This series follows the second cohort of JOLT, an early stage accelerator program at MaRS Discovery District dedicated to building high growth web and mobile startups that promise to transform the way consumers and businesses interact with technology. This week, Stylekick learns the importance of identifying your first customers.
For any startup, growing your customer base isn’t about casting the widest net possible and catching everyone. For the leadership team at Stylekick, figuring out the right place to start when getting new subscribers is a key challenge they plan to address during their time in the JOLT early-stage accelerator program.
Founded by Natalie Gray, Anand Dhillon and Karn Saroya, Stylekick hopes to solve a big headache for online apparel retailers. “Of all apparel bought online, 40% is returned and 75% of these returns are due to poor fit,” said Ms. Gray, chief executive of the startup. “It’s a $6-billion problem for retailers and a pain for shoppers.”
Stylekick is a simple-to-use search and compare application that suggests a brand based on an item you already have in your closet; or it helps you search for clothes based on specific attributes such as sleeve length or material.
“It doesn’t use body scanning or ask for your personal measurements,” Ms. Gray said. “It bases decisions on your profile and preferences and directly compares brands to assess differences in fit.” Anyone looking for a new pair of dress jeans, for example, can enter a favourite brand they own and the program will find another brand with a comparable fit.
With the back end development complete, and the website launch planned for this spring, Ms. Gray said the biggest challenge now is learning how to optimize their limited marketing resources to get the right users on board.
“We don’t have huge dollars to spend on marketing campaigns. What we are learning is that it’s really about finding customers that are passionate about your product, connecting with them, and building from there.”
MaRS advisor Charlotte Burke said she looks for three key things when working with early stage companies. “Do they have the technology? Are they hitting the market with the right timing? And perhaps most important: Do they have the right talent to understand what the problem is and how to address the solution?”
In working with Stylekick, Ms. Burke says their combined experience fulfills all those criteria. “They have the technology talent, the market talent and the connections to validate if they are on the right track early on in the process. And they’ve come up with a unique solution to a big problem that’s easy for consumers to use.”
One of the things mentors bring to the table is helping organizations understand that when they’re small they can’t tackle the whole market, Ms. Burke explains. “We have a lot of discussions around who will be the early adopters. Who is the ‘starter’ consumer that you can take on board quickly and validate that you are on the right track? That’s an area where mentorship can really help.”