How many times have you looked on Instagram and seen a celebrity or influencer wearing a shirt that you love, but have no idea where to get? For the 800 million Instagram users, this is an issue that happens daily. Thankfully with Choosy this problem is no more. Choosy is an AI-driven social shopping platform that brings the latest styles to your doorstep like never before. Through the use of social tagging and a team of Style Scouts, the company’s platform identifies highly sought-after styles and then manufactures apparel that is inspired by these styles but at a reasonable, affordable price tag.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and cofounder Jessie Zeng about the company, its rapidly growing social shopping platform, future plans, and its recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
$5.4M seed round led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Forerunner Ventures, Innovation Global Capital, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, XFactor Ventures, Supernode Ventures, and angel investor Bryan Rosenblatt.
Tell us about Choosy and the product it offers.
Choosy is the on-demand social shopping platform where collections are inspired weekly based on the most in-demand fashions on social media. Through social tagging and a team of Style Scouts, Choosy identifies and manufactures trend-driven fashion delivered to shoppers in as little as two weeks, leading a new generation of social commerce. All looks are designed and produced in-house, so women sizes 0-20 can get today’s most covetable looks without the ticket price of labels.
As an avid Instagram user myself, I noticed a recurring comment on fashion-focused posts: ‘Where can I buy that?’. Oftentimes the clothes were already sold out or too expensive for the average consumer, and I knew there has to be a better way to bring the latest styles into everyone’s closets. That’s when I realized there was a huge opportunity, and with my family’s roots in textile manufacturing, my interest in fashion and my experience in finance as a former investment banker, I’m in a unique position to address that market demand. Combined with the expertise of my co-founders Mo Zhou (Chief Strategy Officer) and Sharon Qian (Chief Technology Officer), we created Choosy, the future of shopping and social media convergence.
How is Choosy different than other e-commerce platforms?
We use a combination of our expert Style Scouts and advanced AI to ensure Choosy is listening to everyone, not just influencers. We’re putting the power back into shoppers’ hands by listening directly to customers, who influence what we create. For example, if a celebrity wears a luxury jacket and our customers begin tagging us in multiple posts with #getchoosy or our Style Scouts notice ‘where can I buy’ comments, we will design an affordable version inspired by that look. We also provide options for women of all body types to shop the latest trends with our inclusive sizing options.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Choosy was created for any shopper who actively sources style inspiration from social media. Because we are able to make any variety of styles and sizing, we don’t play into a specific look, which is done intentionally to empower shoppers to embrace their unique senses of fashion. Our users align with social media savvy millennials and Gen-Zers, between the ages of 16-30.
Our clothing and designs are meant to empower women to rock their personal styles. We are providing our customers access to a new source of confidence, and there is no limit to what we will create for them.
What’s your business model?
We monetize from each piece sold, but our main priority at the moment is to perfect the customer experience — everything from the packaging and ordering process to delivery and customer service — so that our shoppers keep coming back to Choosy to shop their favorite styles.
We are able to control the pricing of all of the designs we make, because we own the full manufacturing process, from design and fabric sourcing to production and delivery. Many fashion brands outsource the manufacturing steps, but because we have a vertically integrated supply chain structure, we can produce much quicker and for less.
What was the funding process like?
Having been on the investing side previously, it was exciting to sit on the other side of the table during this initial capital raise. The entire process was a humbling learning experience, not just in terms of how to pitch a company, but also how to negotiate and manage the expectations amongst the various interested parties at the table.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
As a female founder who was looking to raise seed capital for a fashion startup, it was difficult draw the attention of the crowd. However, having results that validated the market need as well as surrounding myself with a unique, complementary team, we were able to partner with some of the most tenured venture investors in the industry.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our investors have extensive knowledge in retail, e-commerce, and technology, and the novelty of our shopping experience spiked their interest in being our partners. We’re using AI and a team of Style Scouts to identify the most popular styles on social media and have developed a unique logistics and agile supply chain model where we have a zero-balance inventory, enabling us to ship quickly and for less. Our innovation stems from listening to what our customers want and bringing to them the styles they’re asking for based on consumer demand.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Right now, we are completely focused on perfecting the customer experience. Because there is an ‘on-demand’ aspect of the production of our products, we want to ensure shoppers are receiving orders in a timely fashion, as well as making sure Style Scouts are capturing all requests and trends.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Be relentless, have a big target market, and recruit the best people you know with a diverse skill set.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We hope to expand our offerings and grow to be the go-to social shopping brand that our customers trust and come back to time and again.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
La Mercerie – setting is beautiful and is close to the office, the food is exceptional and the drinks are very good.