Gilt co-founder Kevin Ryan launches new wedding registry e-commerce startup

Kevin Ryan, co-founder of Gilt Groupe, 10gen and BusinessInsider, is lifting the curtain on his latest startup. On Wednesday, the seasoned entrepreneur and his co-founders Shan-Lyn Ma and Nobu Nakaguchi (also formerly of Gilt) launched Zola, a new wedding registry e-commerce site.

For the most part, engaged couples looking to build a wedding registry turn to a single retailer’s website or, if they’re requesting items across various stores, they create multiple registries. Zola’s pitch is that it lets couples pick items from a range of brands and retailers, and it also enables them to register for cash funds, experiences and other non-traditional gifts, all through a single online checkout.

“We built this with today’s couples in mind,” said Ma, Zola’s CEO. “There are a lot of offline behaviors that aren’t being solved online. With our experience in e-commerce, design and technology we were able to bring a lot of features online.”

zola2In addition to giving couples more flexibility when it comes to choosing registry items, Ma said the startup also lets couples organize group gifts for big ticket items and choose when they want gifts to be delivered (which can be helpful if couples want to unpack items after they get married or if they’re planning a move).

Given the founders’ backgrounds, it’s little surprise that the site puts a premium on design and operates through an e-commerce model. Zola has direct relationships with brands and makes a cut of each sale, while keeping the prices similar to those found on other retailer sites.

Other companies, including RegistryLove, WeddingRegistry360 and MerciRegistry, let couples aggregate items from a range of retailers. But Zola’s other key emphasis is on giving couples a way to express themselves and tell their stories as they might through a personal wedding website. It lets them customize a URL, leave comments explaining why they’re requesting certain items and include photos and stories that further personalize the online experience. Down the line, Ma said, the startup plans to give couples the tools to build an entire wedding website. (GigaOM will be highlighting emotional design-centric e-commerce at our upcoming RoadMap conference next month in San Francisco.)

For now, the company only enables couples to register for experiences (like private chef dinners and farmers market delivery services) in New York City, but it plans to quickly expand into San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.