Tag: Cratejoy

Cratejoy Builds a Better Box Subscription Service

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Alex Morse and Amir Elaguizy, co-founders of Cratejoy in Austin, photo by Devaki Knowles

Alex Morse and Amir Elaguizy, co-founders of Cratejoy in Austin, photo by Devaki Knowles

In our era of multitudinous, fragmented e-commerce, there’s a box subscription service for just about anything – baby clothes, lingerie, gluten-free food, gourmet candy. But until Cratejoy, there was no one-stop platform where box curators could get their businesses off the ground.

Cratejoy founder Amir Elaguizy sold his Internet poker data-mining startup to gaming company Zynga in 2011. He continued to work at Zynga for a couple years. After that, the next thing he wanted to do was make a company that could help small businesses and put people on track to becoming their own bosses.

“I thought honestly I was going to be starting a little hobby,” says Cratejoy user Amber Golightly who is the founder of The Austin BatBox, which curates local products. She started in May, and thanks in part to the host of services she receives through Cratejoy, box curation is now her full-time endeavor.

Back in 2012, Elaguizy started a new venture with his long-time business partner Alex Morse. They went through several iterations before honing in on the idea that would spur Cratejoy.

In summer of 2013, they were accepted into the Y Combinator accelerator program with an idea for a “push-button” solution that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to start small businesses. At the program, Elaguizy met another entrepreneur who was selling women’s clothing through a box subscription service.

Elaguizy and Morse started doing research, calling about 200 people who were in the box-subscription business. Quickly they realized just about everyone was facing similar basic business problems.

“We were on a hack of a bunch of e-commerce platforms – a little bit on shopify, another recurring billing system,” recalls entrepreneur Dan Scudder who runs Root Bizzle, a necktie subscription company. Scudder was one of the people Elaguizy initially talked to for research purposes and is now a Cratejoy client.

21bundles-box-maySubscription box curators are often people who are passionate about a particular area of commerce. For instance, one entrepreneur in Elaguizy’s beta test is a former art student who curates boxes full of sample supplies so that artists can more affordably try out new products. In other words, box subscription providers aren’t necessarily e-commerce masters or people who are equipped to code.

If you run a box subscription service, you can either pay someone to build out your website and e-commerce functions, or you can cobble together existing services – one for payment, another for subscription collection, another for analytics – that don’t work quite optimally and are not integrated. The first solution can be expensive, the latter is cumbersome.

With what they’d learned, Elaguizy and Morse began coding in fall of 2013. They kept their heads down through the end of the year and by January they had a prototype of Cratejoy, a one-stop service that would make it easy to begin a box subscription. Cratejoy’s offerings include, web hosting and page templates with mobile integration, a subscription billing management system and business analytics.

By the time they were ready to start their private beta test, Elaguizy says they already had a waitlist of 800 merchants, despite not having done any advertising.

What happened was during the research phase Elaguizy had told box subscriptioners what he planned on creating, whom then in turn told others box entrepreneurs. They quickly collected $50,000 in pre-payments from merchants eager enough to pay to enroll in the private beta. At the moment, Cratejoy has 120 companies enrolled and its waitlist has climbed into the thousands.

Elaguizy says they’ll be ready for public beta within the next six months. He says that he and Morse bucked the “fast and crappy,” get-it-out-as-fast-as-possible startup model. He wants the service to be near perfect before it’s fully unveiled.

One of the most rewarding developments so far, Elaguizy says, is that since the private beta began he’s seen three of his users quit their day jobs to be full-time box subscriptions business people.

One surprising development has been that 30 percent of demand for Cratejoy has been for subscriptions services rather than boxes. One user is The Fox Society, an Austin-based service that plans date nights for couples. Elaguizy said he’s fielded interest from a guy with a lawn maintenance business: He has the same clients all the time, but wants to streamline his business process online.

Within the next year, Elaguizy has plans to build a marketplace where people can shop for different kinds of box subscriptions. To date, Cratejoy has facilitated 22,000 shipments and deliveries in 52 countries.

consciousbox-may-1Elaguizy subscribes to every merchant who is using his platform, so his office has plenty of goodies lying about – vitamins, tea, paintbrushes, and a high-quality plush child’s toy. He likes working with box curators: They tend to be people who are passionate about their product and committed to delivering quality since every month they must continue to impress their customers. He says his engineers like receiving immediate feedback from their merchant community and the boxes themselves are fun, but what keeps Elaguizy most excited about Cratejoy?

