“We did have a valuable experience at FounderFuel. For startups going into these programs, it really is whatever you make of it,” said Peker.
And the pair of 25-year-olds felt that they really made a lot of their three months in FounderFuel’s Winter 2014 cohort. Selective Few is a marketplace that sells high-end pieces of fashion from various boutiques that typically garner sales in-person only. The boutiques need only to be on top of their inventory and Selective Few handles everything else to showcase their fashion, even shooting photos of the product.
Before they entered the Montreal-based accelerator, Selective Few had two high-end fashion boutiques that agreed to use their full-service marketplace, but it was all but an idea. Shop owners would tell them “that’s a good idea and I need something like that,” but no one was ready to commit. Like any founder, Peker admitted that he occasionally questioned the legitimacy of the business model, but an acceptance from FounderFuel proved him otherwise.
Today 12 boutiques across Canada are using the platform, from Vancouver to as far east as Quebec City. That number will grow to 50 by the end of 2015. The pair said they close on half of the shops they visit, meaning that product is actually selling on the site within a few weeks, not just a promise. Evidently the accelerator program helped.
“Instead of reaching out to the stores, we were receiving calls from the best boutiques across Canada,” Weiss told MTLinTech. “[FounderFuel] was a game-changer. Our branding started to resonate with the stores.”
Along with $50,000 for a small piece of the company’s equity, the accelerator provided some key mentors who were a huge help.
Their competition is sites like Net-A-Porter and SSense, two of the better-known and better performing e-destinations for high fashion. Peker formerly worked for SSence. In Canada, Shopcaster is also courting the same user base, a Toronto and New York-based startup that received $1 million in venture funding in August 2012.
The guys say this is a huge market though, and there’s surely room for them. The high-end boutiques that they target typically carry $3 million worth of inventory and sell about $2 million of that every year. Some of the stores featuring product on Selective Few sell shirts for $1,500. The startup takes a cut out of every sale on its marketplace.
Broadly speaking, the apparel industry’s value worldwide is enough to make any entrepreneur salivate. In the United States alone, where most of Selective Few’s customers are coming from, online sales are slated to hit $73 billion by 2016.
But during his experience working for the competitors, Peker felt the end customer simply wasn’t getting the high-quality experience they should be getting by purchasing online.
“I know from experience that they’re actually getting a crappy purchasing experience and they’re not buying,” he said. “My assumption was that there was a fit there and the more we tested to see how it fit with the retailers, the more it became clear that luxury fashion made sense for this model.”
As for the shop owners, the pair said most of them tried their hand at ecommerce sites like Shopify with limited success. Some continue to operate their own ecommerce sites, but generally it’s not their strength. If they’re going to feature their fashion on another site they don’t want to have to do anything. Moreover, they want a site like Selective Few to showcase them in the best light- from professional photography to a seamless online experience. It’s a relatively tall request and the guys feel they’re providing this.
“It takes a certain amount of expertise. More than anything it doesn’t make financial sense for these small stores [to do it themselves] but when we bring it all together it makes sense for us,” said Peker. “We feel comfortable enough that were going to have a good enough product and an attractable enough platform across Canada.”
The plan now is to attack globally. Selective Few isn’t satisfied with a strictly Canadian platform. If the boutiques themselves aren’t satisfied with anything but the best fashion, Peker and Weise feel they can’t hold anything but the same attitude when it comes to their product.
Recently they worked out a deal to offer their marketplace to all Lightspeed Retail clients. Lightspeed Retail, another Montreal-based tech startup, offers independent shops a complete point-of-sale (POS) system, along with inventory management, reporting and ecommerce. High-end boutiques are among the most valuable businesses that a Lightspeed Retail can attract as clients, while Selective Few wants more shops to know about its offering. Peker said about 90 percent of the shops they walk into are already using Lightspeed, so the marriage worked well for both sides.
The application deadline for FounderFuel’s Fall 2015 Cohort is June 30th. They are hosting a cocktail June 29, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Notman House for folks that have last minute questions about the program. Selective Few, Transit, Flatbook and more alumni companies will be present. A limited number of tickets are available here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/founderfuel-cocktail-tickets-17322023639