Can Ohana help brands grow in tough times?
PLUS: Meet PreSeed Now's new head of growth 🚀
Today we’re in the realm of helping brands grow… while protecting customers’ privacy. Below you can find out all about how Ohana is tackling a timely problem.
But first… the news is out!
I mentioned at the start of the year that I wanted to bring someone into PreSeed Now to grow it as a business. Well, it’s time to welcome Samantha Deakin as head of growth.
I’ve known Samantha for years, and she’s deeply connected with the early-stage startup scene around the UK.
She even introduced me to some of the founders you’ve read about in past editions.
Samantha will be working on subscriber and revenue growth through new products, partnerships and more.
Want to have a chat about how you can work with PreSeed Now commercially or want to propose a partnership? Drop her a line.
💸 Just raised
A quick look at a recent pre-seed deal:
SphereTrax is a marketplace built to place, sync, and license high-end music across media like feature films and games. They’ve raised £250,000 in a pre-seed funding round led by Jenson Funding Partners.
The startup was founded in 2022 by composer Sefi Carmel, and aims to let artists hold onto a larger share of royalties than is standard. The tech underpinning the marketplace uses a blockchain and supports fiat cash or cryptocurrency withdrawals.
We are family: Ohana wants to help brands grow in challenging times
The internet economy as we know it was built on tracking cookies; those little files that help businesses understand who is interested in what, and where and when to advertise to them most effectively.
But as the end of third-party cookies looms, and with Apple’s App Tracking Transparency already having had a significant impact on the business models of companies like Meta, all sorts of efforts are underway from startups around the world to provide targeted ad products that respect users’ privacy.
Ohana has been working on solving this problem by developing a suite of products, the first of which recently launched.
A platform-agnostic ecommerce product, most recently launched for Shopify, Ohana is focused on ‘purpose-driven’ direct-to-consumer brands. It lets a business recommend other brands to their customers on the checkout receipt page and receipt email after they’ve made a purchase.
“Because this customer base has converted and bought, it is a very valuable audience. And as a result, because they're all buyers, what we see is typically quite a high conversion rate around 4% so far,” says Ohana founder and CEO, David Henry.
Brands can install the app into their Shopify setup, and then Ohana needs to approve them as ‘purpose driven’ to make sure they’re a good fit. This is based on criteria such as solving a real-world problem and being focused on sustainability.
The business of purpose
The focus on purpose-driven brands isn’t just about being nice - it’s a business decision based on better targeting.
“It's all about creating a community of like minded brands that share values,” says Henry. “It's much easier to create a partnership between two brands that have similar values and similar ethos and outlook.”
Once approved, the brand can choose partnerships with others in the network. After those partners approve it, the cross-promotion begins.
But this is just the first product from Ohana.
“Our next product will be a full partnership application that works across ecommerce platforms that allows a merchant to sell a partner product, earn revenue and for doing so, with our platform taking care of the details for revenue transfer, shipping details, and passing first party data between the two partners,” says Henry.
In practice, that means brands will be able to sell relevant goods on behalf of another brand. So if you sell sunglasses, you might discover your customers are keen to buy items like t-shirts, sunhats or suncream from partner brands, via your checkout.
“Our system will allow you to earn the revenue for selling the product,” says Henry. “We will take a small cut out the middle as a software developer. The rest of the revenue that's generated is passed on to your partner, and your partner is then responsible for shipping and delivering the product, and has the first party data.”
Further down the line, Henry says Ohana wants to “[put] the customer data we collect together to empower the community of brands to laser target their advertising both on the Ohana platform and on third-party platforms like Meta, Google and TikTok.
“The central theme of our business is about arming the rebels to beat the giants. That's what Ohana is all about - it’s using technology and smarts to be able to equip our businesses to compete in a challenging environment.”
What’s going on under the hood?
It’s important to note that Ohana isn’t just building a small-scale community marketing network here. Effort has been put into tech that can accurate track use behaviour and conversions in a way that collects no personally identifiable information.
Co-founder and CTO, Barna Tóth explains while tracking is more difficult without cookies, there is plenty of data that can be compiled to build a profile of behaviour on a specific device. This includes things like font families and how text renders, as well details such as the user agent.
Tóth says that while Ohana does not collect identifiable IP addresses, it does use hashed IP addresses as a way of identifying when it appears that the same device has returned to an Ohana-linked brand.
“Apple made it quite impossible to 100 percent tell this,” says Tóth. “But with our current technology, we are able to make a quite good comparison between these devices to be able to tell which are the unique devices. And all of this data is on the server side, so we can very easily query this data and come to conclusions based on it.”
All of this makes targeting products to potentially interested consumers easier in a tracking-cookie-free world.
Henry says that since going live in November 2022, Ohana has built up a network of more than 40 brands.
“It's very difficult to sell a new idea to people… but we have some very big brands lined up to join the community. And what we're trying to do is use that network effect of the brands in the community to invite other brands in.
“We're just starting to see the traction of that flywheel effect within the community. We'll probably be on about 50 brands by the end of this month.”
Henry refers to himself as “a recovering CMO”, having previously headed up marketing for businesses like Monster.com. More recently he acted as a consultant for purpose-driven brands, which allowed him to see the specific challenges they face.
“When you've got relatively small budgets, creating an effective direct-to-consumer marketing strategy is actually very, very hard and very costly. You waste a lot of money, relatively, very easily.”
Accelerator and venture studio Founders Factory approached Henry to work with them on a solution to the cookie-free marketing problem, as part of a programme they were running with Marks & Spencer.
And so Ohana was founded last summer, with Tóth, an experienced software engineer, joining in September.
The name Ohana was chosen as it’s the Hawaiian word for ‘family’.
“What we're trying to do is build a family of brands that are working together. Families support each other.
“And that's exactly the platform that we're trying to create for our customers. In the future, we would like to genuinely connect the members of the community in a much deeper way than sharing a software relationship, with events, meetups, help, support, and guidance,” says Henry.
Investment, vision, challenges, and competition
Go deeper to get the full picture about Ohana:
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