Thread, the high-growth London fashion start-up which provides a free online personal styling service for men, is eyeing international expansion after securing over £4m in funding.
Kieran O’Neill co-founded Thread back in 2012 In a bid to make it easier for men to garner fashion advice without the cost of hiring a personal stylist.
When signing up, customers complete a short questionnaire and upload photos of themselves on the Thread website in order to create an account.
They are then paired with a stylist who reviews their information and uses Thread’s proprietary algorithm to sort through thousands of items to create the best outfits.
Signing into their Thread account is then like walking into a store where everything is in their size, budget, sorted by their favourite brands, and approved by a stylist.
“Thread was founded on the desire to find a solution to a personal problem,” Kieran told BQ, “I wanted to dress well, but spending a Saturday afternoon on Oxford Street was my idea of hell, and the sheer amount of options online was overwhelming. I thought shopping should be much simpler, and Thread was born.”
After just four years in business, Thread now works with high street brands ranging from M&S to Converse, Paul Smith and Burberry and boasts over 425,000 users.
In terms of its headcount, Thread also has 35 full-time employees, having tripled in size from 12 just two years ago, and recently closed a £4m funding round.
“Our main priority is to continue refining the Thread experience and getting it right for our UK customers,” Kieran added.
“We track our customer experience metrics obsessively and it’s a never-ending task, but we’ve made lots of progress in the three months since our last round of funding.
“The next two years we’re looking to continue to refine the Thread experience, grow the business in the UK and also begin to look abroad and plan our international expansion.
“We think that guys all over the world want to dress well, but don’t particularly like shopping, so there’s an opportunity to help these guys out in lots of countries. We’ll work out the most efficient plan to do this!”
Thread’s plans to expand into overseas markets are being supported by its newest investors who joined the company’s board following their latest funding round.
These include some pretty big names such as Andrew Jennings (former president of Saks 5th Avenue), Edgar Bronfman Jr. (former owner of Warner Music), Guy Hipwell (former head of online at Harrods and Liberty) and Shakil Kahn (founding investor in Spotify).
Kieran said: “Our angel investors have been tremendously helpful to us in lots of ways. They’re all at the top of their fields and their advice and introductions have been invaluable.
“We meet with them for periodic updates and when I’m looking for specific advice, I talk to whomever is most knowledgeable about my query and this is always hugely beneficial - especially when we’ve hit various decision-making points as a company.”
Kieran’s top three tips for entrepreneurs looking to emulate his success are as follows:
Work with the right people
It’s a good idea to try to have all the core skills your business will need in your founding team. If you are launching a new brand and you need engineering and production skills, try and make sure you have an engineer and someone with experience in production. Otherwise, you’ll have to outsource and that person won’t have the same motivation and it will cost you more money.
Work out what it is you aredoing that is different and be clear about this goal
A lot of times I’ve seen people get really excited about an idea that isn’t entirely thought through yet. Ask yourself why it is different and make that the core of the business, rather than making the concept too complex and trying to do too much at once. It’s really important to be crystal clear and know what it is that will make your business work and be new.
Don’t over-think, just get started
There is a really interesting concept in the tech world called “minimum viable product”, which is where you figure out the crux of what you’re doing and create the quickest possible version to get started. We applied this concept to Thread when it first launched because it would have taken lots of work to develop the algorithm, so we actually had a stylist behind the scenes doing it manually. It meant we could test the concept, make some learnings quickly, and correct those in days rather than months. It helps to fake the parts that are really hard to scale at first.