Business

Sunday 24 September 2017

My Big Idea Internet window shop with photographs to find cheaper online

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Imagine you are walking down the street and see a top in a shop window that you love, but it is too expensive.

Take a photo of it, and our product can quickly find you an alternative online. We use image recognition technology to find a match and lots of very similar products.

The idea really came from our girlfriends, and the problems they had shopping online. There are lots of internet search engines out there for shopping purposes but they all lack one thing – visual input from the user.

We've known each other since we were small – we even share a birthday.

I handle marketing and sales, while Mark leads the tech side; he has worked with image recognition technology for the last 10 years and has a PhD in it. He is one of the most respected names in the industry.

Image recognition detects anything that is visually distinctive. The technology is everywhere – photograph recognition devices at airports, for example. We committed to developing the idea less than a year ago and now we're on the verge of launching it – eight months from concept to market. The service is 100pc free for users. Our revenue instead comes from retailers, in terms a percentage of each sale. We have already signed up 300 retailers, including major brands like Miss Selfridge, House of Fraser and AWear. We update our system daily with their stock details.We are still in development and carrying out testing at the moment. The prototype is based only on dresses – we have 30,000 dresses in the system for testing – but will have 300,000 products listed when we launch.

The testing is a big part of our market research – allowing us to build the service around what users and retailers want, not the other way around. This will happen at Dublin Fashion Week in September. Samsung are supporting the launch, so for that week the service will be available exclusively on Samsung devices, but after that it will be multi-channel, on all types of platforms.

The biggest challenge was getting a minimum viable product up and running to show retailers. It is difficult to drum up interest without something tangible to show, a prototype, especially because we are a new company.

We are backed by Enterprise Ireland, who first gave us a "commercial feasibility award" to investigate the idea and then additional rounds of funding. That has filled our financing needs so far but we are probably going to look for private investment towards the end of the year.

We have had interest from venture capital funds – and contact from some big names in Silicon Valley – as well as angel investors (small investment funds for start-ups). Part of the reasons investors are so interested is because the product has global potential. We can easily tailor it to a different geographic location and we have had lots of interest from US retailers already.

sarahmccabe@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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