Invertex, a Tel Aviv-based startup, is seeking to change the way people buy shoes.
The company wants to digitize the process, using artificial intelligence and 3-D imaging technology to analyze users’ feet in stores and to suggest models and sizes that would fit best. The software can also help with online shopping, enabling smartphones to scan feet via an app and making suggestions about what would be the best buy.
“Today very few people buy their shoes online and the shoe return rates are crazy,” said Invertex CEO David Bleicher in a phone interview. Shoe manufacturers and retailers Nike, Foot Locker and DSW for example, see on average one-third of their shoes shipped back, at their expense, he said.
“We focus on a technology to help companies better match their products to their customer needs. This problem exists in eyewear and fashion in general,” he said. “But the hardest problem is in footwear, and that is where we are focused today.”
Invertex said on Thursday it closed a $2 million seed funding round, led by the Jerusalem-based equity crowdfunding VC OurCrowd through its OurCrowd First early-stage fund. Permoda, an international retail and fashion group, also participated in the round together with other angel investors, the company said in a statement.
Invertex is a business-to-business company, and thus would be offered as a service to customers by the likes of Nike and Adidas via their websites or apps, Bleicher said.
The product is a combination of software and hardware. A so-called launchpad placed in stores would allow people to stand on a digital pad and get a 3D scan of their feet on their cellphones. The scan is sent to a cloud and compared with tens of thousands of other people’s feet — to check what models and sizes worked in the past for people with those kinds of feet. The artificial intelligence part of the product then suggests the best shoes and models. The software also allows for the scanning of shoes’ barcodes in the store to show what colors are available and if there are similar shoes to look at.
In the at-home and e-commerce versions, the technology would allow the scanning of feet via a smartphone camera and provide the same information as does the launchpad, in the store. E-commerce stores would add the Invertex Plugin to their websites, to allow them to provide recommendations to customers and thus help reduce the number of shoe returns.
“A size 8 is not the same for all feet, and there are also differences between the right and left feet,” Bleicher said. “The 3D measurement helps understand the size but also the volume and other parameters of the foot. Fitting shoes is not a science but an art, and with AI we can solve this.”
The scanning process needs to be done just once, and the profile is stored for any subsequent visit to the site or the store. Multiple profiles can be stored on the app and also shared among users, the company says on its website.
US firm True Fit does something similar, offering users the possibility of customizing their footwear acquisitions. Its technology understands which brands best fit shoppers by observing how other shoppers with the same body types buy or return particular brands.
The difference from True Fit, said Bleicher, is that Invertex uses a multi-channel approach — for inside the store and for e-commerce, and not just the e-commerce channel. And Invertex uses 3D imaging coupled with AI, he said, as opposed to the big data approach used by True Fit, which works by comparing body types to others.
Invertex has already a few beta customers and pilots in place with smaller companies. It is also in talks with most of the largest footwear companies, like Nike and Adidas, about the technology, Bleicher said.
“They are all interested in solving this problem,” said Bleicher. “Now that our technology is almost 100% developed, the biggest challenge will be going to market and deployment. Our intention is to be in all of the main footwear companies. We want to be the industry standard in footwear. Later we can also apply this to eyewear and clothing.”
OurCrowd First general partner Eduardo Shoval has joined the Invertex board.
“Invertex was built on the foundation of deep-technology and strong intellectual property, precisely the ingredients we seek in the companies we invest in,” said Shoval, adding that OurCrowd is looking to help Invertex “accelerate its go to market phase.”