Korean startup IMEMINE CEO Iksoo Park saw the problem that many fashion e-commerce companies were facing because of the increasing costs of returned items while working for an AR-based virtual fitting simulation company. He understood that the issue of ‘returning’ items is problematic for both consumers and companies. Iksoo decided to work on resolving the issue by developing ‘SizeMine’, an AI-based measurement solution.
SizeMine app can measure size with just one picture using a smartphone. The AI algorithms allows customers to purchase clothes that fit their size and eventually reduce the return rate. Iksoo believes it is a win-win situation as customers get the perfect size clothes and e-commerce companies reduce the cost for returns. Sizemine is expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2021.
Iksoo Park spoke to koreatechdesk.com about his business idea, challenges for the startup, and future goals.
1. Please tell me about your background and what motivated you to get started with your company?
I have experience in planning and supervising AR-based virtual fitting simulation in my previous company. During the planning process, I had a meeting with about 100 large e-commerce malls such as G-market and Auction in Korea. And these companies found that increased return costs would soon lead to a decrease in profits. So that they were increasing their investment in items to address them.
I decided to develop a solution to address these issues. The solution has led to the idea of measuring the customer’s size information.
I started the company because I thought I could naturally reduce the size-related return rate if accurate size information was available.
2. What is your current main product and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Currently, our main product is ‘SizeMine’, an AI-based measurement solution. This has the advantage of being simple and inexpensive to use, unlike conventional size measurement technology.
Competitors are big data-based global companies such as Amazon, ZOZOSuit, and My Size ID, and I am confident that personalized fashion product recommendation systems will become a trend in the fashion market in the future. We are confident that we will be able to preoccupy the size matching system before global companies with the advantage that it is easy and easy for anyone to use.
3. What is the market opportunity for your product?
It’s not a big deal if you think the return issue is nothing, but in fact, the return issue is a problem for both consumers and sellers. Consumers who purchase clothes online cannot touch and try them on. So if the size does not fit after delivery, they will have to return them. Sellers also dispose of most of the returned clothes due to high costs such as washing, repairing, and CS expenses. These discarded clothes also have a big impact on environmental pollution.
Let me give you an example with Amazon of the seriousness of this problem. Fashion field is the biggest sales force in Amazon. Amazon’s return in 2019 was $210 billion. Even 34% of these were returns based on size, fit, and color differences.
We aim to reduce the return rate by 10% of this because even a small reduction in these returns will make a big profit on the e-commerce market.
4. What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Let talk about the business model now. First, our target, a B2B market, dramatically lowers the return rate of the e-commerce fashion market. Therefore, the biggest advantage of IMEMINE is its low cost, ease of use, and the production of content with more than 95% accuracy. We will also provide visual contents by combining AI technology and virtual fitting technology.
Also, our solution is an easy item to enter the global market. The reason is that customized clothing services are becoming a trend in the e-commerce market.
5. Please tell me more about your founding team.
Those who have worked in the fashion field for more than 20 years and those who have a lot of related development experience as a doctor in the Artificial Intelligence field combined to form a team.
6. How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Although our company has not received investment yet, SizeMine has recently completed prototype-level development. It aims to release a commercial version in March next year and requires operating funds to enter the global market and secure IP.
We have been selected for a total of 6 government support projects in Korea and received support for the project.
7. What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Although it was difficult to attract investment due to weak figures such as sales performance, investment companies are showing a lot of interest as we are about to commercialize SizeMine. It is currently in talks with about 10 domestic investors and is in talks with overseas investors such as China, Austria, and Myanmar.
And if I start again, I would have carried out the business with the goal of global market rather than domestic market.
8. What are your milestones for the next round? and what are your goals for the future?
Our goal is to become a visual data-based AI supplier. Through this, the goal is to provide customer information in the non-face-to-face fashion market by measuring the size of people around the world.
9. How have you attracted users and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
We will supply stable solutions through local partners. For example, we currently have a domestic distributor contract with a company that provides ERP to about 1,500 fashion malls in Korea. Also, we are discussing with China’s Handu Group, which has 1,600 collaboration companies. It is expected that we will be able to develop stable marketing.
10. What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
I think the failure factor of startups is to have a complacent idea that sales will explode when commercialized.
To solve this problem, we have secured a stable source of demand by signing a distributor contract with a company that owns more than 500 e-commerce fashion malls as a member company. In addition, we are developing markets for overseas markets through local policies and cooperation projects with local fashion companies.
11. How do you plan to expand globally?
We are developing our business through demonstration day of overseas investment and related field companies, and we are making inroads into overseas markets through association in related associations.
From now on, we will promote the market through exhibitions such as MWC or SWSX and have meetings with foreign buyers.
12. How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
The growth of the non-face-to-face market caused by COVID-19 has led to the growth of online shopping malls. However, there is a limit in the online market in the fashion market where you have to try it on, touch it, and feel the texture when purchasing clothes. By providing a size-based virtual fitting, the company can establish itself as a blue ocean solution by providing size verification, presentation of the texture of clothing, and wearing virtual accessories.
13. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A global investor once told me that it is the most optimized item for future.
14. What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Forrest Gump – I was very impressed by his positive attitude in overcoming adversity.
15. How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
The market is showing positive responses as the commercial version is about to be released. I think it’s my current motivation to see these reactions.
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