An Interview with the Founder of ModeSens

I sat down in the Starbucks Reserves on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and through the huge windows next to my table, I saw Brian Li walking to our meeting with his shinning Christine Louboutins. Brian is the founder and CEO of ModeSens, a Kirkland-based fashion startup that aims to disrupt women’s luxury goods market.

What is women’s luxury goods market, specifically? Well, if you follow bloggers on Pinterest or Instagram and are highly influenced by what they wear; if you purchase designer handbags and occasionally purchase shoes that are worth more than 500 US dollars, you are exactly Brian’s target customer. As an experienced software developer who loves and follow fashion, Brian realized over the years that the luxury goods market is fragmented with different websites and apps exist for different purposes through a customer’s buying process: consumers receive fashion information through bloggers, fashion shows, magazines; Then they write down the brands and styles they like, so that they can purchase through department stores. Finally, they share their own looks through social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram. Brian consolidated all of these steps and created ModeSens, a website that positions itself as your best personal shopper because it feeds you information, learn your shopping behaviors, gives you information about where to get the best price, and even allows you to share your purchase inside the ModeSens community. When consumers get used to ModeSens, it surely is disruptive enough to change consumers’ behaviors.

However, how to get customers to trust, adopt and stick with ModeSens has been and remain to be the biggest challenge for Brian. “We want to get as many users as possible because that’s how we make money, but at the same time we want this website to be exclusive and by invitation-only so that customers feel special”, as Brian explained during he interview. After careful considerations, Brian decided to forgo some of the revenues in the early stage and build the site as an invitation-only personal shopper because in the end of the day, his target customers are people who have large disposable income and who shop for luxury goods, and exclusivity and status is definitely something they value.

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Limited Invitations are sent to customers’ emails once they request access

Although it is a lot slower to grow the customer base with the invite-only method, Brian was able to get more than 100 subscribers within the first 3 months through promoting among his friends. Although Brian is an ordinary software developer, his wife has been working in the fashion industry for years and personally knows a number of celebrities. In terms of how to acquire new customers outside of their friend circle, Brian said that he is giving Facebook ads and Instagram a try. Since ModeSens’ target customers are clear: females who are 25-50 years old and have high disposable income and love fashion, Facebook would be very helpful to feed ads to these people through targeted ad campaigns. A piece facebook ad can cost anything from 20 dollars to a couple thousands. A $20 ad can reach 6,000 people if you set up good keywords, and if your product is valuable to these people, a conversion rate (people who like your page) can be 5-10%.

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ModeSens’s Facebook Page

Instagram is a different story: ModeSens needs to create attractive content and slowly acquire followers on Instagram because of the nature of the app. However, Instagram is where fashion lovers and bloggers share their outfits and purchases, therefore it is necessary for ModeSens to build up its presence there. Moreover, ModeSens is planning to partner up with Instagram influencers (specifically shoe bloggers who have at least 100K followers on Instagram) to promote itself, which should bring in at least 300 followers with every campaign.

If you read this blog all the way through here and love ModeSens’s business idea, give a try. I signed myself up a couple of weeks ago and am getting addicted to it. I had a great interview with Brian, and I am very looking forward to the success of this innovative fashion startup.

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Photo with the Founder of ModeSens, Brian Li

Blog#4 – Estee Lauder

I have been a loyal customer of Estee Lauder, and I re-order the same cosmetics every 2 months. Last week I went on EsteeLauder.com for a refill of products, and I have been seeing related ads on Facebook and even on Yelp.com.Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 9.22.08 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 9.23.54 PM

It definitely gave me more visibility, however I have already bought the products and would not purchase more than what I need just because I saw these ads. Similarly, if I saw a product and decided not to buy it, seeing more ads about that product would only annoy me than incentivizing me to purchase.

Blog #3 – Handle

We all use Calendars, to-do lists, and mobile phones. What’s better than combing these 3 in one app?

Handle found that niche market and created the app that seemlessly combines your email, to-do list and calendar which helps individuals and business professional achieve even better productivity. When getting an email, one can view it from Handle, and directly transfer that email to either a calendar or a to-do item. I especially like the colors, font and the interface of Handle, which is both good looking and professional.

And If I were the CEO, I would follow Rand Fishkin @randfish , Neil Patel @neilpatel and Harsh Agrawal @denharsh. These two people are not only famous bloggers who have more than 200k followers on Twitter, but are also tech savvy and strive to increase productivity.

Assignment #2 – Droidles

Droidles is a startup company that came up with a brand new product – little robots with social lives of their own, with Mobile Apps connect to Droidles with Bluetooth 4.0. Droidles use mobile link to communicate over the internet. The robbot also features remote control with your phone or programs on your phone as well as audio and amplifier functions.
Droidles is now targeting on the tech savvy early adopters, and positions itself as a social intelligence toy for tech savvy people. Therefore, Droidles is now targeting its marketing efforts on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google+.
Although I believe that Droidles has choosen the right channels for marketing, it needs to increase marketing efforts in the future. For example, its last Facebook post was on September, 2014. Consumers need to read new marketing materials to have the willingness to purchase the product.

Bluetooth Amplifiers – what are their stories?

There are many types of bluetooth amplifiers now on the market. Although the design of these products are different from Hollr (our product), they tell similar stories that we can learn from.

Example: Amphony

” Stream music from your cell phone, tablet or computer to your speakers with Amphony’s wireless Bluetooth amplifier. The BlueFidelityTM wireless amplifier integrates an advanced Bluetooth audio receiver and a state-of-the art stereo power amplifier into a tiny package no larger than a deck of cards. Simply turn any speakers into Bluetooth wireless speakers!”

bluetooth audio receiver

Amphony’s storytelling techniques focused on home improvement, educating their customers that bluetooth amplifiers can hugely imrpove their quality of living by letting them connect to any speakers at home with phones, tablets and computers.

Example: Kicker

The kicker bluetooth amplier, however, is telling customer stories about how portable amplifiers can help consumers increase connectivity in special situations. It focused it’s marketing efforts on weather resistance and portability, therefore satisfying the needs for consumers who are outdoorsy and travel often.

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Market Analysis – OfficeSpace

Have you ever considered starting your own business? According to interviews and research, one the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is finding an ideal office space for their company, and that’s why the company I am about to analyze is simply called Office Space.com.

OfficeSpace.com is a simple platform for companies with various sizes to find a good office space, although most users are startup entrepreneurs. Moreover, the website also provides opportunities for landlords to list their properties and to be selected by companies.

The market for OfficeSpace.com is dominately made of startups and mid-sized companies. However, for already established companies, OfficeSpace also serves as a good platform if they need to move to a new location.