Interview With Svitlana Syturina and Miroslav Shvets
Describe your product or service:
“Lookerz – helps online fashion retailers automatically generate styling outfits without any stylists involved. We built an ML-powered service that can fast scan the catalogue and start instantly create stylish outfit recommendations and show similar items. With our first client we tracked at least plus 8% monthly revenue growth after placing our widget plus we increased user engagement by 40% and doubled time spent on the website.
You can check our demo https://show.lookerz.me/selections-man/ and see that outfits our system can generate actually look like they were made by stylists, but they are not. We are getting an unlimited number of stylist-quality outfits in real-time just with a help of an ML-powered algorithm, and not only do they look nice, but also help to significantly boost client’s revenue, plus reduce expenses.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We are on a mission to bring innovations to the fashion industry and prove that even when it comes to non-related areas like fashion — computers can be as efficient as humans.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“We haven't started an active fundraising campaign, however, we consider raising an additional round from investors with interests/portfolios in ecommerce or fashion tech. We decided to switch our focus now to scale the company at this point, as we also understand that it would allow us to close the round faster and more successfully.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them!
“We have three co-founders in the team. I, Svitlana, started this project two years ago after finishing my 15 years career at one of the biggest fashion retailers in Eastern Europe, Antonio Biaggi. When I was working there, I met Miroslav – my technical co-founder, and I’ve known him for nearly 10 years now. He’s been successfully running his IT company, and I knew that with his spectrum of technical skills he would definitely be a great CTO for my project, so I asked him to join Lookerz. Last year in 2021, I met Natalia and Vlady through the women's community W.Tech in Ukraine back in early 2021, both bringing sales and marketing experience. At the moment, I dedicate all my time to Lookerz and working full-time, but when we close the investment round, co-founders are willing to join me full-time as well.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“Just a few weeks ago while browsing through Amazon I noticed that they just started to test outfits, which means that they see a big potential in this type of content recommendations, and we already have this service built and successfully tested. I believe that is good proof that this service is needed.
I've been working in fashion retail for over 15 years before starting this company. With my previous experience, I knew what problems big online fashion retailers are facing, and I realized I have an idea of how I can fix them – that’s how Lookerz was born.
I know that this service is actually helpful because I saw how businesses operate from the other side, and I also knew it can definitely function more efficiently when it comes to content recommendations and operating large numbers of SKUs, especially for online shops that operate with over 10-20,000 SKUs.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Before the company was called ‘PickUp Fashion,’ but for some markets — it was not a very appropriate name, so we decided to switch to ‘Lookerz.’”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I've been working in fashion retail for over 15 years before starting this company. With my previous experience, I knew what problems big online fashion retailers are facing, and I realized I had an idea of how I could fix it – that’s how Lookerz was born.“
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?
“It took quite some time to teach the system how to generate stylish outfits, but I was trying to be patient because I knew what I was working on and how efficient it could be. Also, at first, I was focused on the B2C market, but then I realized that B2B can be an even better idea and that's my next step.”
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Our target clients are online fashion stores with over 5,000 SKUs (clothing, shoes, and accessories), mostly based in the US, the UK, and Europe. They need to have at least one photo on a white or any solid background in their catalogue.”
What's your primary marketing strategy?
“Most of the companies we are targeting are big enterprise companies, that's why we prefer to build a customized pipeline for each of them.
Our customer acquisition strategy is to work on the list of our potential customers and then find the best ways to communicate with them:
- Directly (LinkedIn and emails, conferences, events);
- Through the suppliers of different IT services that they outsource;
- Through people in their network that they might have some connections with and who can make an introduction.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
- “+8% — increase in revenue per month after placing after widget;
- 8 outfits — generated on average by users during one session;
- +22% — increase in the amount of outfits users generate month by month after placing the widget;
- +65% — increase in sales of products with low visibility;
- 0.5 sec. — time of selection of 1 outfit.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“‘How I Built This’ — I really enjoy this podcast, lots of great companies some of them are famous, and some of them are very niche. For a book, I would go with ‘That Will Never Work’ about Netflix — definitely not the bible to build a startup, but I really enjoyed the story, and it was interesting to follow the progress they made over the years, and how [their] idea and vision completely changed. Made me think that original ideas might not always work how we expect them, but they might turn out into something bigger and more exciting.”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“I'm actually Ukrainian, and recently I started to listen to more Ukrainian bands and singers, first of all, because I want to support them, plus they are very talented. Plus at this time their songs have a deeper meaning for me, and they sound promising and inspiring. I like a lot Okean Elsy, Kalush, Skrybin — great songs that always keep my good spirit.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“Probably there is not any secret app that really helps me to get it done. But my top is
- Google Calendar — 100% helps to keep me on track and manage my time efficiently
- Grammarly — to make sure I have no typos (this is a Ukrainian company by the way)
- Spark Mail — this is the best email client (also built by Ukrainians)”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“How many companies, especially startups, actually fail. I think if this statistic will be published everywhere — we won't see many great companies because lots of people would be demotivated. We share mostly success stories, but I think it's important to talk about failures as well, not to demotivate people, but more to remind them that it happens and it's totally ok. Let's not forget that not many founders crashed it from a first project or startup, and you don't need to stop if things went wrong once.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Is there a work-life balance?”
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“When I had a clear idea in my head about Lookerz, what I want to build and how it can change the industry. I spent 15 years at my previous company and started to feel that it was the right time to switch my focus on something else.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“I started to work at Antonio Biaggi — a big fashion retailer in Eastern Europe — right after university and spend my next 15 years there. I learnt everything about fashion retail I could, from working in the shop with clients to opening stores, creating collections, working with factories, etc. And I was so lucky to get this experience and insights on how this industry operates to be able to implement them later in my startup.”
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