The fashion industry isn’t the most tech-forward industry (believe it or not) and they asked the NYC tech community for help! Enter Decoded Fashion- the world’s first fashion hackathon. sponsored by the CFDA and Conde Nast.
This weekend I attended Decoded (my first official hackathon!) Everyone that knows me professionally knows I love hacking ideas together—it’s just something I love doing. My brilliant multi-talented friend Yaw Etse pulled me in on this last weekend to discuss with his 2 developer & strategy buddies and sold me on participating.
We had 24-hours to create an app or startup that solves a pivotal industry problem. The top 5 teams will be introduced at NY Tech Meetup on Feb. 5th, and will also get to present their concept at New York Fashion Week.
The initial online mass brief from the CFDA was purposely very vague, it focused on “solving the fashion industry's biggest tech problems” so there was minimal thinking we could do in advance.
When we arrived we were briefed on the FourSquare, Avairy, Skinlinks, SendGrid and Spotify APIs. Then briefed by a panel of fashion/tech experts.
We pulled out 5 themes:
1. Most B2C apps are largely crowdstyled and personalized. How can we apply the designer voice/eye/lens BACK into our own products? The designer wants validation & wants to control their message through their voice. (Um, good luck with that in a social environment!)
2. Supply chain management/manufacturing issues (lots of money go into making samples and lots of money is wasted in the antiquated process with service providers). How can we make the process quicker and more streamlined?
3. Apply instant commerce to social content, allow anyone a turnkey eComm/mComm purchase transaction in any place. (Ie: twitter, Instagram)
4. Marketing analytics & aggregated social data: crowdsourced opinions/social sentiment is a need we have. We don’t know how to read through it all and create insights to act upon?
5. How do you sell a lifestyle and allow people to buy everything in a lifestyle? (Ie: buy the entire styled room vs. just the throw blanket on the chair)
Our ideation sessions
This was the strategic approach our team agreed on in the beginning and stuck to:
· Establish a useful value proposition that solves a problem
· Have a use case we can navigate through in our demo
· DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE CODE BEING PERFECT AND POLISHED
· Make our proof of concept come to life through exceptional storytelling and it will shine
One of the greatest parts of this experience was the plethora of mentors available to us from the tech and fashion industries & they made allllll the difference! We got in on this offer immediately and utilized them often! Here were some of my fav mentors that REALLY gave us useful objective feedback at every point in the ideation process: Kennedy (who has extensive hacking experience), Vik Venkatraman Mike Caprio of The Start Up Bus and Stephanie Cain and Justin Isaf, former director of community at HuffPo.
This is how our day rolled out:
Idea #1: WhoWoreWhatWear (~12pm)
Using aggregated social data to highlight the most trending designers/items etc and link to eComm. (think Pop Sugar meets The Hype Machine w/built in eComm --- but only for the top 15 NYC fashion bloggers).
Then we thought about a product called Styld, a custom stylist decision engine using behavioral search & social data to suggest outfits/looks & then tie to eComm right on the spot.
After much mentoring we found out everyone else wanted to do that too. (Pitching 101—always think about what your competition is going to pitch and try to differentiate) and we tossed the stylist idea.
So we pivoted and went the B2B route.
Idea #2 Performance Analytics Platform (~4pm)
We made the strategic decision to stay away from feature-based B2C apps b/c we figured the whole world would take the “sexy” image-based route and focus on that. (another photo sharing/eComm site? No thanks)
We focused in on performance analytics (think Tableau with marketing & social analytics built into the same platform.) I had a feeling no one would tackle analytics- harnessing big data is a difficult solve. We knew NOT many people would be focusing on anything B2B—but it’s where we saw the most useful solution for the CFDA while offering US the biggest opportunity in pitching a scaleable enterprise software.
Our mentors thought the idea was crazy smart, differentiating and said “there's a lot of B2C we are happy to see B2B, it's a big need- no one is tackling analytics we are impressed go with it.”
But then we got tired.
And one of our developers hated the idea and left our group.
And we wondered if analytics was too ambitious an idea for us to hack together a minimally viable product overnight.
And my friend Jason (social data/marketing brilliance) stopped by to consult us & we left the building... all I can say is god bless a fresh mind and fresh air.
- THEN we pivoted. Agggggain. For the last time.
Idea #3 Optimizing the manufacturing process (~8pm)
This was our final idea and we stuck with it! I started wiring the UX/UI, Yaw & Alan started on the tech stack, I wrote the site copy, we played with names for our product and netted on: MANUFACTURE ME. I drafted the deck Sunday at 8am b/c we had to submit our idea by 11am.
Sunday Hack submissions—the countdown begins!
We uploaded our product to Hackerleague.org (great platform that handled all the hackathon logistics.) This was the initial vetting round for the judges.
We refined our demo & deck throughout the day. (For a 2 minute pitch there really wasn’t much to “write”) it’s all about persuasive storytelling and demoing the proof of concept. Speaking of the demo—huge shout out to one of our team members Alan Garcia—top notch software engineer who killed it for 24 hours and also has a brain for strategy! Hard to find!
After team submissions (76 of them!), the judges reviewed & picked 30 semi-finalists and we made the list! Woot!