Conversation between the Stylishly team and their fans
Stylishly team :
Founder : Kamel Lahmadi (founder of Style and the City),
Cofounders : Mykle Nero (iOS mobile developer), Paul D. (CTO)
Jennifer (street style fan): hi to the Stylishly team. I'm a huge fan Kamel of your street style photography on Style and the City.
Kamel: thank you very much Jennifer. As I'm used to say: the simple secret of a great street style photograph is the generosity between the photographer and his/her random "model".
Jennifer: I works! Can anyone tells me what your Stylishly app is about?
Mykle N. (Cofounder and mobile developer): I canJennifer. I can tell you what Stylishly is about. Some of our most active users called it a “Pinterest for street style with a global better user experience and tools”. Others pitched it as “Street style meets story telling” because of its slideshows showing you the all encounter with the stylish people in pictures. And they kind of liked it. Finally some told us that Stylishly was bringing to street style a sense of humanism that is now missing in a social media world filled with selfies and self promotion.
Jennifer: I kind of like these description indeed as I agree with them. After using your app for few days I can see a big difference with what I see on social media.
Mykle N.: Thank you very much Jennifer. We appreciate it very much and we'll do our best to humanize fashion and bring back street style to its original roots. That's why we joined Kamel Lahmadi, the renown street style photographer founder of Style and the City .
Jennifer: Fantastic! I've been following his work for many years already, on his blog, on Instagram and even through his first street style mobile app.
Mykle N.: Kamel is a great guy, very talented street style photographer and a visionary when it comes to create amazing experiences for street style lovers.
Paul D. (Cofounder and CTO): As a tech guy having worked with startups, I've always looked for the Next Big Thing to build. I was not quite sure in what direction to go: building a SAAS company like Slack ($3 Billion valuation)? Or a vertically integrated fashion brands like Warby Parker or Bonobo? Or a Subscription business like Birchbox or Dollar Shave Club (bought $1Billion by Unilever last July)? I didn't know until I discovered Kamel first street style app 5 years ago. I used it and loved it very much for both the quality of his street style pictures but also for the originality of the concept. The app allowed users to download every week great street style series from Kamel and even create musical slideshows by mixing Kamel's street style shots with their own music. And based on its users reviews from France, the US, Japan and everywhere, I knew that Kamel's app was a successful one.
Paul: and it was the first street style app in the world, correct Kamel?
Paul : Every week I downloaded his new series of pictures (around 100) but after 2 years, It disappeared from the App store. I contacted Kamel and asked him what happened. Kamel, do you want to tell your story?
Kamel: Why not Paul. Thank you very much by the way for being part of this project. You do an amazing job.
Paul: My pleasure. It's a team work and journey. You are the soul of Stylishly and I do believe that your innovative vision about fashion is the right one.
Kamel: I'l do my best Paul. I remember your face when I showed you the data of my first street style app: 300,000 people all around the world using Style and the City's street style app 14 to 20 min per session.
Kamel: And the activity and retention rate were insane! 93% of the users were still using the app after the first year.
Paul: That was truly an achievement as usually . the span life of an app is less than 3 months.
Paul: I was blown away by your data for many reasons. First it was in may 2011-June 2012. The mobile app business was just starting. Then people had to download 20 Mo files of street style pictures. It was heavy and wifi was not as great as today but yet they were doing it anyway, so in love with your work and concept I guess. So, what happened Kamel? Why did Style and the City disappeared suddenly from the app store?
Kamel: For 2 years, I've tried to raise money from kind of French investors but their reaction was always the same: “Nobody has done it before”. I was answering back: “That's the point. I beat the US from my little room in Paris. I have the first mover's advantage. Give me the money and I will hire developers to help me monetize the app”. And their final answer always was: “May be, but we don't want to take any risk”.
Paul: Insane. And tell the worse part of the story to the audience.
