I’ve always been fascinated by the interplay between online and offline — finding out what aspects of a brand or service offering can be shifted online, and what elements of the experience are so “sticky” that customers will be willing to pay a premium to keep them in the real world. (As usual, this blog is where I think out loud about stuff like this; past posts on the topic include: “Retail’s last mile problem (and how to make the most of it)” and “The Future of Specialty eCommerce: Platforms, Marketplaces + ‘Native Monetization’“).
Sunil Gowda has been a regular thought partner on these topics for as long as I’ve known him. A veteran of the early days at both Expedia and Zillow, Sunil knows what it looks like to shift a big segment of the economy (e.g., Travel, Real Estate) online. So when he told me last fall that he was thinking about the digital future of the boutique fashion industry, I knew I should pay attention.
We kept that conversation going through the fall and winter of 2013 as he: found a business partner who knew the industry cold; built a prototype to gather feedback; and actually started selling product and driving revenue for his early beta customers — all while running a consulting business on the side.
Finally, sometime this spring, he was ready to attack the business full-time, and I encouraged him to apply for Techstars Seattle to help him “do more faster” on all fronts. That program just wrapped up last week and today I’m very happy to announce that Founders’ Co-op has joined Sunil and his co-founder Adele as seed investors in Garmentory.
The core belief behind Garmentory — which rings true to me based on my own years in branded eCommerce — is that certain elements of the boutique fashion shopping experience remain deeply rooted in physical stores and the passionate entrepreneurs who run them. Rather than trying to put those stores out of business, Garmentory uses the power of technology to make them magically good at what they do, while making it magically easy and delightful for their customers to shop from them, both online and in-store.
This is a huge vision that will take many years to be fully realized. It also flies in the face of the dominant trend in commodity or “big box” retail, where Amazon has shifted the conversation from selection and merchandising to price and convenience. I believe that Amazon’s approach will win in nearly every merchandise category — but not in boutique fashion. Only time will tell if that theory is right, but I’m excited to have found the right team to figure it out.
Image at top from Wikipedia