’s up.
Emily Stewart: When we were last in touch, you were in private beta. What sort of reaction have you received now that it’s public?
Andres Teran: After working a little over six months on product development, we released the first public version of Toplist to the App Store on February 4th. Although we knew that version still had to be improved, we were certain that it was the right time to launch. The first reactions were great. People liked the concept and easily understood the product. We got organic growth without investing a dime in user acquisition, which was amazing. In fact, we didn’t do a real announcement on social media until the day after the app went live, but even so users started flowing in mainly because first users activity was posted on Facebook.
As users activity grew, the performance of the app was affected. There was too much information going back and forth between databases and servers, and the app got slow. This hit us on our retention rate. It’s the kind of issue you can never foresee until you have a live product. So we went back to development as fast as we could in order to provide a great user experience. Fortunately we were able to fix the issue really fast and now have an updated app live and working great, which has helped regain user retention. We believe we are in a constant beta phase, and product is our main concern. Getting valuable feedback from users has played a key role in product development. New versions will come out soon, always based on user feedback.
ES: Your original thesis was that your differentiator would be in people getting recommendations from people they already know. What do you think now?
AT: It’s definitely our main differentiator. We’ve seen, based on user behavior, that people really use the recommendation system. It helps people see their friends’ styles and at the same time discover more products. It’s been amazing to see that users have really given Toplist the use we intended. We can say that users have engaged with the main feature, and valuable feedback has been provided for friends. Users do appreciate the fact that they can see what their friends like and recommend; it gives the real social experience of shopping online. We have other features that users value too, especially the validation side of the concept. Users can see which of their friends have liked the exact same product they’re seeing. That gives users the social recognition we all look for when buying. Toplist is really putting the social in social shopping.
ES: In what sectors are you seeing the most traction? What types of products and users?
AT: We’re seeing the most traction in people between the ages of 24 and 26. At first, demographics were mixed in locations. We got users from Mexico (where we’re from), but then the ratio was inverted towards U.S. users, which we are targeting. In terms of gender, it’s pretty much equal. On the psychographic side, we see people identifying with the kind of products we propose. Users get hooked on the app because they look for opinions and validation while shopping. We see traction in this sector because its members now have the money to spend on what they like, how they look or decorating their homes.
Our price point is extremely related to sector. People want to look good for the lowest price possible, hence the success of brands like H&M or Zara. We have a product database of over 7,000 products, nothing is over $500, and the average price is $112. On the product side, the main category is lifestyle, which covers a great range of products but has two defining components: style and entertainment capacity. Products like speakers or even cool iPhone cases have had a lot of success and are part of this category. In the end, lifestyle is made of the best of all the other categories, and it reflects attitude and personality.
ES: You’ve been living in New York for a month now. What have the biggest challenges been? What’s surprised you most?
AT: We moved to NYC just in time for the launch of the first version of the app. So far, it’s been a great experience trying to dig into the tech scene. The biggest challenge has been breaking through the noise and being able to put the word about Toplist out to the people. Getting attention is extremely hard, especially in a city where everyone lives fast and is “attacked” by all kinds of media and brands. We’ve found out that we cannot use traditional media to approach potential users, and even Facebook is now traditional. The only one way we have is finding new and disruptive media that can make us stand out. At the same time, we’ve been surprised of how open people are on a personal level, especially in the tech scene. We try to go to meetups and events as much as we can, and we always meet knew people willing to test new products and share their entrepreneurial experiences.
ES: How would you characterize the New York startup ecosystem?
AT: Boiling. The startup ecosystem is growing at an amazing pace. Events and meetups happen on a daily basis. New York is now an extremely relevant city in terms of technology, and the coolest thing is that people have embraced that fact. Government is giving incentives for entrepreneur, so new startups are arising and companies from all around the world are relocating to the city, which is our case. Co-working spaces are packed, and some even have waiting lists. More and more people are changing professional paths by leaving behind their traditional careers and diving into the entrepreneurial world, like we did. The startup ecosystem is based on a really collaborative community; people are open to hear new ideas, talk to different people and expand their networks.
ES: What’s next?
AT: We came to New York with the purpose of acquiring users and eventually raising a second investment round. We are now implementing user acquisition strategies and getting the word about Toplist out. Then, we will look for investment to take Toplist to the next level. Right now, we are running on the round we raised from angel investors in Mexico late last year.