Exist Insight ISSUE 04

Fantasy Shopper success

Fantasy Shopper success

By Robert McIlwraith

Written: 08 March 2012

Robert McIlwraith, Chair of ExIST (Exeter Initiative for Science and Technology) a sub-group of Exeter Chamber of Commerce looks at Fantasy Shopper, one of Exeter’s youngest Science and Technology focussed businesses is based at the Innovation Centre in Exeter and was the recent winner of the prestigious Amazon Global Start-up Challenge.

Fantasy Shopper was founded in October 2011 by ex Exeter University student Chris Prescott and business partner Daniel Noz.

Dubbed one of Europe’s hottest start ups, Fantasy Shopper is an online game which allows shoppers to spend fantasy money to ‘buy’ their dream outfits and wardrobes. Players can then share these wardrobes with friends and discuss them.

While for the players it is fantasy, for retailers this provides an incredible source of real-time market research as players not only show what is in demand, but give qualitative feedback in their interactions with other players. The fact that players can go on to buy their Fantasy Shopper creations is the icing on the cake!

Fantasy Shopper has won numerous awards including being the first non US company to win the Amazon Global Start Up challenge as well as the Born Global South West Business of the Year. The company has recently secured $3.3 million investment from Accel and the NEA, sophisticated global technology investors who back, amongst others, Groupon, Facebook and Spotify.

Customers are spending an average of 28 minutes on the site per visit, the offer is clearly captivating and the numbers using the site are growing daily.

With such success, Fantasy Shopper is already assembling a crack team of twenty of the world’s leading technology engineers and designers in order to continue to develop and grow.

Chris Prescott was recently quoted in this paper saying, \"We want to keep the software engineering in Exeter if we can, or we will have to move out to Silicon Valley or New York. We\'ve got a lot of support from local business and the University and everyone is really eager for us to stay. We\'re in discussions about how we can create an environment where it justifies us staying.”

Speaking with a colleague Dr Robin Jackson of the Innovation Centre, who sits on the ExIST steering group, he said “Fantasy Shopper never ceases to amaze us. In little over a year they have gone from an unknown to one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, most exciting new technology start ups.”

What is clear is that this business is an asset to and currently committed to the City, though they are receiving offers from other countries. It is testimony to the ambition of the company that Fantasy Shopper sees Exeter as the place to grow and develop the business. With ambitious, exciting companies such as this being developed in the South West we have a Silicon sector is emerging. Add into the balance the arguably under-acknowledged number of digital specialists already working locally in organisations such as the Met Office, Thompson Reuters, First DataBank, the Landmark Group and the University, and it poses the question: could Exeter be the next Silicon City?

Visit www.existexeter.co.uk or www.exeterchamber.co.uk for more information