SFFT’s Startup Spotlight goes to Israel with Brayola founder Orit Hashay! Brayola leverages crowdsourced feedback from women everywhere, to provide individual bra recommendations based on the bra you love to wear. Based out of Israel, this former venture capitalist turned entrepreneur sat down with us to share how crowdsourcing plus some special technology are disrupting the lingerie market with a unique approach.
1. You used to be a venture capitalist, what inspired you to launch Brayola?
Before I became an entrepreneur, my background was in software development. After launching a company of my own, I decided that I wanted to join a venture capital firm for a couple of years to learn how to build a big company. During my time at Carmel Ventures as an investment manager, I came up with the idea for Brayola after having difficulties shopping for the right bra. This experience inspired me to come up with a solution since I knew that many women all over the world had the same problem. I was at a good point after achieving my goal of working for almost two years, so I knew it was time to leave and fully devote myself to starting Brayola.
2. The lingerie space is heating up with new startups. Can you tell us what makes Brayola unique and different?
Brayola is taking a completely different approach: Brayola leverages its innovative women’s crowdsourcing technology to buy the perfect bra for its users. Our technology not only separates us from the pack, but it also has an important “side” effect that is slowly building–finding bras according to user taste. Brayola is generally built around the simple idea that you add your bra and we do the rest. With a strong community of users and a big database of bra DNA (cross-multi brands), Brayola is not only a bra fitting service, but also a discovery engine that helps each and every woman across all ages, sizes, and needs. We are an essential service that women need.
3. Lets chat about the business model for a minute. Brayola uses an affiliate model to generate revenue. What are the benefits and challenges of working with other sellers versus selling directly?
As of right now we are not working on the business model but focusing of building our user base. We’re less concerned with money and more interested in adding more value and benefits to our users. In fact, most sites we refer our members to purchase a new bra are not monetized. We currently use our affiliate program to give a full service experience and to direct women to specific bras.
4. Do you have any plans to partner with specific brands?
We work with over 300 different brands and have been approached by many companies. Again, at the moment this is not our focus, but we will certainly look to create partnerships in the future. In the meantime, the companies that work with us consistently update us with their latest styles and collections through catalogs and other communications.
5. Brayola has the opportunity to gather information on a lot of brands and customers. How will Brayola leverage this information?
With our multi-brand cross-matching and algorithm for crowdsourcing, we’re able to give recommendations to our users. This data that we’re collecting, coupled with the technology, is used to strengthen recommendations and learn what the user wants. Brayola is focused on the user experience, hence the layout of the site is a “feminine shopping experience” with lots of discovery tools.
6. Shifting to consumers: Brayola uses a crowdsource model to provide recommendations. What are some of the best ways women have been able to help each other?
Women love to think that they are unique when it comes to bra sizes, but that is not the case. There are women around the world like us with the same size, style, and color preferences. For this reason, women’s crowdsourcing is a powerful solution: we don’t just give you the right size, we give you the “perfect match” of similar users. We take the guesswork out for you and allow you to see what similar women have so you can use this information to find new styles. There are also certain women who are shy to go into stores because they have a particular issue (for example, mastectomy), so they are involved in an anonymous community to ease their online shopping.
7. The trend is to develop algorithms to provide recommendations based on data. Not to get too deep in Brayola’s future plans and secret sauce, but is this in the product roadmap?
Yes, we’re looking to use our algorithm to expand into other products for the future. We can’t reveal too much at this time, but we are looking to incorporate categories such as swimsuits and other products, at a later time.
8. One of the new challenges to the crowdsource model are advances in virtual dressing technology – these tools allow consumers to get very specific measurements of their own body. How do you think these changes will impact Brayola?
The way Brayola works is that users don’t need virtual dressing technology–it’s all about what they already have at home, which is better than any technology out there. On the other hand, Brayola will always be able to evolve with new technology to bring newness to our users.
9. Shifting gears to Brayola’s growth. You are based in Israel, but used globally. Can you share with us some idea of where your biggest growth areas are and how you see other parts of the world engaging with Brayola?
Brayola has grown globally without any effort because we’ve attracted users from around the world by word of mouth. Our main target is the United States and, as a success, most of our users are from the U.S. However, we do have plenty of women from European countries like Germany and the U.K. and also a large user base in places like Brazil. As an example, we find that we have a large user community in the U.K. because many brands are U.K. based, so naturally these companies attract the women who use them!
10. Brayola allows users to specify what they are looking for, e.g. sport/sexy, what have you learned from consumers about their greatest demand and issues they face in picking out a bra?
We’ve learned quite a bit, like the fact that women are very specific and know what they want. These women already have drawers at home filled with bras of similar style and taste, so with the way the algorithm works it’s already made easier for them if they’re looking for something special like a strapless bra. Another issue is choosing what size you need in a particular bra since sizes can vary between brands. We use our “perfect match” to help you figure out what size you would be based on what you already own and what similar women have. Also, everyone has different needs and what they look for in a bra, which is why we also set up an answers platform for women to be part of a community and ask questions to learn from each other.
11. I have to ask. As a former venture capitalist, how has that experience helped you? Is it easier to raise funding?
I wouldn’t use the word easier but has made the process more efficient. Now I know who are the right partners to meet with that I think will love Brayola story means the stage the industry the product etc. It all about focusing my efforts on smart money and not going all over the place, otherwise I would be wasting time with irrelevant VCs.
I also know how to speak their language and tell the story when I visit; I’ve honed my skills to build a good presentation because of what I did for two years.
12. Finally, what changes in the fashtech space excite you the most?
The most exciting thing for me is that there are more women entrepreneurs because the fashtech space is the market they know, therefore making this arena very attractive.