Two female entrepreneurs are working to reshape the approach to gift-giving through technology and psychology and have successfully raised over £500,000 to grow the platform.
Needi, the online gift-matching marketplace, has received a significant boost from lead investor Techstart Ventures, and are now on track to scale to £10m before the end of 2024, thanks to support from the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator.
Founded in 2021 by former sales directors Louise Doyle from Armagh and Steph Scholes based in Manchester, the duo has ambitious plans to reshape shoppers’ approach to gifting, both in terms of direct to customer sales and in the corporate gifting world. Sourcing unique corporate gifts from local independent businesses for companies such as Virgin, Quickbooks and Ticketmaster.
By utilising technology and artificial intelligence, Needi has plans to boost and improve the gift giving experience by matching shoppers with a high quality, local, product or service based directly on their needs and wants.
Shoppers provide the platform with some specific information about the recipient and are matched with a range of inspiring gift options from over 3,000 unique products from independent businesses and producers thanks to a clever algorithm which is being developed by one of the UK’s leading data scientists. What makes Needi so unique is that it is changing the way users think about celebrating and marking big occasions, and onboarding and retaining staff and clients, while also showcasing the talents of local, independent small business owners.
Having raised a significant amount of capital, the founders now have ambitious plans to grow the marketplace even further by investing in smarter technology and growing the team.
Louise Doyle, Co-Founder of Needi and new mum of twins, explains more about the company’s growth journey to date.
“Needi was founded 2 years ago with a single aim of pinpointing the perfect gift to your recipient. More recently we have focused heavily on the corporate market and have successfully onboarded over 100 loyal clients including blue-chip companies and FTSE 100s, all seeking to improve client retention and improve staff morale through corporate gifting. We had long been aware of issues around corporate gifting and many of our clients have struggled in the past to find something that is personal and have ended up wasting money on uninspiring gifts which end up left in a drawer, or worse still in landfill. Our approach has been to devise an intelligent gift-matching service which acts more like a concierge to try and alleviate this problem and ultimately saves our customers time and money.
“As the business grew, we have been able to raise around £300,000 from a range of sources but securing our first venture capital cheque of £250,000 from Techstart and winning a £35k Female Founders Grant has been a real game changer for us. We are now on track to generate around £1M in 2023 and, thanks to our innovative technology, we are well on the way to scaling to £50M.”
Steph Scholes, co-founder of Needi says they can pinpoint a lot of this growth and success to their time spent on the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator programme.
“Accepting a place on the accelerator programme was huge for us and it’s where we really began to see all the growth elements of our business and our ambitions come together. Being surrounded by a community of entrepreneurs and having uninterrupted access to mentors was hugely beneficial. What’s more, we found new merchants who are now selling on our site and crucially, were introduced to investors and have been able to secure funding as a direct result of these meetings.”
John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank congratulated Louise and Steph on their success to date.
“It’s been a real privilege to work with the team at Needi and play a small role in the success they have enjoyed recently. Our aim at the entrepreneur accelerator is to give founders like Louise and Steph access to the tools and resources they need to fulfil their growth ambitions and think seriously about scaling their business. Louise and Steph have embraced all elements of the programme with tremendous enthusiasm and thanks to their drive and business prowess are now seeing the rewards of this hard work. We wish them every continued success and know they will continue to achieve great things through this unique gifting platform.”
Needi’s growth trajectory is showing no signs of slowing down and the company is currently developing a new algorithm which will allow the customer to match with the perfect gift automatically. They have already exceeded their 1-year target by generating over £100k in 2022 and are on track to hitting £1M before the end of this year. 2024 will see the company continue to explore its global growth potential through corporate / B2B gifting which the founders hope will drive down costs for direct to customer sales. There are also plans to introduce a subscription style service for merchants and clients and will continue to improve the speed, ease, and accuracy of the service.
Find out more at www.needi.co.uk
To learn more about the work of the Ulster Bank Accelerator Programme and explore how it can support your business needs, visit www.ulsterbank.co.uk/accelerator