Tech Pitch: Zenstores

This Bristolian software start-up wants to take "the headache" away from small businesses that sell online. We find out how it plans to do so...

Company name: Zenstores
Founders: Ben Reynhart – UI/Design (30), Rob Ashcroft – CTO (31), Tom Palmer – CEO (30)
Background: Reynhart previously ran a design agency, while Ashcroft and Palmer ran an online business selling canvas prints of photography.
Based in: Bristol

 Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

  • Zenstores offers shipping software for small online sellers. It consolidates orders from a seller’s eBay, Amazon and other accounts into one view, then enables quick and easy booking of courier shipments and printing of delivery labels.
  • There are over 200,000 small businesses (those employing 10 people or less) that sell on platforms like eBay, Amazon, Shopify and Magento in the UK, and the single biggest headache they face is in getting orders out the door. Zenstores removes the shackles of time-consuming shipping tasks and frees online sellers to grow their businesses.
  • We think it takes a lot of guts to start your own business and venture into the unknown, so our complete focus is on giving our customers the tools they need to succeed. To that end we’re incredibly customer-centric in our product support and development.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

There’s no shortage of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions in the e-commerce space but almost all of them are focused on enterprise-level solutions.

Despite the large number of small businesses that sell online and the substantial contribution they make to the digital economy, they are woefully short of modern, cost-effective tools tailored to their specific needs.

Existing products are typically expensive, bloated with features and built using outdated software that its developers spend more time maintaining than iterating. Zenstores is disrupting the SaaS e-commerce sector which seems irrevocably tied to maintaining the status quo rather than innovating around this important sector of small online sellers.

Are you funded?

We raised a £400,000 late-seed round, led by Downing Ventures, in March of this year. That’s our first and hopefully last round of institutional investment. We believe we have the capital, team and product in place now to grow quickly and sustainably, hitting profitability by the end of the year.

What were you doing before starting?

Palmer: We founded Zenstores in December 2014. In the two years before this,  Ashcroft and I sold custom prints online and, although we were getting a lot of orders, the day to day grind became ridiculous. We sold across five or six different platforms and marketplaces and pretty soon we spent every day getting bogged down in getting orders out the door and couldn’t move the business forward.

We looked at all of the solutions out there and found that a simple piece of software designed to help remove the burden of dispatching orders from multiple marketplaces didn’t exist.

Ashcroft and I are both self-taught programmers, so we decided to build it ourselves.

What’s the best thing about where you’re based?

Bristol is home to the WebStart tech incubator, which was the first ever crowdfunded incubator in the UK and we are a graduate of. WebStart, along with startup-accelerator SetSquared, have helped created a viable infrastructure for start-ups to succeed in the South West.

Beyond that, you’ve got a couple of fantastic universities in Bristol and UWE churning out talent, alongside a vibrant tech and design community inspired by the city’s historical contribution to engineering and aviation. Then there’s the fact that Bristol is just a fantastic place to live.

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