Startup Q&A - Chat and Get Shopping Done with Shopert
Before the snowstorm earlier this month, I was looking for a new pair of boots and eventually just settled on a great, but relatively expensive, pair. A few days later, I found out the LL Bean store in the Prudential Center was selling the same brand, but for a better price.
Had I known about Shopert, I would have been able to save a couple of bucks.
Shopert is a startup out of Northeastern University’s IDEA accelerator program that enables local retail stores and shoppers to connect with one another and find deals without having to go to the store and find out.
I had a chance to speak with company Co-Founder Rishi Parlriwala about Shopert and learned how their app is improving the retail shopping experience in Boston.
CB: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins of Shopert?
RP: It all started when Afjal [Wahidi] and I were walking through the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall and were offered a sale on fragrances from a vendor at Macy’s. “Two-for-one on Eternity for Men!” she was yelling. The deal she offered was actually quite good, but it wasn’t something we needed at the time. However, it did surprise us that there was no real way of knowing about that deal unless we had walked by that vendor right then and there!
After that, we headed to a boutique in Jamaica Plain called Caramello Clothing Co. (now closed), and we loved their clothing and styles. In a discussion, the owners there expressed to us how they enjoy recommending and designing wardrobes for their shoppers. We kept realizing there was no one-stop simple way to connect with retail shops to get recommendations and local offers.
From there, Afjal and I began conceptualizing how the shop or shop associate and shopper could achieve a true and valuable connection. After months of research and interviews, out came an early version of Shopert.
CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did Shopert get its name?
RP: Shopert = Shop + Expert. Since we are connecting shoppers to in-store experts (store owners, managers, and associates) we feel the name speaks to what Shopert does.
CB: What is the ultimate goal of Shopert?
RP: Create a valuable local shopping experience by allowing digital shoppers to connect with nearby shops through natural conversation to get shopping done.
CB: Explain what Shopert does. If it’s a particular software/platform/service/etc. how does it work?
RP: Shopert is currently in beta as a mobile web-based application available only in Boston, but we hope to expand after we prove out the model. Shopert makes it super easy to shop locally and discover new stores. It's like having a personal shopper at every store who helps you find what you may want. The shopper is able to enter a few details about what they want and then get matched to local shops who help them find what they are looking for. The shopper and shop are able to chat one-to-one. The shop is able to recommend products available in the store, and when the shopper likes a recommended product they are able to reserve it and go to the store for payment and pick-up.
During our beta, we plan to test out delivery as well to complete the last mile experience for the shopper.
CB: It looks like Shopert is primarily focusing on retail stores. Is there any specific retail market the company would like to focus on?
RP: Currently, Shopert has focused on a part of brick-and-mortar that hasn’t been streamlined perhaps for consumers like others, think of Yelp; transparency to service brick-and-mortars. From a market vertical perspective, Shopert currently focuses on providing shoppers more transparency to fashion retail shops nearby which carry clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry, accessories, beauty, and lingerie products.
CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?
RP: The team consists of three co-founders, myself, Elio Maggini, and Afjal Wahidi. I am focused on developing the business model and user acquisition. Elio is our engineering lead, and Afjal leads product. We also have Devin O’Brien and Nischay Maridevegowda contributing to the development of Shopert by providing marketing and engineering support, respectively. We are looking for women to join the team, we need it!
CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?
RP: Shopert is affiliated with IDEA, Northeastern University’s Venture Accelerator. As alumni of Northeastern University, myself and Afjal have close ties to the program and have received support and guidance from the resources provided by the program to accelerate Shopert’s development.
CB: Boston is a huge college city, and it’s great to see Northeastern getting involved with student entrepreneurship. Tell me a little more about your time at IDEA.
RP: We’ve seen Northeastern’s IDEA program over several years since they had funded a startup Afjal and Rishi worked on back in 2013 called Collaperty. IDEA has assisted Shopert by being a bouncing board through its conceptualization as many coaches and mentors have provided feedback over the last year or so. Introducing a new application in the lifestyle space is no small feat and we’ve got a lot more learning to do, but IDEA has been an especially helpful resource from a marketing and brainstorming perspective.
Furthermore, Shopert is currently in the running for IDEA’s Gap funding in which if granted would allow Shopert to further invest in its beta product and further test marketing tactics. We plan on exhausting the many more resources IDEA and the entrepreneurship community offer to alumni at Northeastern.
CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?
RP: The company is currently bootstrapped. We are continuing to prove out the business model and acquire users. Shopert recently launched its beta version at and once our beta is thoroughly tested we hope to identify strategic investors for our company.
RP: Shopert is super excited to make shopping more enjoyable and convenient. We thrive on feedback and as such, we would enjoy any thoughts from the VentureFizz audience from users about Shopert and the problem its solving! Please email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CB: Any other additional comments you’d like to make?
Images courtesy of Shopert and Northeastern IDEA.