Memberly Aims To Help Businesses Sell Physical Goods Via Subscription

Subscription sites for physical goods are proliferating: Birchbox, which sends monthly boxes of beauty samples to subscribers, just closed a $10.5 million funding round, and other sites, like Foodzie and CraftCoffee with their tasting boxes, are getting into the subscription game as well. Memberly, a NYC-based startup from the founders of tea community site Steepster, aims to help small businesses–including publishers–and individuals run subscription programs for their own goods.

The site, which is currently accepting users by application only, is featuring subscriptions from four companies right now: monthly tea boxes from Steepster; undershirts made in Mali; quarterly art books from Portland independent publisher Little Otsu; and Paleo Diet-approved snacks from PaleoPax. Co-founder Jack Cheng told me two more companies will launch their subscriptions by the end of the month. “In the beginning, there’s very heavy curation,” he said. “We’ll probably ease off on that later on, but there will always be some aspect of it in terms of the subscriptions we feature on the home page.”

Memberly could be a good solution for book publishers, like Little Otsu, that want to sell physical copies of their books via subscription. (There’s no reason this couldn’t work for e-books as well.) A few book publishers have already experimented with this: The University of Rochester’s Open Letter sells subscriptions to its translated literature (five for $60, including shipping). Unbridled Books sells subscriptions, too.

Memberly is currently self-funded, with seven full-time employees, though the company is speaking with investors. The site takes five percent of each sale, in addition to the charge for processing credit cards (through Amazon).