This is a another video(scroll down to watch) pitch from the Refresh Miami demo night in May.
I was very interested to see the pitch from Fitting Room Social, because our team had recently consulted with a Boca Raton startup that was pursuing a model/market that was similar in some regards, but different in actual execution. In other words, they are tackling the same problem in different ways. On a practical level, I have to give the win in approach to Fitting Room Social. This is something that is very common in the startup world, thinking that you have an idea that no one else has and then suddenly – Pop, Pop, Pop, there are your competitors all trying to do the same thing or tackle the same market. It’s hard to say whether these occurrences are a natural evolution of marketplaces and timing or if they are a result of human beings sharing in some way a concept and realizing the value in some strange way. Either way, it happens and it happens a lot, especially in the tech world.
The firm we were meeting with didn’t have the experience or skills to really pull off their very ambitious goals, without some serious help and they are off in Asia developing their concept, while Fitting Room Social is building their Miami startup here in South Florida and they already have a product to show for it.
I was impressed with what and how they are going after this market and think they have the right combination of technology and interface to make it work, but theirs is a very tough nut to crack and is very high risk. Fitting Room Social wants to make fashion shopping for women viable online. While a lot of women do a lot of clothing shopping online, ultimately a couple of things stand in their way and that is the in-person look or feel of the product on your body and making sure that what you buy is going to fit. FRS overcomes this by providing a way for other women to show what they’ve purchased on and their measurements and body type so that other women can see what they would look like in a particular piece of clothing. It’s a great concept, but here are the stumbling blocks to the model:
- Building up a critical mass of users. Without users doing a lot of shopping and sharing their clothing purchase experience, then the match ups by body type will not be ample enough to make the system work.
- Building up a critical mass of users with the same budget parameters. In other words, you may build up a mass of users with a particular size or body structure, but how do you build up enough users that are shopping in the same price range.
- The final user build up issue is particular style choices and is the same problem as in 1 and 2.
- Finally, the model requires a desire to help others with their fashion purchase, but I think there is an inherent issue there that may not be able to be overcome and that is that women love to share what they bought, but do they want others going out to buy the same thing or do they want to be the only one with it.
All of these issues raise concerns about their ability to scale and so I think I would take a different approach to the market and work directly with retailers and/or manufacturers to provide the system or the site as a tool for them to use for promotions. It could go so far as to have Kinect based systems in stores around the country that will scan a shoppers body and immediately handle body and style matches based on their preferences. Now a user is created that has a vested interest and allows them to participate in the system easily without a lot of manual entry of size and style data from home. The retailers or manufacturers could provide an incentive to participate like coupons, etc. and the retailer would get a shopper willing to just buy online, because there is a system that knows their body type. If the gain or lose weight, they can update it the next time they go in store shopping.
All in all, there are a lot of variables to overcome with the model, but I think trying to build a Pinterest like critical mass of users sharing their choices, styles, body types, and purchases may be difficult when you compare it to sharing a photo to that system. The backend approach in the B2B space is a smarter tactic in my mind. They’ve created an impressive technology, but I think they need channels to seed the market and it means a faster path to growth.
If 2 companies in South Florida are trying to solve this problem, you can bet others are as well and the ones that jump on the distribution channel will have a stronger chance at success.
Here’s the video and once again, please excuse the quality. I have a better camera coming to overcome the horrible lighting behind the speakers at this venue: