Inkling is a gift search engine. In the Lokku post I go into the reasons we made the investment, and my new friends at Inkling discuss the motivations on their side over on their blog. One of the points they make is that there are lots of incubators or accelerators or whatever these days in London. I am sure they all work hard to benefit the companies they support and they seem to do their best to get lots of obviously talented advisors and mentors. Programs like those do a lot to build the London (and European) ecosystem. But my impression is that the high volume approach is not for every start-up. Lots of founders - for example the Inkling team - bring a great deal of professional experience to their start-up. They don’t need broad help on all aspects of business, they instead need deep advice from people familiar with exactly the problem they are targeting. Our hope (and bet) is that our knowledge of the dynamics of aggregation and vertical search, hard won after seven years of Nestoria, can help them take Inkling forward faster.
But enough about the background. Above all else what attracted us to Inkling is that they have a great product. One that, with Christmas fast approaching, you should check out (and tell all your friends about)! E-commerce is now a thriving, established industry and is blamed for the “death” of the high street. And yet it’s surprising how bad the online shopping experience is for the common task of gift giving. When I know exactly that I want widget X, online shopping delivers. I search, usually on amazon, find the item with reviews, and if I like it I buy, and a few days later I’m enjoying my new widget. That problem is solved. But if I face the nebulous task of buying a thoughtful gift for someone, it’s not so easy. I don’t want to invest hours browsing and considering. I want to do a quick search, tweak a few dials like price depending on the occasion or who the gift is for, and find some reasonable options that I can quickly, confidently, and painlessly purchase. Inkling solves that.
Which isn’t to suggest that Inkling is perfect, like every start-up there is always more to do. The last few weeks of working with the team have been very refreshing intellectually as I get to learn a lot while also bringing skills to bear on a new problem space. One thing that has been eye-opening is how bad/difficult/unreliable the affiliate feeds that Inkling (and many, many others) work with are. Perhaps I was naive - in the same way perhaps that people assume real estate data must be high quality since it is such an important, high-value transaction - but I’ve learned it’s a bit of a nightmare. There is a lot of value to be created in cleaning and categorizing the data, which is what Inkling does. That’s probably true in almost every category.
Please take the service for a spin. The easiest way to dive in is probably that you just buy me one of the gifts on my personal wish list (pictured here).
In seriousness, any feedback - positive or negative - would be gladly received.
I’m hopeful we’ll be able to announce our next investment soon. It’s exciting times at Lokku HQ. If your start-up involves one of the areas we target (geo, aggregation, vertical search, opendata) and are looking for seed level (25-50k) investment let’s talk.