Camlist, a pet video marketplace, has raised $1.3 million in a pre-seed round, funding the startup plans to use to develop its platform and grow its workforce – while extending its reach in the UK , its second market, is looking to expand (after the UAE), which it entered earlier this year.
Unlike other marketplaces, Camlist (derived from the camera list) allows sellers to post videos of the pets they want to sell, and once contact is made, the buyer and seller can participate via both video and text chat within the app.
The marketplace currently only allows pet listings, but will diversify into other items in the near future.
“Advertising, or peer-to-peer commerce in general, has been stuck in the same old way of working ever since eBay showed up. Since then there has been no real significant innovation; it’s just lists, maybe some pictures and phone numbers,” said Moustafa Mahmoud, Camlist’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
“But at Camlist, we are changing that. We are turning the marketplace into a video experience because every pre-owned item has a story.”
Mahmoud said they are building the safest way for anyone to find a pet by also providing verified health checks and interest-free financing, in partnership with third parties, for those unable to make one-time payments. Camlist has rehomed more than 6,000 pets to date.
“Our in-app GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) has grown 100% every two quarters, so we’re doubling every quarter, and our total GMV is about $2 million a month,” said Mahmoud.
The Y Combinator company was founded and launched last year in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, just before the Covid pandemic hit. The launch came at the right time and the site became popular as people, forced to stay at home, bought their own pets – partly to combat boredom, but also because they had the time to care for them.
“We’re building the marketplace category by category, and we just think the list of pets is so huge and also very underexposed. We plan to expand to different items as we grow,” said Mahmoud, who is also a computer scientist.
Other co-founders include Maha Refai, also the startup’s chief product officer, who has 16 years of experience building and scaling digital products. She is also the creator of MBC’s main video platform (the largest free-to-air broadcaster in the Middle East) and other multiple video streaming products.
Alsayed Gamal, Camlist’s Chief Technical Officer, has 15 years of experience in software engineering. He has knowledge and experience in mobile platforms, data engineering, DevOps, API design, microservices and serverless architecture.
Mahmoud said the idea of starting Camlist was inspired by the need to counteract the bad experiences he had had while making purchases on classified sites in Dubai, UAE, where items were often misrepresented and many scams.
Advertisements are popular in expat city Dubai as people use them to throw away their belongings, but they have also given scammers the opportunity to attack unsuspecting people. To counter this, Camlist has an in-app payment option – where the funds are released once the buyers confirm receipt of the pets. This feature ensures that buyers are not scammed by deterring disadvantages masquerading as sellers.
Mahmoud and his other co-founders provide a marketplace where buyers can experience items of interest, via video, before making a purchase. This is in addition to ensuring that buyers are protected from fraud and ensuring a quality service.
The company also monitors the sellers on its platform to ensure they are breeding or keeping the pets in a healthy environment, as well as vaccinating, deworming and microchipping them.
“We also support our buyers and sellers by giving them free vaccinations, microchipping, deworming, insurance and pet food. We try to give our buyers and sellers the best experience,” he said.
The startup raised the new funding from Y-Combinator; the technology startup accelerator, Act One Ventures; an early-stage venture fund and a number of angel investors from Houseparty, Mux and Facebook.
“We were very much looking forward to investors who believe in our vision to build the market of the future. And we’re really lucky to have people who believe in this vision and who actually work and build applications in the video industry,” said Mahmoud.
After gaining traction in the UK, Camlist plans to enter the US market, which it believes will be a huge and important market for them.
“So the current state for us is expansion within the UK, because it’s a pretty big market. And we can see the impact of what we’re doing here. But once we get to a certain stage where we have the majority of the market, we will start expanding into the United States,” said Mahmoud, who was born in Egypt, while his family moved to Dubai at the age of six. old.