Start-up Styla: creating content commerce and native possibilities
Styla is a Berlin-based start-up specialising in content marketing and content commerce solutions. The solution lets you create content-rich magazines running on your company’s website without requiring any design or coding work. In addition they offer a “shop direct” function allowing users to integrate immediately with your offerings – all without spending time on layout and coding. The company was launched in 2012 by two experienced entrepreneurs, Philipp Rogge and Franz Riedl, and recently closed a successful seed funding round of €2.5M.
EntrepreneurCountry Global met up with one of the founders to discuss the idea, their interest in content and their plans for the future.
Tell me a bit about your background, how did you come up with the idea for Styla?
I had my first significant encounter with internet companies when I wrote my thesis about user generated content and how media companies could utilise it. I then went on to work with a German venture capital company, which is where I learned the nuts and bolts of tech start-ups. After that I founded my first company, Germany's first P2P rental platform. It was while running this start-up that I realised that combining products with storytelling works very well as it creates an emotional connection to the products. I decided this concept was worth pursuing and, together with my good friend Franz, we took on the challenge to take the magazine format online and bring brands and stories together.
Where did the passion for content, and interactive editorial design come from?
Early on in my life I had a strong passion for design, first with painting and drawing, which quickly evolved to web designing on the computer. When I was 23, I created an agency for web design and worked on design and web projects. Until recently, I was the main designer for all my projects, including Styla. I love beautiful design and building a technology that makes high-quality design accessible to everyone is very fulfilling.
When did you realize the potential gap in the market?
Initially, it was a gut-feeling that I started to dig into it further, in the hope that it matched a desire in the market. It was clear to me that the fantastic world of magazines could not currently be found on the web and that you could do much more with the internet if you took it away from a nicely-designed two-dimensional page. We presented the idea to some businesses, and they all told us that creating content drew heavily on internal resources and that they needed a service that provided great visuals without requiring design work. Now we have grown far beyond the classical magazine offering and include interactive elements, shopping opportunities from within the magazine, personalisation, intelligent layout, and multimedia, combining the best qualities of the internet with the magazine format.
What value does Styla provide to its clients?
Content-commerce is still a grey area and whilst everybody knows about the positive effects it has on KPIs (including sales, conversion rates, engagement and retention) not so many people know how to harness it. We have created a technology specifically suited for storytelling that uses these stories to generate revenues. Styla allows anyone to quickly and easily create beautiful content online that adjusts to any device and provides an emotional connection to the products, driving up our clients’ KPIs.
What impact has your service made on the market?
As we are technically advanced and have patented our research and development we are lucky enough to have a unique offering in the content commerce market. Now we are working on informing the market about our solution and, one day, we hope to be the standard for content commerce.
You are successfully converging editorial with ecommerce – with the widespread discussion on “The Death of the Printed Paper”, how can your approach help editorial material prevail and avoid this decline?
Classical print businesses have played a hugely important role in informing the market about trends and news. As the market changes, new players are arriving to take over this role, however print publications still have a great reputation for their content and up-to-date knowledge on trends. This knowledge can now be channelled into direct transactions to make the most of magazines’ heritage of writing about products. For the first time, magazines are monetising in a way that is completely in line with their actual user cases - inform me about new products and then let me buy them.
What are the main challenges you and the Styla team face today?
Scaling and growth. We hired a lot of people recently and still want to maintain our company culture. At the same time, we have to grow from an innovative start-up to a trusted partner, which means installing processes and routines. But we are on a good path.
You recently closed a very successful investment round, what will this enable Styla to do?
The money we raised will help us do two things: Invest into R&D in order to close the gap between our solution and an actual print-magazine further (expect something big over autumn this year) and to build up our sales in Europe.
How do you see the future of the sector developing and what is Styla’s role in shaping this future?
We love print magazines. But as with vinyls, we believe that the loss of the great feel they provide will be outweighed by the advantages new technologies offer. This, combined with the answers we get when asking teenagers about their reading habits, means we believe there will be a massive change in the way people consume magazines. We want to be the driving force of this change and an enabler for all players to take part in it and realise their strategies. Our dream is to be directly connected to the future use of the term "magazine" and to become the standard for this fascinating new market.