WESTCOAST NEW FOUNDERS IN FASHION AND BEAUTY: DATA POWERED, TECH FOR GOOD!
The 6th Fab Fashion and BeautyTech meeting in San Francisco took place June 25. Let’s share a few learnings.
First panel. Fashion. Tech disrupting retail.
We are in San Francisco, where in the last few years have been founded huge platforms such as Poshmark, The Real Real, Le Tote and Stitchfix. And new direct-to-consumer brands such as Bonobos, All Birds, Rothys, and Everlane. They use data, influence, social media communities. They focus on sustainability. And they all grow fast, now opening iconic flagships in NY and LA. (impressive ones in West Hollywood LA and Soho NY for The Real Real + All Birds).
Their founders have led meaningful IPOs in 2019 (Stichfix and The Real Real), and their female founders are inspiring a new generation of leaders and women entrepreneurs, sharing their insights every day on social media.
We are in the core of the Silicon Valley, where there is the highest concentration of engineers and data scientists, and amazing investors backing bold new business models.
WWD has posted a week ago an article with a title that would have made laugh many fashion editors in New-York Paris and London a few years ago “Could San Francisco become a fashion capital?” Rachel Fischbein leading FISF Fashion Incubator in SF couldn’t agree more with this question, moderating this first panel. Let’s try to share a few learnings of the great conversation. What is emerging in fashion and retail in the WestCoast that could inspire the world?
Human touch and gamification.
Fashion is about self-expression and connecting with others. Emily Brauer Gill has worked with Apple, then led the Brand Varo Money, a fast growing platform in Fintech, and now leads the Stitchfix strategy.
“Personalization is who we are. It all starts with a Style profile for each Stitchfix customer. We collect information about her preferences, her size, her preferred color. We ask her detailed feedback on each item and we become better over time.” Emily underlines why gamification is so important.
First it helps the company to better understand customers expectations and customize their next shipment of clothes. Second because it’s fun for the user! She personally likes when in mobility to spend a few minutes to use the “Style shuffle” new tool, which has enabled a double-digit growth in the last few months, creating engagement and word of mouth.
Shilpi Jaiswal works with Macys and confirms the trend. She has been before the founder of Stylecheck, a community where each member could share their outfit of the day and express their personality. Self-expression matters. Being part of a tribe, a community sharing the same interest too. Macys teams spend a lot of energy on their new mobile apps to engage with their customers, be part of the conversation.
Emily Brauer Gill mentions that many customers send personal note to their stylist. The success of the company and fast growth in the US comes not only from the huge amount of data collected, helping to better know the customers and answer their need, but first and foremost the empathy with each customer. It’s first being human, empowered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Millennials are more conscious consumers. They care about sustainability. Circular economy… and value for money.
After beginning her career in Finance, Janet Wu decided to founder SilkRoll. A platform that could be defined as the “Netflix for clothes”.
The idea is that many women use only 80 per cent of their closet. And if the Real Real covers the need for enabling to sell premium and designer brands, it’s more difficult for all of us to take care of what remains high quality clothes barely worn after being 5 times on Instagram.
There are many reasons for women described by Janet as “high-end fashion customers” to subscribe to Silkroll. For a small fee per month, they can earn points enabling them to choose a wide choice of outfits on the platform (“trading their own clothes, and redeeming points like frequent flyer miles”), and they:
- save space. When you begin your career in the Bay you live most of the time in co-location (as a reminder you rent a one-bedroom apartment or condo in San Francisco for more than 3500$ per month). Have a rotation in the closet matters!
- - save money, while having a simple way to have access to new clothes that match their style. And again, it’s fun.
- - contribute to save the planet. Fast fashion and more generally women apparel are highly polluting industries. You make sure your clothes don’t finish in the garbage (as a reminder, the percentage of clothes used by non-profit for helping vulnerable populations is low compared to what people think).
- Emily Brauer underlined that even she was not the expert, she could say sustainable fashion was a specific focus in her company. No surprise now that the company expands to men and children.
- Let’s bet on new platforms in the same trend with specific business models, renting clothes, contributing to the circular economy, educating the customers for the best.
Second Panel: Clean Beauty, new brands founded in the West Coast
Terry Shaw Everena moderating the panel is in talent search. He would agree that our four bold female founders on stage have one thing in common.
Founders who care about what you put on your face and body.
Casey Georgeson founded her company Saint Jane in January, using natural ingredients, when she was pregnant and more aware of the importance of using non-toxic ingredients and what was going on your skin. She had before worked with Sephora and used a lot of products as our role involved testing them. Saint Janes uses. CBD as an ingredient (natural, healing benefit) and is positioned as a luxury clean beauty brand.
Erika Shumate (Harvard alumna, and having studied smell in college, acknowledging it was chosen randomly at that time) founded Pinrose because she had allergies with fragrances and wanted a new way to look at scents according to our mood, for people like her, organic and vegan.
Elsa Jungman has founded ElsiBeauty attacking the issue of sensitive skin. She has a PhD and entrepreneur because she had a huge issue with her skin one day after using skincare products on her face, and tried to understand. She has worked with l’Oreal and learnt the rigorous way to develop products and test them. As complex formulas with a high number of ingredients and preservatives add risk of allergies, she now believes the future belongs to simple formulas.
