Social shopping with a purpose: Fitbay taps crowdsourcing to help shoppers find clothes that fit
A Q&A with Fitbay co-founder and CEO Christian Wylonis. The Copenhagen-based fashion discovery platform announced last week the closing of a $2 million Seed funding round from Steadfast Venture Capital and Creandum. The company was founded last year by Wylonis, a former Creandum entrepreneur-in-residence, and previously raised $400,000 in initial Seed funding.
SUB: Please describe Fitbay and your primary innovation.
Wylonis: Fitbay is a free social shopping tool aimed at eliminating the problem of buying clothes online which then have to be sent back because they don’t fit properly. Reports have estimated that 40 percent of all items of clothing bought online are returned, often because they don’t fit, and this is something we want to change.
We use a crowdsourcing approach to data to simplify the entire process of buying clothes that fit online. When users sign up to Fitbay, they answer five simple questions about their body shape and size, with no measuring required, and upload some information about clothes they already own and how they fit. We then use this data to match them up with their ‘body doubles’—users with the same or similar body types—to present them with a profile full of clothes which will fit them.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Wylonis: Fitbay is aimed at both men and women, and we believe that we can really help everyone find clothes that fit them perfectly. Brands design their clothes for the ‘average’ body shape and size, but that just doesn’t really exist in real life—everyone’s bodies are shaped differently. For example, I’m a normal height and weight, but I have a longer-than-average upper body, which means t-shirts and shirts designed for someone of my size are usually too short for me. This is an issue which many people experience, and was the original inspiration behind Fitbay.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Fitbay from the competition?
Wylonis: There are lots of other services out there aimed at solving the problem of poorly-fitting clothes bought online, but they massively over-complicate the problem. Fitbay is different because it is focused on simplicity for the consumer. People don’t want to have to measure themselves from head-to-toe in order to access items of clothing which will fit them. With Fitbay, as soon as you’ve completed the sign-up process, which takes two minutes and involves zero measuring, you’re instantly presented with a profile full of clothes in your size and style. You can then click through on clothes you like to be taken to that item on an external store. It’s that simple.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $2 million in new Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Wylonis: It is a great time to raise funding because our platform is growing massively. We were able to secure this funding round with our user sign-up curve—we are growing the service at an average rate of 110 percent a month. That’s a great level of growth, and something which is very attractive to investors. We’ve also just launched our new iOS app, so this is a really key time for us to expand and attract many new users.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Wylonis: With our influx of new users, the money will be used to help support our rapid growth and carry on growing Fitbay into the platform we know it can be. We’ll also be using the money to help with our international expansion—we’ve just opened an office in New York.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional funding in the near future?
Wylonis: We have just raised $2 million, which gives us 12 months where we don’t need to think about fundraising. So right now it’s all about focusing on our users and keep growing. At some point next year we will probably decide to raise an A round.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Fitbay? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Wylonis: Actually, both. I had a general idea about creating a service to help people find clothes that fit, but the idea was much too grand; I wanted to create a global standard for clothes sizes, based on the measurement of clothes. I worked on that idea for a few months before I realized that was far too complicated and unviable.
I was sitting in Stockholm airport when I had the ‘aha’ moment that led to Fitbay. I realized the need to simplify the entire process, and that’s when the idea behind what Fitbay is today was born.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Wylonis: Once I’d developed the idea behind Fitbay, I wanted to gather a strong team to help me build on my vision. As a result, Fitbay has five co-founders, who all bring something different to the table, something which I think is absolutely key. The five Fitbay co-founders consist of a back-end expert, a front-end expert, a product expert, an online marketing expert, and me, the project manager type with the overall vision.
Wylonis: We had a few criteria for the name: 1.) We wanted it to start with ‘fit,’ 2.) we wanted it to have max seven letters, and 3.) we wanted the .com domain to be relatively cheap. We did a search on a domain site and started looking through the options. When ‘Fitbay’ appeared, it seemed perfect from the start. We wanted to create the sensation that everything fit-related was collected on Fitbay, much like a ‘bay,’ which is a body of water partially surrounded by land.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Wylonis: In the beginning, the most significant challenge was to attract enough users and build a big enough user base to make the service viable—Fitbay is all based on user-generated data, so without enough users, the service wouldn’t operate how we’d like it to. Once we passed 10,000 users, we had enough critical mass to provide the service we envisioned, and now it’s just a case of continuing our user growth.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Wylonis: Our revenue model is based on commission paid by retailers on purchases made through Fitbay. Our crowdsourcing approach also yields some really interesting ways to work with brands and utilize the data that we gather. For example, we know the favorite brand of every body type, which can lead us to tell brands things like: “H&M is only popular with women of average height and weight,” and “men who are larger than average like wearing Levi’s.” We think that that kind of data could be invaluable to brands, as it could help them work out whether they are properly serving all of their customers with the correct sizing.
SUB: What are your goals for Fitbay over the next year or so?
Wylonis: We’re looking to keep our user base expanding rapidly and keep growing our company. Long-term, we want to be the next big social network—you have Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for business associates, and Pinterest for people with the same style. So, why not a social network for people with the same body shape and size? Our users can follow their ‘body doubles,’ get recommendations from them, and on the app they can even upload photos of how items of clothing fit them—something we call ‘selfies with a purpose!’
At its core, Fitbay is all about social shopping and crowdsourcing, and we think that is really key to our vision of being the next big social network.