Sramana Mitra: What has been your inventory strategy starting from the beginning to where you’re now doing private label. Can you step us through how the inventory strategy has evolved over time?
Ilana Stern: The brands that we launched with are special occasion dress brands that are all made to order. Essentially, it’s a non-inventory business because the dresses are produced for the specific customer. What’s special about that is there’s a tremendous amount of variety that we’re able to offer a bride with the made-to-order model. >>>
Dmitri Williams: We had a model which started explaining these social influence ripple effects, and catch what we call social whales. These are people who may or may not have a lot of behavior on their own but clearly are causing the behavior of others. That’s where the commercial stuff starts to become much more interesting and obvious. If you know who the largest influencers are in a social system, this is extremely useful on a business model side for acquisition, retention, and for monetization. >>>
In case you missed it, you can listen to this roundtable here:
Yahoo has been distracting shareholders and analysts ever since Marissa Mayer took office with hyper-hyped acquisitions. Until recently, the actual financial performance of the company has not been called into scrutiny. Meanwhile Alibaba’s deservedly hyped IPO has provided a welcome shield (Yahoo is a big shareholder).
But now, Marissa’s honeymoon period is over. The market says: show me the money!
Sramana: What kind of traction were you able to get with your Bootstrapping with Services strategy?
Krishna Kumar: We were able to get some good Fortune 500 customers using that bootstrapping methodology. We used that as the means to get our first round of funding, which came through Open Ventures.
Sramana: Where is the company based?
Krishna Kumar: We are based in Freemont. >>>
Today’s roundtable had several entrepreneurs who are stuck at various points of their entrepreneurial journeys.
Zero Point Energy
First up, Mandar Tulankar from Nagpur, India, pitched Zero Point Energy, a power generation technology to charge cell phone using a shoe-charger. Mandar had presented at a live pitch session during TiECon Kerala in 2012 which I was present for as a judge. I remember being impressed by his pitch. Mandar, however, is stuck because he cannot source a specific part that he needs to move forward. I probed on where the bottleneck is, and deciphered that the suppliers are not impressed with the fact that his company is a startup. Even though he has some seed funding, he cannot convince suppliers to customize the part as needed. I advised him to try to convince one of his key customers – Reebok or L&T – to either guarantee the order, or place the order on his behalf. I don’t know if that would work, but it is worth exploring.
Sramana Mitra: This is not exactly a wedding planning site? It’s a bridesmaid shopping site.
Ilana Stern: No, it’s not. It’s a rich collaborative shopping experience.
Sramana Mitra: Yes, but your focus is still on bridesmaid dresses or has it broadened?
Ilana Stern: Our focus is still on bridesmaid dresses and we’ll be expanding beyond that. Earlier this year, we launched our own private label. We started to vertically integrate, which gives us the ability to get even closer. We’re so close to understanding what our customer wants and what she’s missing. We’ve got the power to serve that up to her through our private label collection. Over the next couple of years, we’ll be launching new categories of merchandise that’s still focused on the wedding industry. >>>
Sramana Mitra: Maybe pick three client use cases who have these large amounts of data. Let’s double-click down on understanding specifically what that data contains and what kinds of intelligence are you able to derive out of it. What processes and methodologies have you innovated to bring that together?
Dmitri Williams: Let’s start with an academic one and maybe jump into some commercial ones. The first project that we did was on predictive analytics and we were doing this for the intelligence community. They were interested in looking at someone’s online behavior and understanding something about them offline. Those are all declassified stuff that you can read about online. We would take a look at someone playing a video game like EverQuest 2, which is the game that we were looking at most of the time. >>>