Are you lost and need directions? There’s an app for that. Want to eat at a tasty restaurant, but too lazy to walk more than five minutes? There’s an app for that, too. Want to play fashion trivia on your phone, that allows you to purchase the items you’re quizzed on? Well, apparently there’s an app for that, and last week, a panel of judges at the Google campus in Tel Aviv decided that it was good business.
A group of technology, fashion and marketing professionals selected Fashioholic the winner, out of five Israel-based start-ups, of their Fash&Tech pitch night. Representatives of five new businesses that combine fashion and technology — typically through providing programs or apps that seek to improve customers’ online shopping experiences — presented their start-ups and explained what they need in order to grow their companies.
Fash&Tech is a group that supports those “who deal with fashion in a technological environment — online retailers, style-sharing platforms, e-commerce platforms, 3D technologies developers and anyone else interesting in the meeting point of fashion, style and technology,” according to its website.
Yael Kochman, who has experience in marketing and fashion, started the Fash&Tech Meetup group in 2013 after a visit to New York, where she says was frequently stopped with questions about her outfits, all made up of clothing from Israeli designers.
“You can see Israeli designs are very specific and unique,” she said. “Even in the US, where they have their own designers, people were still very excited to see Israeli designs.”
She realized when she got home that there was no organization in Israel that supported those who use both fashion and technology in their work. That’s when Fash&Tech was born.
Pitch night put five entrepreneurs in front of a like-minded audience and judges who could offer advice — or, if interested, invest in the businesses. The judges were from various companies and boards, including the UK-Israel Tech Hub, Castro, Aleph Venture Capital, Carmel Ventures and Lool Ventures.
Although the judges deemed Fashioholic the most impressive of the five, the audience crowned a second start-up, SnapGet – which allows users to photograph a shoe or clothing item and find matching or similar items to purchase – its winner.
The two winning companies will receive free consultations and public relations exposure, as well as free participation in investor conferences such as Axis Tel Aviv in March.
Many start-ups came forward with an interest in pitch night, and event organizers narrowed the field down to five.
“At the end of the day, for the pitch night, we want investors to want to invest,” said Rebecca Mandel, co-founder of Bottom Line Consulting, an international branding agency, and co-organizer of Fash&Tech. “We understand what investors are looking for: a successful product that’s sellable, in the US and also in Asia, which is a mass market. It was hard to pick five; there were some really good ones.”
The Fashioholic team assumes that consumers spend a significant amount of time playing games on their phones. The company’s games incorporate fashion, prompting users to guess which of two items is more expensive, who designed a purse or an item’s price. After finishing the game, users can click directly through to purchase the items highlighted.
The app mainly targets women aged 18-40. In 17 weeks, 30,000 users have played Fashioholic’s games, said Amit Manna, co-founder of the start-up.
“With the technology we have here, consumers get to enjoy this fun game, and in the background, there’s some really deep technology going on,” he said. “The game targets to her and sees what she likes.”
Some games result in purchases, but retailers receive other benefits, as well. If enough users think a purse costs much more than it actually does, for instance, the item’s seller may choose to raise the price.
SnapGet allows users to upload a photo of a shoe, from a website, magazine or real life. Whenever possible, the app finds the exact shoe that was photographed, but it also offers similar, less expensive options, and allows users to purchase what they like. Danny Shir, SnapGet’s co-founder, said the company plans to expand and provide the same service for articles of clothing.
Shir assured the female judges that it’s not him or the other men working at the company who choose the shoes that the app presents to shoppers; rather, an algorithm does the work.
As for those who might shy away from snapping a photo of a stranger’s shoes, they shouldn’t worry, he said — it’s not creepy.
“Instead of being freaked out, a woman might look at it as a compliment that people are looking at her shoe,” he said. “She might say, ‘Why did you take a picture of my shoe? Oh, I want that app.’”
Several of those pitching their start-ups were women — important to note, said one of the judges, Orit Hashay-Terner, founder and CEO of Brayola. Her company, which has grown exponentially since its inception, helps women find well-fitting bras. Hashay-Terner said she hopes to continue seeing more women on both ends of the start-up world, as founders and investors.
“You can imagine what it’s like for me to pitch to guys about bras,” she joked.
The three other start-ups competing on pitch night were righTune, Stylit and Zeekit.
righTune, a bit different from the other apps, offers personalized music for websites, mainly retail sites. righTune obtains information about a company and its consumers, provides a personalized playlist for those shopping on that company’s website and measures customers’ responses to the music in order to tweak the playlist in the hopes of convincing people to browse the site for longer periods of time. So far, the company has garnered raving reviews from its clients, who say that customers are spending more time on their sites and buying more, according to Erez Perlmuter, CEO of righTune.
He showed audience members an example of a shopping website with no music.
“This is like going to a movie with silence; it’s a very lonely experience,” he said. “We bring life with music.”
Stylit offers an online program that asks female users to answer a series of questions about the clothes they like to wear, as well as their budgets. Then, a group of stylists from across the world search for clothing items online and suggest outfits, providing links to where users can buy the recommended clothes and accessories. Right now, the company has about 40 stylists who serve tens of thousands of users, many of whom come back for more.
“They might be a new mother who has 20 pounds to lose or an older woman who wants to look young and stylish, and not matronly,” said Tamar Frumkin, Stylit’s vice president of marketing. “We get users from all spectrums.”
“Fashion is emotion, and we’re adding a human touch to the technology,” she added.
Zeekit allows people to upload photos of themselves to see how articles of clothing will look on them. The program uses the photos to measure body type and recommend sizes to shoppers before allowing them to go directly to retailers’ online pages and buy the items they have tried on virtually. The program also allows customers to “try on” accessories and cosmetics using their photos, as well as to upload photos of their home to see how furniture and various home décor items will look before they buy them.
“We’re going to be the next big thing that combines fashion and technology,” said Yael Vizel, co-founder of Zeekit. “So many other technology companies try to do the same, but we are so much better.”
Start-ups like the ones who presented at pitch night are becoming increasingly significant players in the retail industry. In the United States, online shopping reached $46.5 billion during the 2013 holiday season, according to Fash&Tech. Many Israeli start-ups have begun to offer apps and technology that use algorithms and other techniques to make online shopping easier and more personal for consumers, not to mention more profitable for retailers.
And they’ll continue to play a large role in the future, the judges suggested.
“I can say that looking at the retail and fashion industry in the UK, they are desperate for new technology, whether it’s online or in stores,” said Naomi Krieger Carmy, director of the UK-Israel Tech Hub and one of the judges. “They’re really interested to see what is coming out of Israel.”