May 24, 2019

Disrupting the Wedding-Industrial Complex

“Zola, the e-commerce platform reinventing wedding registries by allowing couples to register for products from hundreds of brands — as well as for “experiences” or cash — is the first successful wedding industry startup since the founding of the wedding-planning website the Knot in 1996. It’s currently worth $650 million, following a new $100 million funding round led by Comcast Ventures, NBCUniversal, and Goldman Sachs. It’s the first successful tech startup in the wedding space ever.

In its first year, 17,000 couples signed up to do their registries through Zola, a number that looks mildly to not impressive on its face but has been spun compellingly in the press by CEO and co-founder Shan-Lyn Ma: Last spring, she told TechCrunch, “One hundred and fifty people on average see [a wedding’s] registry, and if those visitors believe it’s a better product, [they come to us, too]. It’s built-in virality.” By press time for that piece, 500,000 couples had used the service, proving her math.

In the wedding industry, there is supposedly plenty of money to go around: $3 billion a year in the US, and $72 billion globally. According to The Knot’s annual survey, the average wedding in 2017 cost $33,391, a slight dip from $35,329 in 2016, but still more than half of the median annual household income in the United States. If there is one thing that anyone knows about weddings, it’s that people spend a lot of money on them. If there is one other thing that anyone knows about weddings, it’s that all that money is basically lost to the air, disappearing after its handful of hours in the sun. The ephemerality of that cash has plagued the wedding startup space too.”

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