New York Fashion Tech Lab is a new accelerator for start-ups in the fashion industry.
This story first appeared in the April 1, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The accelerator is a collaborative effort between major fashion retailers and serial technology entrepreneurs. What’s different about this accelerator is that it’s funded mostly by retailers, whereas other accelerators tend to be funded by venture capital firms looking to get a return on their investment, according to Lisa Morales-Hellebo, founder and executive director of NYFTL. There is some backing from VCs, such as Springboard Enterprises and the Partnership Fund for New York City, specific for running the back-office operations. The purpose of NYFTL is to pair fashion-tech start-ups with mentors from sponsor firms such as Ann Inc., the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., J. Crew Group Inc., Kate Spade & Co., Macy’s Inc. and the Ralph Lauren Corp.
“We’re looking for entrepreneurs who have innovative technology solutions that can address the needs of the fashion and retail industry, including technologies from other sectors that can be redirected to fashion and retail,” said Kay Koplovitz, cochair of NYFTL, chairman of Springboard Enterprises and board member of Kate Spade & Co.
The incubator is currently holding an open application period with an April 4 deadline for firms working in such areas as 3-D printing, business intelligence, Fit-Tech and merchandising. The sponsor firms are part of the vetting process and will help determine which applicant firms get mentoring through the incubator. These participating firms also have a say in which firms they are willing to mentor with, and they can mentor as many firms as they choose to, according to Morales-Hellebo. About 10 to 12 firms will be selected for an interview set for April 17, in which these candidates will meet with a c-level executive at the participating fashion firms. The 12-week incubator program is scheduled to start on April 29.
The demo day is set for July 25, when the mentored firms will have the ability to present to potential investors.