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Is this startup a lifestyle club? Or Scoopon for the high life?


Do the crème de la crème crave for Scoopons?

Not exactly. But Agenda, an innovative startup founded by Blake Hutchison, believes even the rich might drool at the sight of similar discounts, only it would be for high dining, exotic spas, luxury brands, business class travel and, perhaps, rare experiences.

“We give our members something that was good to begin with, while others play the mass discount game,” says Blake Hutchison. “Giving 78% off a place without a reputation isn’t offering value, it’s a mystery box.”

Hutchison likens Agenda to a new-age concierge that would serve the well-heeled. It curates only the “top experiences,” and enables “exclusive access” for members. Agenda counts Colambaris’ Press Club Group, The Sydney Theatre Company, L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and Merivale among its business partners.

“Agenda is replicating businesses in the U.S. which have successfully tapped a discerning customer base and therefore have also been able to manage a strong client base,” Hutchison said in an e-mail interview. “Businesses like GiltCity (part of Gilt Groupe) and UrbanDaddy are skimming the cream off the top rather than taking a mass market approach. Agenda aims to emulate the success of these businesses here in Australia and across selected Asian markets.”

Unlike the daily deals of Scoopons and the like, Agenda’s “Private Sales” are offered via a single weekly email.

The sales are available for a full seven days, avoiding any need for a scramble. Agenda also takes what Hutchison considers “a more mature approach” to the marketplace – sales are never higher than 50% of the “real” retail cost and purchase minimums are never required.

“We’re still small but our open rates are at 38%,” Hutchison says. “Our customers don’t require a sale each day… everyone loves value but Agenda members are just as likely to head out to the latest and greatest based on our curated recommendations.”

Hutchison marketing unique ‘experiences’

Hutchison is pleased with early results. Sales conversion is as high as 1.5% per sale and over half of Agenda’s partners want more of the action.

“This is a sustainable operation. The client base is coming back, customers are made to feel special and Agenda is building a real brand built on trust and integrity,” says Hutchison.

Hutchison, who spent years in the travel business working for Lonely Planet, is throwing in “experiences” for good measure. On Australia Day, Agenda put out a party with Madame Brussels in Melbourne. Nearly 200 people bought into the experience.

Clearly, Agenda will evolve. It would be curious to see if it morphs into a simple, old-fashioned lifestyle club, of which the world has plenty, or it becomes more focused on the discount part, reflecting the recent global trend for bargains.

Agenda is currently available in Melbourne and Sydney, and a further expansion to other markets planned.