All of them mention that they have a role they take very seriously in educating customers. Especially in the US: the FDA legislation is less strict than the European one, and people are not enough aware that “organic” “non toxic” claimed on Instagram is not always true. They encourage to use apps checking ingredients, and to double check information on websites and social media before purchasing.
Founders who care about the impact on the planet.
Nicole Lampsa says it all. After being a Founder of a booking platform in Beauty, she chose to join Honua SkinCare because she loved their philosophy. In Hawai, you must give back to the Earth what you have taken from her.
The Brand is not only obsessed by the formulas and ingredients but by the packaging, limiting plastic and oversized boxes.
Customers want recyclable packaging. There is a responsibility as founders and customers to care about what is the impact of our daily beauty routine.
Third panel: VCs in California/ Silicon Valley shaping our future
Moderating our panel of investors, Agustina Sartori, Founder of Glamst (Augmented reality) now part of Ulta Beauty, and three famous investors in the Silicon Valley, investing from Seed to Series B, in Saas, market places and consumer goods.
We missed William Hsu Mucker Capital (had a personal issue the day before) and will see him in LA.
Advice to founder pitching them.
Anne Dwane Village Global looks first for purpose-driven founders. It’s not just about money but trying to fix something and improve our world. In their incubator program, they welcome Founders coming from all cities in the US and other continents.
Lo Toney PlexoCapital (and ex GV/ Google Ventures) comes back to the diversity. And Agustina fierce Latina leader in the Silicon Valley and woman in tech approves. Being a black leader enables him to see things with a different angle, and have a deal flow that some investors wouldn’t invest in. He has a different network.
He tells the story of Diishan Imira founder of Mayvenn hair (and speaker last time as a reminded). Based in Oakland, the company is the best solution for hair extensions. He wanted to disrupt the exisiting retailers with poor quality products sold at a high price, thus creating a platform empowering hairstylists, and directly selling to the customers.
He had the challenge to convince the investors answering to him “Great startup and huge market, we get it, but it’s not our thesis of investment, we are not in African American hair extension”. He managed to convince Andreessen Horowitz with the success we know now.
Lo met him at the beginning of his entrepreneur’s journey.
Carle Stenmark VMG explains his ventures have already a great track record in consumer goods, food and beverages, and a few beauty brands like Drunk Elephant, Sun Bum.
Carle comes back to the metrics of growth. They want for sure great products and believe in the founders they choose. A rigorous approach is applied at their stage when they invest. It’s all about the pace of growth, scaling and becoming a global company. “We maximise speed and progress. We choose founders who make positive, healthy contributions to the markets they serve.”
Which new trend do they see in their pipeline and people they meet?
Anne Dwane sees many exciting things in the sustainable fine jewelry. Millennials like sustainable diamonds not only because it’s more affordable but also because there is a radical transparency and no ethical question about where the synthesis diamond comes from vs real ones.
Lo Toney is happy to see many new startups in Men skincare.
Carl comes back to the deals they have signed such as Drunken Elephant.
The buzz word they hate. Avoiding them in your pitch may be a good idea.
Agustina says every company a few years ago was claiming to be about “big data” and now it’s all about “AI”. As a woman in tech it makes her laugh. She wonders what is the buzz word irritating them this year.
for Lo, “It’s tech enabled. Every company is tech enabled at this stage, including consumer goods and beauty ones.”
For Carle, it’s “Data-driven company”. “What’s does that mean? What are the insights you generate ?” The contrast between the assertive generic statement and the inability of some founders to illustrate how they use the. knowledge of the customers. to better serve them is always a shock.
For Anne, “ It’s a love and hate relationship with the word predictive. I don’t’ think data should be her destiny…We need to have has Emily @ Stitfix has said, I’m more intrigued by businesses that elevate humans not that eliminate them”.
Exciting to see such a diversity of profiles with 120 entrepreneurs in the room, asking Questions to our guest speakers, founders and funders. We thank our host Salesforce and their team for welcoming our community, and our proud to have 70% of female founders and minority founders in the attendees. Ohana Floor (in Hawaian) means “extended family, which can include frieds and other important social groups.” Great name for a beautiful venue on the top of the world Downtown San Francisco.
Thank you also to Terry Shaw Erevena for supporting us and enabling to have the videos and photos TechandCofffemedia. And to Mialy Ravelo founding member and our volunteers for the event.
Founders and funders, FaB is for you!
Thank you to all of you! We are an engaged community sharing the same passion for fashion, new luxury, wellness and beauty. And we are driving change.
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Next meetings in California:
Los Angeles, Sept 17 hosted by Upfront VC in their emblematic office in Santa Monica.
San Francisco, Oct 9, hosted by Google launchpad Downtown.
As we are most of the time sold out 3 months before the event, rush as a limited number of tickets. Networking is highly qualitative for sure. And we are affordable to make sure all founders can attend.
We count on you for the word of mouth if you’ve got friends who could be interested to join the global movement.
If you want to read more about our guest speakers at the 6th meeting, excellent article in Frenchweb in France written by Laurence Faguer ➛ bit.ly/2xdyLJl
Have a lovely Summer! Odile