Marissa Gibbons, cofounder and chief executive officer of the New York-based wedding website platform Riley & Grey, is pursuing more rebellion-minded couples, and taking a swipe at the wedding website space dominated by The Knot.com at the same time. Riley & Grey is a bespoke digital platform for weddings, allowing for custom features, mobile optimization for attendees and more.
The startup idea sprang from her own traditional black-tie wedding when Gibbons used a “Flavor.me” platform to hack together a more personal website. Meanwhile, her Web developer husband was finding that higher-income engaged couples were requesting customized wedding websites as sophisticated as business sites.
The company’s team of seven, with staffers from the technology, engineering, media and graphic design worlds, launched in pre-beta in August 2013. It now has 20,000-plus couples either in the process of building it or using it. Its unique selling point is not getting swept up in the sameness that the wedding industry seems to inevitably veer toward.
The company, which is bootstrapping, is focused on scaling a profitable business, something that sounds obvious, but that Gibbons thinks gets lost in the mythology surrounding startups like Facebook.
“What we’ve really spent a lot of time working on is growing slowly, and we made a conscious decision early on not to raise money when the opportunity presented itself,” Gibbons said.
One secret of success for wedding startups: Being agile, savvy and built in a way that makes growing with technology a simple and fluid thing, she says.
While Riley & Grey has gotten admiring reviews from fashion magazines and wedding blogs that took notice of its luxurious, unique look, it still faces a common tech startup dilemma.
“One of the challenges we have is building a brand around an entirely digital product,” Gibbons says. “Because it’s not like paper invitations where people could kind of hold it and feel it.”
Funny enough, while paper invitations get tossed on the counter and sometimes forgotten, couples still want them, so Riley & Grey works with stationers it found on Etsy to create invitations that look like print online. Similarly, the company has gotten requests for a paper version of wedding websites to create a print book.
Gibbons says the rise of same-sex marriages is another factor that is “pushing things to change” in the wedding space. Then, there’s social media and the demand for a post-wedding experience online.