Style Scoop

Start-Up Talk: Move Fast

October 10, 2013

Move Fast – My Own Start-Up Journey

In the past few months, Stylecab founder Charlotte Felix O’Conor has swapped her usual business of advising clients of the right style choices for the brave new world of tech start-ups. In the first of a regular feature on Stylescoop, she charts the highs and lows of her progress in the fashion-tech space, as she and her team develops and launches an exciting new styling app.

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They describe building a start-up like climbing a mountain--and I mean an Everest or a Kilimanjaro.

 I’d been harbouring an idea about how to capture what we do at Stylecab in a face-to-face styling consultation for an online user for a while. Off the back of a couple of conversations (with Simon Squibb at NEST), suddenly I had an advisory board and was hiring a tech team and reaching out to HK’s start-up eco-system. I began learning a whole new language: algorithms, scalability, market sizing.

My multi-tasking abilities were being severely put to the test from running the current business, to working on the user flow of the style app to discussing guerrilla marketing tactics for the launch.  

And, in between those small gaps, spending time with my 3 children. Oh, did I not mention I have children?  Best not to mention that your time could be conflicted!  I mean you’re not the average age of a founder, right?

Instead of presenting trend translation ideas, I was writing pitch decks, considering questions such as what stage to seek investment, pre- or post-product launch, and working on customer acquisition costs, and unit economics. 

I was besieged by waves of conflicting advice: find a CTO, don’t until you need one. I’m no geek, but I knew what I wanted delivered. Bringing someone on board who hadn’t shared the idea from the start could just be a distraction at this early stage.

But what struck me most when I first started out on this journey was the openness, the collaborative nature of everyone I talked to both here in HK and overseas. HK’s start-up community is still relatively nubile compared to the ‘Valley’ but it’s burgeoning and very supportive. Gene Soo at Startupshk went out of his way to make valuable introductions and, with two-degrees of separation, I’m chatting to one of the co-founders of Plurk who’d recently launched his own fashion app. 

Whilst I was away over the summer, the tech team worked through endless rounds of design revisions and coding, attempting to make rules for, if your body-shape is X and your size is Y and your skin colour is Z, what’s the formula for the perfect pencil skirt?

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By early September I felt we’d jumped the first hurdle--armed with a clickable demo, I flew to San Francisco and attended TechCrunch’s 'Disrupt' conference. Now, I had no expectations that was I was going to return with a cheque in my hand or a signed term sheet, but it was definitely an eye-opener.

Sure, seeing Mark Zuckerberg on stage in a lofty warehouse discussing value statements was memorable but there was so much noise surrounding it all; literally hundreds of other start-ups all aspiring to be the next Zuckerberg and still figuring out how to get there.

So, did I learn anything?

 That we’d only just reached base camp and couldn’t even see the summit.  

Be disruptive, filter the noise and keep moving fast because timing is crucial.

Oh, and the average age for first-time tech start-up founders is actually 39.

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