Think fashion tech startups need to be based in New York, Paris or London? Think again
Sure, we won’t deny that New York, Paris and London are fashion hubs. But if you think fashion tech startups need to be based in one of those three cities, think again. Here are 10 fashtech startups from around the world, in no particular order – and none are based in those fashion capitals.
Headquarters: Vilnius, Lithuania
Secondhand clothing marketplace Vinted has raised $32.6 million from Insight Venture Partners and Accel Partners, most recently in a Series B round in January 2014. Founded by Justas Janauskas and Milda Mitkute, Vinted is a peer-to-peer marketplace for girls and women to buy, sell and swap clothes that also serves as a social network by allowing users to chat. The startup began in 2008 as a small community for Lithuanian girls, but now has over 7 million users in eight countries and is handling over 200 million requests per day.
Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark
It’s no coincidence that this online fashion retailer was co-founded by Jesper Buch, the leading founder of Just Eat, a world leader in food delivery that serves as a one-stop online middleman between hungry customers and their takeout options (and which also had its start in Denmark, though it is now based in London). Miinto, based on an idea by high school entrepreneurs Konrad Kierklo, the other co-founder, and Mike Radoor, aims to do for clothes what Just Eat does for food, bringing its fashion-hungry customers in four countries more than 200,000 items of clothing (and other “fashion products”) from 1,300 shops. The key is not keeping clothes in stock – Miinto uses the stock of the stores it works with – which eliminates storage needs and allows the startup to react faster to trends, says Kierklo. Miinto, which was founded in 2009, raised $6 million in a Series A round in 2012 and reported preliminary sales growth of 60 percent in 2013. It is operating in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, having shut down its U.K. and Ireland operations in 2013.
Rather than start with the clothes and factor in the data later, fashion e-tailer LIFT12, which uses Big Data to make many of the design decisions for its house labels, is “a fashion brand built from the ground up to run like an Internet company,” writes Tech in Asia.
Founded in 2012, LIFT12 brings to bear the experience of two of its cofounders – managing partner Goncalo Reis and Arka Dhar, who’s responsible for business development – at e-commerce startup incubator Rocket Internet, while the third co-founder, Andrew Wolf, serves as creative director. The company, which raised $560,000 in a 2013 seed round, uses Web crawlers to scrape data about fashion trends, pricing and sales from fashion labels and retailers. It uses this information to design what it has determined customers want, in the form of its Blake & Co. womenswear and its 9fountains menswear labels.
New collections are released every six weeks, allowing LIFT12 to react quickly to new trends – whether that means restocking popular items, designing variations of it, or stopping to sell items when they go out of style.
Headquarters: Menlo Park, California (U.S.)
Inveterate shoppers always looking to add one more thing to their closet have a problem: Their closets don’t usually expand just because their wardrobes do. Mobile closet swap Poshmark allows women to empty some hangers, fund their next shopping spree and go on said spree all in one place, which they can access through the company website or their phones or iPads.
Poshmark also has a social element: Posh Parties, as the company calls its themed, which are real-time sales. It takes care of postage and says it refunds payments if an order doesn’t arrive or the item doesn’t match the description.
Poshmark, which has raised $16 million in two rounds, was co-founded in 2011 by CEO Manish Chandra, the founder and former CEO of social shopping site Kaboodle, along with Chetan Pungaliya, Gautam Golwala and Tracy Sun. It is currently available only in the United States and its territories, but says it hopes to be available to international customers soon.
Headquarters: Warsaw, Poland
Founded in 2012 by Michal Juda, Jasiek Stasz and Nick Sergeant, Showroom is an e-commerce platform that facilitates clothing purchases from independent fashion brands and designers from Central and Eastern Europe, with the designers uploading photos and posting descriptions of the items themselves and consumers buying straight from the designers.
In 2012 Burda International, publisher of Elle and nearly 300 other magazine titles, took a 25 percent stake in Showroom after an undisclosed investment. The startup has used Facebook to its advantage, tripling its traffic on the social media site in 2012 and doubling its turnover after users were asked to “like” their favorite products – except that Showroom called it “wow!” instead, Goal Europe reported.
