Aside from shining a light on some of Europe’s finest bootstrapped technology companies, we’ve also kicked off the ‘Startup Spotlight’ series featuring relatively under-the-radar but interesting European tech startups on a weekly basis.
This time we shine a light on Copenhagen-based Fitbay, the social shopping network that matches users to 'body doubles' in order to discover clothing with a better fit.
Here’s a Q&A with Christian Wylonis, co-founder and CEO of Fitbay, on how the team is improving the online shopping experience for users, the startup life and what's next for the young company.
tech.eu: How would you best describe Fitbay and your vision for the company in a couple of lines?
Christian Wylonis: Fitbay is a social network where you follow your 'body doubles' – people of similar height, weight and body type – to see photos of what they’re wearing and discover clothes that fit.
We started Fitbay to solve a problem that we were having ourselves with finding clothes that fit right. Browsing through millions of products that sometimes turn out to not even be available in your size, or returning products that were not the right size anyway – or simply didn’t fit well – is annoying and takes a lot of time.
Most brands design their clothes for an 'average' body because that way they can appeal to the most customers. The problem is that most of us are not 'average'. Some of us are tall, some are short, some are curvy, some are thin, some have wide hip, and some have narrow hips. We're all different – but fashion companies seldom take that into consideration.
What would you say is the main thing that makes Fitbay different from other companies tackling the virtual fitting room space?
First of all – we do not consider Fitbay a virtual fitting room. Fitbay is a social network for sharing and discovering clothes that fit – like an “Instagram for fashion”. On Fitbay you sign up with your height, weight, and body type to connect with relevant 'body doubles' – people with the same proportions. You then follow the body doubles that share your style, and in that way you create an ultra-personalised fashion discovery experience. It’s quite a powerful experience.
Virtual fitting rooms are not social, and generally require measurements of your body and/or your clothes. We wanted to create a simple and social solution to the clothes size and fit problem without using measurements – ever.
When was the company founded? Where did the idea for the startup originally come from?
The company was founded in the summer of 2013, and we launched our beta version of the site and the app in June 2014. The idea for Fitbay came from my own frustrations with finding clothes that fit.
I have a very long torso, which makes it hard to find shirts and t-shirts that are long enough. Shopping online, this problem became even bigger, because I couldn’t try the clothes on first. It turned out that I was far from the only one with these frustrations. Even people with 'standard' bodies have issues with sizing and fit. Because no brand fits all, it’s extremely valuable to get fashion inspiration from people with both a body and style like yours.
How did you meet your co-founders? What were you each doing before starting the company?
Putting together a founding team is probably the hardest and most critical part of getting a startup off the ground. The first two to join the team was my brother Philip Wylonis (now CMO) and Andreas Jarbol (now CTO). Philip and Andreas had worked together on a few startup projects at Denmark’s Technical University. According to Philip, Andreas was the smartest technical guy he’d ever worked with, so bringing them on board was an easy decision.
A few months later, Michael Wolthers (now CPO) reached out to me because he wanted to get into the startup world. I knew Michael peripherally through common friends, and he knew that I was pretty well connected on the Danish startup scene through my work as a venture capitalist in the Nordics. Michael didn’t realize that I was working on Fitbay but when I pitched the idea he was instantly hooked.
Finally, Troels Christensen (now lead developer) is one of my best childhood friends who had just returned from an internship in Singapore and was looking for the next opportunity back home in Denmark. He was the last piece of the puzzle to the Fitbay’s 5-person co-founding team who created the product prototype and secured our first round of financing.
How much funding has Fitbay raised so far? Any plans to raise more?
Two rounds: First, was an angel round of $400,000 in November 2013. Second, was a seed round of $2 million in June 2014. We plan to raise a new round in 2015.
How many users are on Fitbay atm?
We do not disclose the exact number of users, but it’s in the hundreds of thousands.
What is your business model or future plan to monetise? Has your thinking on business model evolved since the start?
Right now we’re 100 percent focused on building the coolest product possible. If we don’t have an engaging product then monetisation is impossible anyway. Users will never have to pay for Fitbay, and we’re not planning on using advertisement either.
In the long term, we want to monetise through lead generation to our partner sites as well as becoming a marketing platform for brands and retailers. Investors are generally critical of affiliate revenue models so our monetisation plans has become less focused on this aspect.
How do you maintain a balance between your personal and professional life?
To be frank, I don’t. At the moment Fitbay is my personal life. Fitbay is as much a hobby as it is work, I love every day at the office, which makes this the best job I’ve ever had. Luckily I’ve surrounded myself with a team of super cool and dedicated co-workers so it doesn’t really feel like work, even after 18 hours at the office. Running a startup is not a job – it’s a lifestyle.
The company is based in Copenhagen but has an office in New York. How big is the team at the moment?
We’re 16 people at the moment – 12 in product/engineering, three in marketing, and me. Our product team is split between web, back-end, iOS, and design.
What's the company's plan for the next three months? And what can we expect from Fitbay in the coming year?
We’re planning a lot of really cool features focused on making the product more fun and making it easier to connect with relevant body doubles. Photos has been the most successful part of our product, and we want to make it even more simple to discover clothes that fit, using the thousands of photos added on Fitbay every week. Fitbay is currently available on web and iOS and we want to be available on Android as soon as possible. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?
The interview has been edited and condensed.
Read more from our Startup Spotlight series:
- Dutch startup Vigour teams up with MTV to bring its multiscreen tech to the masses
- Q&A with Vivian Chan, founder of scientific info recommendation engine Sparrho
- Barcelona’s CL3VER helps its creative clients make nifty 3D presentations
- Q&A with Marko Guček, founder and CEO of shuttle transport booking startup GoOpti