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This article was published on June 3, 2011

AHAlife adds curation and social influence to sell luxury goods

AHAlife adds curation and social influence to sell luxury goods

Every day, AHAlife delivers one unique product from categories like fashion, food, beauty, accessories, home décor, tech and travel experiences to your inbox. In a Jetsetter-like quality, AHAlife’s glossy editorial vibe paired with its celebrity curators including Tim Gunn, DVF, Carmindy, Wendi Murdoch, Daniel Boulud, Bobbi Brown, Petra Nemcova, Cynthia Rowley, and Tina Brown cut through the noise in the online fashion world.

AHAlife’s founder and CEO Shauna Mei is anything but unimpressive. She was born in Inner Mongolia, raised in China and moved to the US shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre. The 28-year-old entrepreneur (who was recently mentioned in our epic run down of NYC’s tech scene) studied computer science and electrical engineering at MIT and upon graduation, went to work at Goldman Sachs, where she worked on the sale of Neiman Marcus. After Goldman, she co-founded a luxury investment boutique with Jeffrey Aronsson, the former CEO of Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta. However, when the recent recession began, Mei decided to move to Stockholm, where she studied design and ran the Swedish activewear brand Casall. Not long after, Mei returned to New York and launched AHAlife last fall during NYC’s fashion week.

AHAlife’s vibe is similar to other fashion sites we love like Of A Kind and Aprizi and its mission is to provide a curated experience of the best lifestyle products from all over the world where the consumer can come, discover, learn about and seamlessly purchase what AHAlife’s tastemakers love. “Prior to AHAlife, I often found myself, discovering a cool product that my friend tweeted that drove me to a cool design blog where I could learn about the object, but I couldn’t purchase it and that’s a pain for me. Or when I pick up a magazine and read about a cool summer scarf on an airplane and I have to clip out the article, wait until I can Google it and then hopefully find the exact style to purchase it,” explains Mei.

Mei recalls one of her first memories of success with AHAlife during the 2nd week of its existence when they launched a limited edition Diane Von Furstenberg Canon Camera: “What was so incredible was that we had just seeded our site with a list of the most influential people from top bloggers, to editors to super connectors. As a result, the camera and got picked up by so many blogs and websites that we generated over 2.4 million hits through this network for a single product. That was a major AHA moment for me to prove that we can truly be THE launch platform for amazing products….and all 30 units of the limited edition camera sold out!”

AHALife has just announced the launch of its AHA Influencer Network, bringing social influence to online luxury commerce. Through this system, users are encouraged to share their favorite AHAlife discoveries to reach new levels of “AHA-ness” as their friends register and purchase on the site. The more influence a user has, the higher the rewards are: like free shipping, AHAlife concierge services, personalized shopping and more.

The influencer’s network was in the plan from the verybeginning according to Mei: “Before starting AHAlife, I thought of the idea of rewarding people based on their influence. This was before Klout launched but I guess people often think of the same ideas at the same time. However, we are the first to apply this to e-commerce where AHAlife members can enjoy the rewards immediately tied to either purchases (with rewards like free shipping) or VIP services…This is our way to reward our customers that I sometimes call Loyalty Program 2.0, taking into account both your behavior as well as how you influence others.”

Mei believes AHAlife has the potential to be ‘the future trusted media company with a buy button.’ “If you think about the various publications and magazines out there, most of them have not really explored e-commerce,” she says. “We believe in content + commerce + curation and I think this trend will continue to last in the next five years. I see AHAlife as the go-to destination for brands to launch the coolest lifestyle products from around the world and where the most discerning consumers go to discover the best the world has to offer.”

AHAlife has some offline initiatives coming up in the next 12 months that Mei is pretty excited about. She calls her company “the department store of the future” that happened to start online. AHAlife monetizes through e-commerce; just like a department store, they make their margin in wholesale/retail relationships. AHAlife has also raised capital last year from a number of angel investors and FirstMark Capital.