New Madrona Venture Labs Startup ReplyYes Sells Via Text Messaging

Madrona Venture Labs’ latest spinout company is ReplyYes, a text-message-based retail service that promises a simple way for people to buy things like vinyl records.

Madrona isn’t talking yet about the second company to emerge from its in-house effort to develop and validate business ideas, and then hand them off to operators to build into going concerns. But ReplyYes was listed on the just-released Seattle Tech Universe map in connection with Madrona Venture Labs (MVL), alongside Spare5, the first company to emerge from the venture capital firm’s startup studio.

ReplyYes—tagline, “conversational commerce”—is described on its website as “the easiest way to shop.” People who sign up for the service receive a daily text message offering a product for purchase. So far, the only category available is called The Edit, a daily vinyl record offering. If you like what’s on offer, you reply “YES” to the text message, and the company ships it to you. Shipping and payment information (via Stripe) is collected when you first set up the service. There’s no shopping cart or checkout, no digital wallet or app to deal with. The service appears to remove as many barriers as possible to making a purchase.

There are other services taking a similar approach, pairing low-friction texting with commerce. One, based in Seattle and also funded by Madrona, is Peach, which lets subscribers respond “yes” to a morning text with a daily lunch offering that’s delivered in the noon hour. Another, Scottsdale, AZ-based ReplyBuy, has essentially the same model but for tickets to sporting events, with fans receiving offers to see their favorite teams. New York-based ShopReply lets sellers offer text-based purchases of products advertised on television, radio, and social media.

Albums offered through ReplyYes, which appear to be re-issues rather than original pressings some vinyl purists covet, are priced between $15 and $25, plus $3 to $5 for shipping. Customers can also reply “LIKE” or “DISLIKE” and ReplyYes will “tailor what we send to your tastes,” the company says on an FAQ.

ReplyYes is soliciting ideas for other product categories, and also recruiting sellers to the service.

ReplyYes was incorporated in July and lists Madrona managing directors Paul Goodrich and Scott Jacobsen as directors. (Jacobsen led MVL earlier this year, taking over after Greg Gottesman, who spearheaded its creation in 2014, began a similar stand-alone effort called Pioneer Square Labs. In November, Madrona tapped serial entrepreneur Mike Fridgen to take MVL forward.) There’s considerable overlap between the team behind The Edit and the MVL staff.

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