“I’m interested because of the people who quit their jobs.”


Four Austin Startups Shine at the 2014 ATC Startup Showdown

Founder of Silicon Hills News

imgres-8The Austin Technology Council’s Startup Showdown builds a bridge between the startup community and those who have more seasoned experiences and companies, said Josh Alexander, founder of Toopher.

Toopher, a security platform that helps businesses authentic and verify their customers online, won the ATC Startup Showdown in 2012.

“As a result we were able to connect and get really, really good advice from those who have been there and done that,” Alexander said.

“We’ve been very fortunate in our trajectory so far and we’ve been able to accomplish a lot, clearly, if not most of it, because of the wonderful community we have here in Austin,” he said. Toopher has raised $2 million.

Alexander spoke at the Austin Technology Council’s CEO Summit on Thursday during a noontime presentation of the four most promising local startups in the 2014 ATC Startup Showdown.

Alexander introduced Joseph Kopser, the CEO and Founder of RideScout, “the Kayak of ground transportation” and the winner of the Startup Showdown from last year. RideScout started in the Austin Technology Incubator. The company created a mobile phone app that lets consumers search and compare aggregated ground transportation options to find the best one. The company has raised seed stage funding last year, built out its team and launched in Washington, D.C., Austin, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.

“We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today without ATC and its supporters,” Kopser said.

ATC chose one startup from each of four tech incubators based in Austin including the Austin Technology Incubator, Capital Factory, DreamIt Ventures and Techstars Austin.

Among Austin’s incubators and accelerators there’s a lot of collaboration and cooperation, said Isaac Barchas, director of the Austin Technology Incubator.

“The infrastructure is being built out in a way that makes the whole more valuable than its parts,” Barchas said.

Rick Hawkins, president and CEO of Lumos Pharma, an ATI company.

Rick Hawkins, president and CEO of Lumos Pharma, an ATI company.

The winning company from ATI was Lumos Pharma. The company is developing a drug treatment for autism, said Rick Hawkins, its president and CEO. Earlier this year, Lumos Pharma raised $14 million in a Series A funding round led by Sante Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. The company is using that money to finance pre-clinical and clinical development of its drug to treat Creatine Transporter Deficiency, a cause of autism and other mental disorders.

The winning company from Capital Factory was Cratejoy.

Josh Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory, said the incubator has made 30 investments since October. He said it’s the most active seed-stage investor in Austin right now. Capital Factory launched a syndicate investment on Angellist with $100,000 investment in Cratejoy and the company attracted another $350,000 in investment from around the country, Baer said.

Amir Elaguizy, founder of Cratejoy, a Capital Factory company.

Amir Elaguizy, founder of Cratejoy, a Capital Factory company.

“Cratejoy is an ecommerce platform for subscription-based businesses,” said Amir Elaguizy, its founder.

The company pivoted from Toutpost, a Y-Combinator startup, into Cratejoy after Elaguizy identified an unmet need for a platfrom catering to subscription based businesses. The company launched a Beta program recently and has signed up several paying businesses including Beard Brand, which sells grooming supplies for breads, Sumo Snacks, a subscription based jerky delivery to companies and a tie of the month club. Cratejoy, which has 10 employees, recently moved out of the Capital Factory and into a house in Austin because it’s expanding so quickly and needed more room, Elaguizy said.

Utz Baldwin, founder of Plum

Utz Baldwin, founder of Plum

The winning company from Techstar Austin was Plum, an “Internet of Things” company that makes an app that lets people control lighting in their home from their smartphone. The company, formerly known as Ube, went through the inaugural Techstars class. It has raised $1.5 million, including $307,600 through a successful Kickstarter campaign last year from 1,300 backers. The company has 11 employees and has its prototypes in hand, said Utz Baldwin, the company’s founder.

“I think Austin is the number two city in the country, outside of the Bay Area, for starting up a company,” he said. “We are intent on building a big consumer brand right here in the great state of Texas.”

The winning company representing DreamIt Ventures was Swan, a platform that allows consumers to order beauty services like hairstyles, makeup and manicures to the home or office.

Kerry Rupp, CEO of DreamIt Ventures in Austin, introduced Julia Andalman Swan’s founder. Andalman first pitched her company to Steve Welch of DreamIt Ventures in Dallas but she didn’t think he liked it. Then he called her a week later. He went home and talked to his wife about it and she thought it was a great idea, Andalman said.

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