We're Rhian and Kelly and we're the co-founders of Govalo.
In June of this year, we had a frank discussion about the future of gifting in ecommerce, and it wasn't pretty. There are many moving parts, there's a lack of focus in the space, and most people building do not come armed with deep ecommerce experience.
We knew we had to find a solution. As the US nears 50% ecommerce penetration, we asked ourselves why gifting and gift cards were still so far in the past. 2020 saw a rapid acceleration of the adoption of ecommerce, many dubbing it ten years in 8 weeks.
Yet gift cards remained somewhere in the past. Trapped between the paper gift certificate issued by a local mom and pop store, to the conglomerate gift cards lying around in the bottom of a drawer, to the in-n-out gift card that has just existed in Rhian's wallet for the past four years.
As veterans of the Shopify ecosystem, and with over two decades of combined experience in retail and adjacent retail industries, we started with the why.
Why don't people use gift cards?
Why don't more merchants issue gift cards?
Why does the gifting experience have to approach mediocrity?
Why are gift cards stuck so far in the past?
Why stop at gift cards?
Why is gifting online such a pain point?
Why has no one cracked the code yet?
We realized we had to solve this. The future of commerce is now and moving at the speed of light. We needed to build a solution that met merchants where they are now and will grow to where they will be.
When we started building, we also knew there would be a supply chain crunch this holiday season but did not expect it to be as detrimental as it would be. Our knowledge around that has changed, and we built a feature into the app that creates a prompt for a gift card when a product goes out of stock.
Further, we decided to start at our beloved home base, Shopify. Both of us have done countless talks, webinars, and meetups with and for both the Shopify ecosystem and the Shopify merchant community.
So we started building.
Long time bootstrappers, we initially decided to bootstrap this venture. But time and talent are valuable, and we soon realized our pockets were only so deep, and we needed to raise capital. The idea daunted us. We had both bootstrapped and scaled a successful Shopify app company (Rhian) and a successful Shopify Plus agency (Kelly) and did not know where to start.
Further, we came to realize we were not just building a B2B ecommerce SaaS product, but we were building at the intersection of ecommerce and FinTech.
We started reaching back into the community that helped us achieve the level of success we had achieved: the Shopify Partner community. We made a (pretty terrible) deck, and Ben Jabbawy, the founder of Privy, took a chance on us and wrote us our first check. That check made us believe we could raise the capital we needed. We weren't sure how this journey would go as women received 2.2% of all venture capital dollars in the first eight months of 2021.
After countless rapid iterations of our deck, we started sending it out to other Shopify Partners, who either directly invested or referred us to people who did. We also applied to Overlooked Ventures, a pre-seed emerging fund that funds historically overlooked founders. They were our first institutional check. Then came Sugar Capital, referred to us by another Shopify Partner, who wrote us a sizeable check. Then came some more.
We had and have momentum, which is deeply humbling while being energizing at the same time. In total, we raised 2.1 million dollars to reinvent the digital gifting experience.
To our investors: thank you for believing in us.
To our advisors: thank you for the guidance, your wisdom knows no bounds.
To our agency and tech partners: we can't wait to work with you.
To all Shopify merchants everywhere: we're excited to grow alongside you during this busy holiday season and beyond.
To the Shopify community: a rising tide lifts all boats, thank you.
Buckle up because we're just getting started.