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E-Commerce Platform Lyst Raises $14 Million and Preps to Move Offline

The company reports that its annual sales now exceed $60 million.
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Lyst, a startup that aggregates products from e-commerce sites into one personalized stream for its users, complete with a universal shopping cart for easy checkout, has closed a $14 million round of venture capital financing, putting its total funding at $19 million.

The site is doing well enough on its own, though: The company reports that its platform is generating $60 million in sales for its retail partners annually. And after seeing 400 percent growth in its business in 2012, it's reporting a 400 percent increase again in 2013.

Having doubled its team in 2013, the first use of this funding will be to double those numbers again, according to founder and CEO Chris Morton, adding another 40 across Lyst's London and New York offices. Marketing and internationalization efforts are also getting some love. The U.S. has been Lyst's primary focus and largest market thus far, but it will be looking to develop its UK user base as well as investing in emerging economies, with the Middle East and South Korea as potentials.

This may also be the year that Lyst moves offline. At the end of last year, the startup entered a partnership with PayPal on its Beacon technology -- bluetooth devices that allow for hands-free payments when installed in a store.

It also allows services like Lyst to create customized shopping experiences offline: When a user enters a shop, he or she would receive a push notification showing real time information on the store's inventory. That means being able to tell a user that a brand they follow is in the store. If they've been searching for a certain type of item, Lyst can tell you that it's in stock.

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"We see ourselves in the business of creating customized shopping experiences. We don't want to be restricted in how we deliver that. We started by delivering on the site, then on an app, and we see the real world as the conclusion of that," Morton said.

Morton said that among Lyst users, activity tends to drop off on the weekend, indicating that they are shopping through the platform during the work week and then heading out to brick-and-mortar stores on the weekend. Integrating with stores gives Lyst an opportunity to interact with its users during those two days.

Getting into stores clearly provides Lyst a new avenue to generate revenue, but Morton said it's not clear yet how they'll monetize the in-store experience, noting that he's not obsessed with cashing in on users at every opportunity. If creating a useful customized offline experience will make a user love Lyst more, that's a good enough payoff. Similarly, getting into stores will help Lyst generate value for those retailers.

At this point, the rollout of Lyst's product in stores is mainly contingent on the adoption of PayPal's beacon devices in retail locations (which have yet to be determined), and Morton said he didn't have a good sense for timing just yet.

"We need that hardware to spread throughout the retail industry for it to work. I'd like to see something this year," Morton says.

That said, Lyst could have its product operational in stores fairly quickly. The platform is already synced with real-time stocking information for a number of the brick-and-mortar boutiques it works with -- in those cases, the store is the warehouse -- so they know exactly when an item sells out. As department stores develop their tech platforms to make their offline inventory accessible for integration, that piece of the puzzle will fall into place.