fruugoFruugo, the hyped major Finnish e-commerce startup, opened up a public Beta yesterday morning in Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands (release notes). 

Fruugo’s launch has been eagerly anticipated since the first rumors last year (our previous coverage). In Finnish and Nordic scale the firm is a huge endevor backed with millions of euros in finance. 

Fruugo closed screenshotAll did not go very well, though. Quite soon after opening the service many who tried the service noticed severe problems, and eventually the site was brought down with a note “under maintenance” (screenshot). It seemed the site went online and offline multiple times during the first day. Janne Waltonen, Fruugo’s VP Marketing and Communication, commented on Twitter that they were in fact expecting problems and did not want to make a big fuss of the launch exactly because of that.

Fruugo aims to change the European e-commerce market by building a trusted marketplace where buyers and sellers can operate in their own language and currency regardless of each others’ home country. The e-commerce market in Europe presently is scattered for the most part due to many different tax regimes, customs, and legislation. On their own, smaller vendors are not able to serve other countries effectively.

The Beta service has been critized for small selection of products and many missing (hyped) features – especially the anticipated social shopping features are still quite slim. Fruugo has stated that they want to make the marketplace alive and truly social. Due to the small selection and inexistent competition the prices have also been relatively high, causing additional criticism. Nevertheless, to celebrate the launch, Fruugo is offering free delivery until 24th May. The firm is constantly integrating new vendors, and new countries should follow in the coming months.

Despite the problems, I am looking forward to having wider access to foreign merchants through Fruugo. Before Fruugo is really able to integrate a considerable amount of competiting vendors, it will probably be simpler to use some existing price search engines to find out the best deal. But when some not that commonly traded novel items are added, and along with more countries, Fruugo could be very close realizing the vision of enabling risk-free purchases across the borders.