If Instagram, TikTok, Depop and Chinese livestream shopping channels had a love child, it would look like Tilt. The app is a social media platform, ecommerce site and fintech payments platform — with a bit of gaming sprinkled on top — and it’s launching today.
The London-based startup, founded by two early Revolut employees, has raised a $3m pre-seed round led by VC firm Earlybird.
Cofounder Neil Shah joined Revolut as employee number five in 2015 while CEO Abhi Thanendran joined in 2016 as the neobank’s first data hire.
What does Tilt do?
Tilt is a shopping app designed like a social media app. Brands have profile pages where they can upload videos of models wearing their products or of their products being made, and also livestream content.
Users also have profile pages that become more customisable as they purchase items in-app. Every time a user buys a product from a specific brand, a “collectible” badge from that brand is pinned to their profile page.
Tilt’s cofounders say they want to bring that real-world millennial feeling of shopping being a social occasion into the virtual world of Gen Z. Users can follow their friends’ profile pages; there’s a chat function where they can talk to other users in real-time; they can tune into the same livestream together and use the live chat function; and they can also upload videos together — think TikTok goes shopping.
It has 100 brands (most of which are small businesses) signed up to sell their products through the app at launch, all of which were found through Instagram. You won’t see the likes of Hollister or Primark cropping up on Tilt any time soon, though.
“They’re all much more niche,” cofounder and CEO Abhi Thanendran tells Sifted. “They have anything between 500 and 1.5m Instagram followers but they have a specific aesthetic that their fans subscribe to. And they have to have unique brand values.”
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For example, one brand makes all their bags entirely out of apple leather, a material made from the leftover apple pomace and peel byproducts when fruit juice is made. Another brand Sifted is shown uploads videos of a designer cutting holes in old basketballs to make into handbags.
Payments are integrated within Tilt so shoppers can purchase items directly from a brand’s page in-app using their preferred method — anything from Apple Pay and Google Pay to buy now, pay later options (it’s adding Klarna soon).
Tilt will take a cut of sales in the app. Longer term, it wants to take a leaf out of the metaverse’s book and monetise how people represent their virtual selves within the app through customisable profiles. It will also add a premium feature for brands that want to access extra features like giveaways and livestream sale events in-app.
Who’s investing in Tilt?
- German VC Earlybird led the round
- London VC Seedcamp (where Shah was a mentor for three years)
- US-based TQ Ventures, which counts Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun among its three cofounders
What’s the market like?
The idea of social commerce began in China, where both livestream shopping channels and social commerce plug-in mini apps within WeChat have been around for over five years.
In Europe and the US, the idea has been slower to get off the ground. So far, it’s been reserved to social apps Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook and Pinterest, which all have in-app shopping options.
Tilt’s cofounders are using Instagram to find brands for their app, but they don’t view its shopping function as direct competition — rather, they plan to sit alongside it.
“Their shopping functions have never really got off the ground,” Shah tells Sifted. “Brands may still use Instagram for their pure aesthetic representation but they’ll come to us to sell.”
“We see ourselves as somewhere between Depop and Farfetch, but not Amazon. We want to be the best platform to come to for products that you’re passionate about,” Thanendran says. “But you wouldn’t come onto Tilt if you want to buy a toilet plunger.”
Amy O’Brien is a reporter at Sifted. She tweets from @Amy_EOBrien and writes our fintech newsletter — you can sign up here.