A YOUNG entrepreneur believes he has the potential for a global company on his hands after securing £150,000 in funding to help launch his online fashion venture.
Cally Russell, 25, who founded “personal shopping mall” site Mallzee.com last year, has received the backing of private investors and development agency Scottish Enterprise as he prepares for the service to go live in June.
Mallzee aims to refresh the online shopping experience by allowing users to access fashion ranges from 250 retailers, including the likes of Asos, House of Fraser and Urban Outfitters.
Russell said a “recommendation engine” and complex algorithms will then make recommendations based on their current tastes and styles. Customers will also be able to chat with friends using the site as they shop.
The firm was among the first batch to come under the wing of Entrepreneurial Spark, the not-for-profit business incubator and accelerator programme backed by Sir Willie Haughey and Sir Tom Hunter.
Other companies backed by Entrepreneurial Spark include heated-seat maker Hotbott and Glasgow-based Eat Balanced, which last year unveiled the world’s first “nutritionally balanced” pizza.
Russell said: “We’ve built some truly game-changing technology and, with the team that this investment allows us to create, I feel we’ve got the foundations of a global company.
“A lot of people have helped us along the way and without the support of Entrepreneurial Spark and Scottish Enterprise we wouldn’t have got to this stage – I’ll always be indebted to them.”
According to estimates from the Centre for Retail Research, sales across the UK’s shops will fall for the fourth year in row in 2013, with a forecast decline of 1.9 per cent, but the overall retail sector will eke out an increase of 0.3 per cent “because online retailers will gobble up all the retail growth available”.
Russell said the investment – which also includes backing from a group of Edinburgh private investors – will help Mallzee grow its full-time headcount to six people. Russell said he eventually aims to “change the way the world shops”.
He added: “The amount being spent on clothes online is increasing 15 per cent every year and the e-commerce boom is showing no signs of slowing down, especially when you look at what’s happening on the high street.
“We’ve already seen a huge number of sign-ups from abroad and we’re confident that with this investment that we’ll be able to take the first steps in creating a global business from right here in Scotland.”
Lead investor Andrew Barrie said: “The combination of a global opportunity, using a disruptive and well-thought out marketing approach that embeds into social media makes this a really exciting early-stage investment.
“It is testament to Entrepreneurial Spark and Scottish Enterprise that a young company like Mallzee can be not only be investor-ready but is getting some great customer traction so early in its development.
“Personally, I think it is all the sweeter that it will create employment for some of Scotland’s most creative and technically skilled young people.”