Backed by Accel, Minoan Experience creates a new category of e-commerce called “native retail”

Imagine staying at an Airbnb and becoming so attached to a particular chair or tea set that you wanted to buy it. Instead of asking the owner where he’s from and finding him, Minoan experience allows you to order the product by scanning a QR code. Then it is delivered to your home within a few days. The native retail startup announced today that it has raised $5 million in seed funding led by Accel.

The company was founded by Marc Hostovsky and Shobhit Khandelwal, who worked together at before Walmart acquired the e-commerce marketplace in 2016. During that time, Hostovsky worked closely with omnichannel teams – for example, e-commerce in Hoboken. and San Bruno and the Stores team in Bentonville.

“I realized pretty quickly that the best product experiences don’t happen on screens or shelves, but rather happen ‘in nature,'” he told TechCrunch. “In actual times when you would actually use the product to gauge whether you like something or not.”

At the end of 2019, he stayed in an Airbnb and “became completely in love with the furniture. The bed was so comfortable, the knives were perfectly sharp, and the host had done an amazing job maximizing the counter space in the small kitchen. Hostovsky and his partner lived in a small apartment in New York, so they took lots of photos to replicate the layout of the Airbnb space.

“Then I kind of had this funny realization,” Hostovsky said, “‘Huh…brands are spending billions of dollars on Facebook and Google ads just to try to pitch their products to consumers and we’re having an experiment authentic with these products. enough to feel inspired to buy it when we leave.”

As it happens, Hostovsky quit his job at Walmart to work at Minoan just before the pandemic hit the United States. he said.

In the first two months of the business, travel was at a standstill, but gradually resumed in the summer of 2020. One of Minoan’s biggest markets, the Hamptons, actually had a very busy season, with most of its short-term rental partners. nearly 100% occupancy and charging higher rates due to demand.

“The way people traveled changed, but people started traveling again,” Hostovsky said. “I believe the strong push for flexible/remote working will result in a culture where ‘personal travel’ and ‘work’ are no longer oil and water, and that’s where a experience like Minoan fits perfectly between the consumer and the company.”

Minoan co-founders Marc Hostovsky and Shobhit Khandelwal

Minoan co-founders Marc Hostovsky and Shobhit Khandelwal. Picture credits: Minoan

Minoan partners with approximately 160 product brands, including Pottery Barn, Crate&Barrel, Society6 and Apotheke. In addition to providing an additional distribution channel, Hostovsky said working with Minoan can build brand loyalty. Most customers stay in Minoan spaces for three to four days and during this time they use products from Minoan partners daily. Then, Minoan’s technology gives them an easy way to buy those products and collect reviews.

“There’s a lot of value to capture there, especially in an era where only 9% of digital ads are viewed for longer than a second,” Hostovsky said.

Minoan currently has approximately 80 real estate partners, covering 1,800 places. This includes a network of more than 40 hotels, including properties like William Vale in Brooklyn, Lokal Hotels and Mint House 70 Pine. It also focuses on short-term rental properties listed on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. The company operates across the United States, but has large groups of real estate partners in states including Texas, New York, California, Colorado, Tennessee and Ohio. Part of the funding will be used to expand Minoan’s geographic presence.

For Minoan’s real estate partners, the company gives them a way to furnish spaces at prices below retail, which Hostovsky said many pay because of the hassle of buying in bulk. “Not only is it expensive, but it’s very labor intensive, and if you’re an individual owner, it’s a huge burden,” he said. Minoan lets them save over 30% on items, and they can also earn a commission on anything that sells in their space, with Minoan taking care of the administrative side of the retail process. “We have a bespoke sourcing platform where properties can search, buy and track everything they need in one digital space,” Hostovsky said. “Typically you do this in each individual store you buy products from, but at Minoan we host all of this in one portal.”

Part of the new funding will be used for hiring in India, where Khandelwal is from. Minoan has offices in Hyderbad and Delhi. “They will lead technology and product development across different elements of the platform,” Khandelwal said. “We are building our entire technology organization in India, so it is not a back office but our front office from a technology and innovation perspective. All members of the Indian team get equity and salaries similar to those of businessmen in North America.”

In a statement to TechCrunch, Accel Partner Dan Levine said, “Retail has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, and the way people shop has been disrupted the most. What drew us to Minoan was their end-to-end approach to retail, which is typically consumer- or business-focused; Minoan has created an end-to-end native retail model that benefits both. At Accel, we believe this format will combine the online and offline experience more than ever and create better and more reliable shopping experiences that consumers demand. »

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