Zola, the $650M wedding portal, taps the travel market with an expansion into honeymoons

The wedding industry is estimated to be worth some $100 billion in the U.S. alone, and now one of the fastest-growing companies in that space — the wedding planning site Zola — is making a move to augment its position with a sidestep into travel. Today at Disrupt (our conference in San Francisco), the company is announcing Honeymoons, which will let couples plan, book and raise money for their post-nuptial travels at the same time that they plan the main event.

The beta invite is open for those interested from today. To start off, couples will be able to plan itineraries and book accommodations, with flights getting added in after the launch as part of a bigger effort to own the end-to-end marriage experience.

“Over time, we want to book all your travel needs, both before and after the wedding,” said Shan-Lyn Ma, the company’s CEO and founder.

Zola’s business today is based around pre-wedding organization: users can set up free websites, design and print (paid) wedding invitations, and create Zola-based gift registries for family and friends to buy goods for the couple through the site — a business that has been successful enough to net the company more than $140 million in funding and a $650 million valuation.

But the average time spent planning weddings is 13-18 months, and so Honeymoons will be one way for Zola to extend that relationship not just in terms of money spent — honeymoons is estimated to be a $12 billion industry in the US — but time spent using Zola, which in turn can help build a tighter relationship for whatever moves the company might make in the future. (One very obvious next step: parenting-related content and products.)

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The Honeymoons feature also brings something else to Zola: a little breathing space. The online market for wedding planning is old and massive — it’s one of the first kinds of e-commerce sites that emerged with the rise of the world wide web itself, and as such there are a lot of large and incumbent competitors. However, “honeymoons” has been generally a more fragmented space, where people plan their own trips themselves via sites that cater to other kinds of travel like vacations, making “online honeymoon planning” far less of an industry per se, and making Zola’s move into the area relatively less pressured.

Ma said that the decision to launch the business came from couples requesting the feature, and it’s taking the rollout relatively slowly. The service will start with a limited number of markets that Zola chose based on them already being popular honeymoon destinations. The plan will be to expand the list to many more locations over time.

“We know where all the key destinations are based on demand from couples,” she added.

Within that list, Zola has negotiated special packages for accommodation and flights. It will also come with a personalized twist: couples input their preferences and are offered honeymoon packages designed to fit their tastes.

“Through our technology and our team of travel experts, couples can tell us, this is what they would love to do for their honeymoon,” explained Shan-Lyn Ma. “This is their general travel style, budget, and dates. Then we will send back an itinerary…[and they can] book with us from there. At launch next month, it will be focused first and foremost on accommodation and experiences. Over time, we would aim to help you with everything you need to do on your honeymoon,” she said.

Shan-Lyn Ma said thousands of customers have already signed up for the waitlist for the new honeymoons product, which will officially launch next month.

Zola already has a strong connection to a wider marketplace that taps into how millennials and younger consumers, in general, like to shop today, offering a Houzz-style approach of letting users create “look books” for their aesthetics, and giving them flexibility to either register for specific items, or to cash out in gift cards that can be used on other goods and services.

The Honeymoons move will give the company an opening to working with other companies much more closely, specifically those in the travel industry, to create cohesive experiences. Given how many weddings today are focused around “destinations”, this also opens the door to planning events for more than just the couples involved.

Maisie Williams’ startup Daisie is preparing for new partnerships, funding

Maisie Williams, best known as ‘Arya’ on Game of Thrones, is preparing to take her startup Daisie to the next stage. Right now, the app works to connect creators with one another to work on each others’ projects, but now Williams wants to help those projects find an audience.

On the app, creators establish a profile, similar to other social networks, but the focus is not on gaining fans and likes, but rather on helping creators find collaborators for their art — whether that’s film, music, photography, or art, or anything else.

The actress-turned-entrepreneur spoke this morning at TechCrunch Disrupt SF about the decision to make Daise less focused on traditional “popularity” metrics.

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“We didn’t want follower counts — I think that rewarding people for these typical kinds of metrics can be quite damaging, and can make you feel like just because you’re not popular then maybe you’re not talented. And that’s just not true. The thing about creative endeavors is that the things that are popular aren’t necessarily like the best things and just because something that you do isn’t liked by many people it doesn’t mean it’s not incredible.”

The startup passed 100,000 members earlier this year, and raised a seed round of $2.5 million. Now Daisie is looking to raise again, Williams said in passing, noting the startup would begin the fundraising process “soon.”

She also briefly touched on the plans to help creators take the next step in their journeys.

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“It’s actually where the company is heading right now,” said Williams. “We want to work on partnerships where our users can have like a real brief from a real client, and pitch their ideas, then get them made — and have a budget and be paid for their work which is — one of the most difficult things within the creative industry is to get paid for what you’re doing,” she said.

“At the moment we’ve got a really wonderful community that’s thriving and creating these amazing projects. But in terms of transferring that into the real world and helping people actually get jobs — these partnerships are going to be really really great for that,” she said.


MyMilk Labs launches Mylee, a small sensor that analyzes breast milk at home

Many expectant mothers are told that breastfeeding will come naturally, but it is often a fraught and confusing experience, especially during the first few weeks after birth. Parents often worry about if their babies are getting enough nutrition or if they are producing enough milk. MyMilk Labs wants to give nursing mothers more information with Mylee, a sensor that scans a few drops of breast milk to get information about its composition and connects to a mobile app. The Israel-based company presented today at Disrupt Battlefield as one of two wild card competitors picked from Startup Alley.

The Mylee launched at Disrupt with a pre-order price of $249 (its regular retail price is $349). Based in Israel, MyMilk Labs was founded in 2014 by Ravid Schecter and Sharon Haramati, who met while working on PhDs in neuroimmunology and neurobiology, respectively, at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Mylee deviceDuring the company’s stage presentation, Schecter said the device is meant to give mothers and lactation consultants objective information about breast milk.

Breast milk changes in the first days and weeks after birth, progressing from colostrum to mature milk. Mylee scans the electrochemical properties of milk and then correlates that to data points based on MyMilk Labs’ research to calculate where the sample is on the continuum, then tells mothers if their milk is “delayed” or “advanced,” relative to the time that has passed since they gave birth.

The device’s first version is currently in a beta pilot with lactation consultants who have used them to scan milk samples from 500 mothers.

MyMilk Labs already has consumer breast milk testing kits that enable mothers to provide a small sample at home that is then sent to MyMilk Labs’ laboratories for analysis. One is a nutritional panel that gives information about the milk’s levels of vitamins B6, B12 and A, calories and fat percentage, along with dietary recommendations for the mother. Another panel focuses on what is causing breast pain, a frequent complaint for nursing mothers. It tests for bacterial or fungal infections and gives antibiotic suggestions depending on what strains are detected.

Though some doctors believe testing kits are unnecessary for the majority of nursing mothers, there is demand for more knowledge about breastfeeding, as demonstrated by the line-up of breast milk testing kits from MyMilk Labs and competitors like Lactation Labs, Everly Well and Happy Vitals. Haramati said on stage that MyMilk Labs plans to eventually transfer some of the tests’ capabilities to the Mylee.