Kamel: my French developer and cofounder left with the codes and asked me to pay him back to get the codes despite the fact that we were partners. I had no money so I couldn't get the code back. And when iOS 7 came out, he didn't update the app that then kept crashing. Instead of taking the risk of having bad comments on iTunes that would obviously damage my brand I decided to remove it from the App store. My hear was broken. Because I knew I was right. And if you look at the mobile app landscape now, it's filled with fashion and E-commerce apps.
Paul: did you try to find new mobile developers?
Kamel: of course! Relentlessly. But nobody in Paris was interested at all.
Paul: did you show them your amazing data?
Kamel: of course I did! But nobody got it, they would pefered to work for old companies.
Paul: I got it.
Kamel: but you were alone and we needed a team and a better concept.
Paul: I was excited but you push back as you wanted to leave France and Paris to move to the US and New York to be in a more business and tech friendly environment.
Kamel: to find tech partners who will understand the opportunity and support my vision. It took me 2 years to get enough publications in fashion magazines to apply for an artistic US visa (O1) and...
Paul: here you are! I was so happy for you Kamel.
Kamel: Such a relief. My life changed right away. I attended as many tech meetups as possible, pitched to as many tech guys and mobile developers as possible and after 8 long months I met...
Paul: Lezou and Mykle. And that's when I decided that it was time to come back to you and bring my very talented tech friends, Michael and Ruslan. I asked you to update me about your desire to build a new street style app. We loved our vision, your artistic direction, your understanding of street style fans' needs and we decided to help you build it.
Kamel: and I will never have words strong enough to thank you for that Paul. I had no money and convincing mobile developers who are paid at least $1000,000 a year to work for free in exchange of equity wouldn't have been possible without you believing in me.
Paul: the comments your mobile app users left on the app stores and Instagram, the love and support they showed to you were all what we needed to trust you and support you in making a new great street style app that will humanize fashion in a very entertaining and useful way.
Kamel: let's do it!
Jennifer: Do what?
Kamel: too many startups go to investors and tell them that they want to disrupt the fashion E-commerce industry by doing this and that. But here's the truth that they will never tell investors: the E-commerce ecosystem is structurally not profitable and will never be.
Jennifer: because of the free shipping both ways, the race for the lower prices as the competition is just one click away...
Kamel: exactly. Not the mention the problem of inventory and so many other that it would be too long to expose now. Lon story short: entrepreneurs, especially those with connections in the VC world are less and less real entrepreneur focused on profit and more and more fund raiser focused on "stealing" money from investors, giving themselves high salaries and other advantages. Then when they fail, they do it again.
Jennifer: so what your solution?
Kamel: we want to do it the Amazon way. Meaning: absolute focus on the user and customer satisfaction while understanding the bigger picture in order to build piece by piece the element of a bigger ecosystem that is prone to profit. Huge profits.
Jennifer: So you start with a kind of Pinterest for street style and then?
Kamel: artificial intelligence meets visual delight.
Jennifer: wow! very futuristic.
Kamel: not at all. Siri, Alexa, Home are already there. No area of life or business will be insulated from AI, in the same way that no part of society hasn't been touched by the internet. Amazon sold millions and millions of Echo smart speakers.
Jennifer: and how artificial intelligence will help Stylishly help me?
Kamel: Our phones will soon be talking to us more and more. In less than 3 years, you’ll speak your wants into the air — anywhere — to Stylishly and a woman/man’s warm voice will talk back to you, ready to fulfill your commands. You won't even have to touch the screen anymore. Stylishly's own Alexa will know your test better than you will ever know, so much that you'll want to buy what Alexa show you right away.
Jennifer: wow! That would be fantastic. I can't wait this to happen.
Kamel: start using Stylishly as much as possible, upload and pin styles you like, comment, share, let the app know you better and be ready to spice your fashion app.
Jennifer: 3 years. I can't wait.
Kamel: remember! Amazon started by selling books in a garage. Big things have small beginnings. And one last thing Jennifer.
Kamel: have dreams, but don't forget to achieve them.
To be continued...