Headquarters: Bangkok, Thailand
Though fashion e-tailer Pomelo is headquartered in Bangkok, the clothing it sells – under its own moderately priced label aimed at style-conscious 20-somethings and 30-somethings across Asia – is designed and manufactured in South Korea. In September it raised $1.6 million in one round from four investors, including Skype co-founder Toivo Annus. Launched in early 2014 in Thailand, Pomelo expanded to Singapore in September, where it expects to see tenfold growth by March. It is also looking to expand to Malaysia shortly. The company reported that it had 180,000 visitors to the site and just under 1 million page views a month as of September.
Headquarters: Edinburgh, Scotland
This mobile-only shopping portal in the U.K., launched in 2012, is a personal shopper with a Tinderesque user interface and a significant social element that includes what insiders call the “boyfriend feature.” First you select a clothing category and specify details like price range and color, then you swipe left if you don’t like it and right if you do. If there’s something you like, you ask your friends – people you actually know – if they approve. If they don’t, the app won’t let you buy the product – that’s the “boyfriend feature,” a way “for people’s girlfriends to stop them buying awful clothes,” co-founder Cally Russell told TechCrunch.
Headquarters: Sao Paulo, Brazil
This e-commerce site is using location-sensing technology iBeacon to attract consumers by sending them personalized mobile promotions about companies or specific brands, based on considerations such as which store or department (accessories? lingerie?) they are in or near at the moment. And it’s working: Sales increased an estimated 150 percent between the 2011 site launch and 2013, when sales reached $177 million, according to Internet Retailer, which called the startup one of the fastest-growing fashion e-retailers in Brazil.
Dafiti places its beacons in high-traffic areas of Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city, which is so packed with malls and shopping centers that the Frommers travel guide says residents brag that if you can’t buy it in Sao Paulo, you can’t buy it anywhere in Brazil. Founded in 2010 by David Geisen (who heads Dafiti’s Mexico site), Malte Horeyseck, Malte Huffmann, Thibaud Lecuyer and Philipp P.M. Povel, Dafiti has raised $249.3 million in five rounds.
Headquarters: Aachen, Germany
Navabi describes itself as luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter with a niche: plus-size fashion. Founded in 2007 by Zahir Dehnadi and Bahman Nedaei, Navabi raised $29 million in Series D funding led by Bauer Venture Partners in January, part of the $45.5 million it has raised overall.
There’s a big market for big sizes: In the U.K., where Navabi has an office, market research firm Mintel found in 2010 that the plus-size womenswear market (which it defines as U.K. size 18-plus) had grown 45 percent over the past five years – compared with 15 percent growth in the overall womenswear market – due to an increasing number of plus-sized consumers, many of whom are looking for more fashionable clothes.
Worldwide, Google searches for “plus size” were up 14 percent last year, and up 45 percent compared to three years ago, says Index Ventures, one of Navabi’s investors. It says Navabi, which trades in more than 30 countries and stocks more than 100 brands from size 40 (U.S. size 10, U.K. size 12) to size 56 (U.S. size 26, U.K. size 28), has experienced strong growth rates of an average 120-plus percent per year. In November it exclusively launched the European lingerie line of plus-size model Ashley Graham, who recently became the first plus-sized model featured in Sports Illustrated.
10. Shoes of Prey
Headquarters: Sydney, Australia
For Shoes of Prey co-founder Jodie Fox, the seeming paradox of mass customization – individual product customization on a mass scale – started with her own two feet. “To be really honest, it was a personal problem that I was solving,” Fox told Business of Fashion. “I couldn’t find what I loved. The heel height wasn’t right, or the color of the leather was a bit off.” She resolved her personal problem by finding a custom shoemaker in Hong Kong, but when her friends started asking her to help, she realized she wasn’t the only one who wanted to walk around in made-to-order footwear.
Shoes of Prey was born in 2009, offering shoe lovers 12 basic styles – and the ability to adjust everything from heel height to embellishments to the color and material on different parts of the shoe. Shoes are mailed to just about any part of the world.
Founded by Jodie Fox, Mike Knapp and Michael Fox, the startup has raised $8.6 million in three rounds, $5.5 million of that in Series A funding in December from Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital. The company plans to use the new funding to open a second, larger factory and develop a partnership with Nordstrom, which will host six Shoes of Prey “shop in shops” over the coming year (there’s already one in its Bellevue flagship store in Washington state), where customers will be able to see what it’s like to customize shoes and try on the basic styles, then order via iPad, Business of Fashion reported. It said the business became profitable within two months of launch and began generating multimillion dollar revenue in under two years, though Shoes of Prey declined to disclose exact sales figures.