On the up · 8 March 2016

Comb: The fashion app changing the way shoppers find hot new trends

The Comb team
The Comb team

With over 40,000 downloads since Christmas 2015, Comb is the new app changing the way shoppers find the latest trending fashion, enabling them to get the look in just seconds. Business Advice met co-founder Moeez Ali to find out some more.

Combining the purposes of Pinterest and Instagram, solely for the world of fashion, Comb allows users to search through millions of products and thousands of brands for that perfect item of clothing or accessory, all within one place. Via the app, users can gain inspiration from their favourite fashion bloggers, stylists and celebrities, creating a personalised newsfeed of daily items.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

We are Comb, a mobile fashion app that aims to inspire the search and discovery of fashion items. Using image recognition, users can take and upload photos of items they’re looking for and find similar results within seconds. With over two million products from over one thousand brands, ranging from high street to high end, Comb has everything, all in one place.

(2) How long have you been around for?

Comb officially launched in July 2015, whilst the concept itself originated from the start of 2015.

(3) How do you make money?

Comb makes money in three ways:

• Cost-Per-Click (CPC)
• Commission on sales
• Advertising

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

Comb focuses on a tailored approach, so that each user gets a personalised experience relevant to them. Add into the mix the volume of products from the variety of brands available, and Comb literally has something for everyone. At present, other shopping apps focus on a section of the market – either high-end or high street – but no app has everything in one place.

With consumers becoming more savvy and open-minded when it comes to brands, it is critical to provide variety and personalisation. When you visit any retailer’s website, you’ll get the same exact experience as anyone else. With Comb, because the feeds are tailored to each users’ preferences, they see what they want to see, immediately.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Doing extensive and thorough research about the state of the market. We researched over 100 e-commerce/mobile shopping businesses in the US and identified the target markets, whether or not the businesses had funding, who the funders were, what the progress in achieving funding was and we identified common themes, which really helped us shape Comb.

From there, we were able to build a foundation of what Comb needed to be, and as a result, we were able to plan ahead.

(6) What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

Getting 40,000 downloads whilst having minimal funding and limited knowledge/experience in the fashion app space.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

In short, we’ve had many setbacks along the way. They’ve ranged from suppliers not meeting deadlines, to delays in investment, to legal disputes. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have a great team that works together incredibly well, and equally as important, having a great external support network of friends and family.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Either managing Comb, having built it into a leading platform for fashion search and discovery, or having sold Comb to a larger brand wanting to enter this space.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Prepare. Prepare to work the hardest you’ve ever worked, be the most committed you’ve ever been (more than you would be to a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife) and prepare to be knocked back repeatedly. You can prepare by ensuring you have a good support network in place and are making sensible decisions when it comes to choosing where you work from.

Your surroundings can have an invaluable effect on your business. It is a huge help that the co-working space we work out of, Bathtub 2 Boardroom, provides extensive amounts of support where possible, and if it’s something that can’t be helped with directly, the management have always come through with alternative suggestions.

Do your research thoroughly. Research whether or not your potential business name is trademarked. We tried to take shortcuts by saving money so we didn’t have to spend it on lawyers and accountants, but those are two areas that you should absolutely not neglect.

And finally, always be nice, friendly and helpful – sometimes it’s tough to bite your tongue, but a good reputation is far more valuable than 30 seconds of feeling vindicated by coming up with some witty or defensive retort.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Founder of Net-A-Porter Natalie Massenet, who she pioneered the concept of shopping online (in fashion) and managed to build a multimillion-pound business over the course of a decade, but executed staying relevant and evolving with technology perfectly.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick – maybe not a hero of ours in the sense that he is known to be quite brash and sometimes not the politest of people, but his relentlessness and ambition to create what he has is awe inspiring. Taxi apps were commonplace before Uber came along, but he showed that if you nail the branding, user interface and design, it doesn’t matter if the market is saturated, as it’s all about execution, vision and character.

Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. He is the epitome of the “less is more” and “simplicity is key” mentality. We both have design backgrounds, so Systrom is especially “heroic” for Comb, as Systrom was by no means anywhere near being a “first-mover” in his industry, and similar to Uber, Instagram was all about good design. Additionally, Instagram was partially born out of Systrom’s love for photography, so it shows that if you try to create something based on something you love, and add the right character to it, as opposed to creating something to get rich, it’s easier to be passionate and make it successful.

Finally, founder of Whatsapp Jan Koum – a classic rags to riches story, he went from buying food stamps to being bought for $19bn by Facebook. Koum created a product that billions now use and there isn’t a shred of advertising in sight. Whatsapp is a product purely for the modern consumer.

“It’s important to have a vision of where you want to be.” Read Design for Me founder Emily Barnes’s startup story here.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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