Venture Firms to New York Wedding Startup Zola: ‘I Do’ to $100M

Xconomy National — 

Most wedding registries are focused on the lead-up to the day of the ceremony. New York startup Zola also sees opportunity in connecting with—and making a sales pitch to—married couples years after they’ve tied the knot.

Zola is an “e-commerce business disguised as a wedding company,” said Shan-lyn Ma, the startup’s founder and CEO, in an e-mail. “We work directly with more than 600 brands to sell over 60,000 wedding gifts —everything from waffle makers and furniture to travel gift cards.”

On Thursday, the company announced it raised $100 million in a Series D round of funding. The round was led by existing investor Comcast Ventures, and included new investors NBCUniversal and Goldman Sachs Investment Partners. Zola has now raised more than $140 million, according to a press release.

Zola was founded in 2013 and offers wedding-related tools such as personalized wedding websites, the registry and gift tracker, customized checklists, and a guest-list manager that integrates a “thank you manager” service, said Emily Forrest, Zola’s senior communications manager in a telephone interview. Zola says the wedding registry market is a $19 billion market in the U.S.

The company, which has worked with about 500,000 couples so far, makes money by taking a cut of each sale through its registry service. Ma said that the funding will be used to further develop existing software products, and to create other services related to wedding planning.

Ma said Zola’s investors have helped the company market its products. “Comcast has already been extremely helpful to us in helping us understand various media channels,” she said.

Eventually, the company wants to develop ways to engage couples through the first years of their marriage, Forrest said. “We’re a curated store; couples who really love our registry experience still come back and shop with us like we’re a home store,” she said. “Right now, we’re focused on the day of engagement through the wedding day.”

For retailers and brands, working with Zola can represent an opportunity to establish business relationships with customers entering their peak spending years.

Keeping engaged with newlyweds who have used Zola’s services could make sense. After all, there are other all-inclusive registries—such as as NewlyWish, MyRegistry, and Blueprint Registry—in the marketplace.

Ma said Zola came out of her own “painful” experience dealing with wedding registries when many of her friends were getting married. Relying in part on her experience at Gilt Groupe, a New York-based online retailer, she set out to reimagine the registry and other wedding traditions. (Zola co-founder Nobu Nakaguchi also worked at Gilt Groupe.)

“We knew we were the right people to build a better wedding registry,” she said.