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Social shopping-focused Chums announces $3.5M raise ahead of YC Demo Day

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With Y Combinator Demo Day kicking off tomorrow morning, startups in the current batch are hurrying to make a little news before they show off their recent growth to investors. The list includes Runway, Mono, Pangea and Flux.

Add Chums to the mix. Chums is a social shopping service that helps friends suggest products to their pals. And the startup has put together a total of $3.5 million across two pre-seed investments.

TechCrunch spoke with Noah Elion, one of Chums’ founders, about the round. He said that his company closed $1 million in December, later looking to raise another $1.5 million. Interest ran high for shares in the startup, so Chums wound up raising $1 million more than its latter target, for a combined total of $3.5 million.

The company declined to share the cap at which the funds, raised via a SAFE, were secured.

The $1.5 million target was based on the amount of capital that his company would need for the next 18 months, Elion said. The final sum came from Ludlow, Shrug, Contrary Capital and Fuel Capital, among other firms and individuals.

How did a company in the midst of Y Combinator manage to raise an old-school Series A round of capital despite launching its product just a few weeks ago? The background of its founding team helps some. Co-founder Dick Fickling was an early engineer at Honey, for example, another shopping-focused startup that had a material exit.

The startup’s service is a mobile app that allows users to follow product-types that they may want to purchase, and suggest goods to one another that might fit their friends’ needs. It made its way to market three weeks ago, or as Elion explained, right before his company went out fundraising. TechCrunch asked about early traction, to which Elion said that it was too soon to say much, though his team has seen “encouraging” levels of engagement thus far.

The startup is four people today, which its website describes as a group of friends. This is mostly true. Elion and Fickling teamed up after the former built a predecessor to Chums — called Chums Referral — becoming friends in the process. Fickling was previously colleagues and friends with the folks who comprise the rest of the team, namely Lauren Williams (director of engineering) and Lena Gasilina (product).

The team is looking for a designer and a front-end developer, but after that is done hiring. It intends to stay at six people until its next round. Why? It wants to reach product-market fit with a half-dozen staff. If it does, it should be able to raise more money at a comfortable valuation. There’s some sense in the idea, though it was slightly odd to hear a startup plan measured growth to preserve capital in 2021.

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Chums makes money on commissions from recommended products, splitting the revenue with users. Elion declined to share the network, or networks, his company is working with to secure commercial ties with retailers, but did note that in time Chums will go direct to secure better deals.

With a closed round, most of its team in place and an app in the market, it’s now up to Chums to prove Elion’s view Google is overly gamed and Amazon is best when you know what you are looking for. In the co-founder’s view, people liked malls for their “diversity of content” and as a space for “spontaneous shopping.” Perhaps Chums can fit that niche, and, in the process, generate some serious coin.


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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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