The midwestern city of Omaha, Nebraska is famous for a lot of things – steaks, the College World Series, Boys Town and, of course, Warren Buffett. But, social commerce startups and beauty products? Not so much. That is, not until Bloom.com.
Bloom, which launched in August 2011, is one part e-commerce site and one part social network. Referring to itself as a “social beauty store,” its actually a well integrated mix of both. “Think Facebook meets Match.com meets Zappos,” said a recent press release and you get a sense of where the startup is headed with its strategy.
Bloom’s mission is that women “never buy the wrong beauty products again.” Through “social beauty” they are able to harness the wisdom and experiences of thousands of women, to provide an unbiased, trusted source for all things beauty. The way that works is Bloom user’s complete a public “beauty cabinet” with one of the site’s 150 “top beauty brands” and, in return, receive “Best4You” recommendations from other women who are considered to be beauty matches. It’s taste graph thinking applied to personal beauty and cosmetics.
Sharing her personal reasons for starting the site, Bloom CEO and Founder Julie Mahloch said, “I wanted a place where women could join together and share their honest opinions and experiences…a place that would ‘know’ each woman and their needs and remember which products worked or didn’t work…a place that would recommend the ideal products for each woman based on HER beauty profile.”
Bloom was in the news last week due to the fact it recently received $5.4 million in Series A funding from Capricorn Investment Group, which, incidentally, happens not to be based in Omaha, but in Palo Alto, California, a place normally associated with tech startups.
However, unlike so many startups, Pinterest for example, Bloom is a social commerce site with a business model, something that Capricorn’s co-founder and chief investment officer Stephen George attributes to the fact the company has its roots in the midwest. “Ultimately, it’s almost perhaps a Midwestern thing — instead of building a social network and figuring out how to monetize later, Bloom actually started with an ecommerce platform,” George said.
Maybe it is that midwestern mindset of neighbor helping neighbor that underlies Bloom’s business model and philosophy. Hopefully, it’s that same mindset that will attribute to its continued success. Not all startups have to hail from the east or west coast. Bloom.com proves that great ideas can come from America’s Heartland as well.