Harvard Business School girls are at it again. Gilt Groupe, BirchBox, LearnVest, AfterSteps, Take The Interview, the list of New York City startups led by women who’ve launched profitable business plans out of Cambridge, MA is growing fast. The latest startup, Snapette, is run by HBS graduate Jinhee Kim and current HBS student Sarah Paiji.
Snapette hit the app store in mid-August and asserts itself as the first location-based fashion app that lets you discover and share bags and shoes from anywhere in the world. It’s like Foodspotting for fashion or Foursquare’s Explore feature for accessories. If you’re out shopping the streets, you can use Snapette to search for fashion items around you from crowd-sourced photos and descriptions that other “Snapettes” have shared. You can search by brand, store or description, or by what’s rated “New”, “Near” and “Hot”, and share photos and comments with other users, as well as follow them. If it takes off, the app could be a win for retailers, as it drives foot traffic into physical stores and provides a platform to engage with customers.
We caught up with co-founders Jinhee Kim and Sarah Paiji, who are part of the 500 Startups accelerator program and come from backgrounds in finance and fashion.
CBM: How did you two meet?
Jinhee: Sarah and I met at a Harvard reunion event in Cambridge. Even though she graduated 21 years after I did, we found we had a lot of shared interests including fashion, tech and entrepreneurship.
CBM: When did you realize that you wanted to create Snapette?
Jinhee: I’m always coming up with ideas for new businesses. But they usually remain ideas. This time though, I found a pain point that I felt mobile technology could help address very efficiently. While window-shopping one afternoon in London, I lamented the fact that I couldn’t visually search for interesting products nearby on my smartphone. While I could look up crowd-sourced restaurant reviews and food photos, I had no way to know what the shops held inside or if other women thought their products were worth checking out. Snapette was created to combine many women’s propensity to share photos of fashion products within their social circle with the benefits of location-based technology. And also I met a great co-founder to help turn an idea into a product.
CBM: What are your favorite features on the app?
Jinhee: My favorite feature is the large size of the photos on the app. It feels like I’m leafing through my favorite magazine when I scroll through the newly uploaded photos.
Sarah: I love the Featured Stores section, and we have exciting plans to make it even better. I love being able to browse products currently available at some of the best boutiques and consignment stores, easily on my phone. So when INA in New York City gets a great vintage Chanel bag in, I can easily see it on the app and run over to the store to check it out.
CBM: Can you check into stores through the app?
Sarah: We wanted to focus on a simple and compelling user experience for our launch. So we included only the important features for snapping, sharing and discovering great shoes and bags. We are definitely exploring store check-ins on having store check in’s as well as other features beneficial to both the user and the local retailer.
CBM: On that note, what APIs are you using?
Sarah: We are currently using Foursquare, Facebook and Tumblr.
CBM: Will you be partnering with daily deals sites for shopping discounts?
Sarah: We are considering a range of potential partnerships with sites and retailers.
CBM: Are you funded? And what’s the business model?
Sarah: Yes we are funded. Our business model is to partner with retailers to provide them with mobile storefronts to easily broadcast their products and promotions. We also offer brands and retailers a highly targeted direct marketing tool to engage customers where and when they shop.
CBM: Where are your favorite places in the world to shop?
Jinhee: I love shopping in Tokyo. There are so many interesting boutiques tucked into little pockets of the city. Unless you are a local, these gems are difficult to discover. Everything is either incredibly cute or extremely well made.
CBM: If you have to go from work to business lunch and then out to a party, what kind of outfit would you wear?
Jinhee: Wow. A fashion question! These days my business to evening outfit consists of a great pair of jeans, silk top, casual jacket and killer shoes. It’s really all about the shoes and handbag.
Sarah (pictured right): The answer used to be a skinny black pants+loose blouse+blazer, or maybe fitted shift dress+blazer. But now that work is Snapette, I’m no longer constrained by “business casual.” Neon shorts? Sequins or leopard print? Anything goes!
What other tech, apps and websites could you not live without?
Jinhee: My answers aren’t very original. I can’t live without my iPhone and iPad. The apps I use most often are Facebook to check in on my friends and family, World Clock and Skype to coordinate calls across 11 time zones, and Testflight to download new builds of Snapette. I’m an app hoarder so there are too many favorites to name. I once closed 120 open apps on my iPhone.
Sarah: My iPhone for sure. My MacBook Air (I have an iPad too but my Air is so light I take it everywhere!) I Instapaper everything to read while I’m at the gym on my iPad. I clip sites and keep organized on Evernote, and keep my to-do’s on Remember the Milk. WWD.com keeps me on top of everything going on in fashion. Love browsing Polyvore sets, Lookbook.nu and the Snapette blog!