UK startup AGORA lands over €5 million and launches new social commerce platform for the beauty industry

AGORA is a London-based startup disrupting the beauty industry through social commerce. Launching out of stealth today, it has raised a seed round of around €5.4 million led by Draper Esprit with participation from Lakestar, Angel Capital Management, and other investors.

Founded in 2019, the AGORA app allows beauty fans to monetise their talent by creating and sharing video content that links directly to products from their favourite beauty brands. 

Co-founders Riccardo Basile and Elizabeth Craft Townsend-Rose launched AGORA with the aim of bringing the breadth and excitement of an offline beauty shopping experience online. The platform is designed to be welcoming and inclusive, creating a more personal experience for consumers. AGORA features exclusive deals and, in time, aims to become the largest online shopping mall for beauty brands in Europe. The app gives content creators the opportunity to generate an additional income stream by driving sales.

Basile and Craft Townsend-Rose were previously part of the founding team of e-commerce company Lazada, which was bought by Alibaba in 2016. AGORA’s social commerce model takes inspiration from the emerging trend towards user-generated content that has been keenly adopted amongst Asian e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and Little Red Book in China.

After soft launching in April, AGORA already has 50,000 registered users who have joined the app, mostly organically. Content creators have produced in excess of 50,000 videos to date. AGORA launched its first social commerce trial last month. This gave a selection of content creators the opportunity to curate and sell beauty boxes through the app, earning a commission on sales.

In 2021, AGORA plans to scale social selling and build commerce features, allowing global and independent brands to launch flagship stores on the platform. AGORA will also roll out more advanced tech solutions to enhance the shopping experience, such as livestreaming and AI fuelled personalisation. Finally, the company aims to expand into new markets in Europe.

Riccardo Basile, co-founder and CEO of AGORA, commented: “We built AGORA to transform the online beauty shopping experience and create opportunities for real people to monetise their talent and creativity, something that has only been available to brand-sponsored social media influencers. AGORA will empower a new category of entrepreneur.”

Lizzie Craft Townsend-Rose, co-founder and President of AGORA, said: “We will use the funds to reach new audiences and to build out the platform. We are particularly excited about the opportunity to offer live-streaming events and to use data in order to deliver a personalised, differentiated beauty shopping experience.”

Christoph Hornung, Investment Director at Draper Esprit, said: “We have a strong conviction that there is a huge market opportunity in Europe to build the predominant social e-commerce platform for beauty. Riccardo, Lizzie and I have worked together before at Lazada; we are all strong believers in fast execution. Draper Esprit is extremely excited to back AGORA as they build the largest social beauty business in Europe and beyond.”

Mika Salmi, Managing Partner at Lakestar, commented: “We are delighted to support AGORA in their vision to bring video-centric social commerce to Europe. Riccardo and Lizzie are strong entrepreneurs who know this market well from their previous experience at Lazada in Asia.”