Rebecca and Uri Minkoff revealed at the National Retail Federation Expo Tuesday that they have teamed with Quotidian Ventures for the first domestic fashion technology venture capital fund focused on early-stage investments in technology, with applications in e-commerce, fashion and retail.
Speaking on a panel titled “The Rebirth of Retail, and the Convergence of Online and Offline Technology,” Pedro Torres-Mackie, founder and managing director of Quotidian Ventures, a New York-based seed-stage venture firm, said he and the Minkoffs plan to invest in six to eight companies a year. The panel was moderated by Elizabeth Holmes, senior style reporter and columnist for The Wall Street Journal.
Ever since Minkoff opened its “store of the future” concept in 2014, the brother-sister team has been approached by large technology companies, as well as start-ups with new technologies. This past season, Rebecca Minkoff appeared on the show: “Project Runway: Fashion Start-up,” and through that experience, companies started approaching her. The Minkoffs began talking with Torres-Mackie a few years ago about what they could do together to create an outlet and opportunity for these emerging start-ups “with amazing technology” that wanted to go into the fashion and retail space.
Uri Minkoff, cofounder and president, said by allowing start-ups to work with them as a brand, they could become more professional and learn about how to price their product and its purpose, and it could serve as a great launching pad to other firms. The partners’ first investment is called 42 Technologies, which Minkoff has been using in-house for the past year and turns raw point-of-sale data into actionable insights for brick-and-mortar businesses. Forty-two Technologies is headed by Cathy Han, chief executive officer and cofounder.
Uri Minkoff described his company’s “connected stores” which feature smart fitting rooms. “When you walk into the fitting room, everything you brought in is magically on the wall. You can order things to be brought to the fitting room and all communication is done via touch, and you can change the lighting to what the end user scenario should be.” He said the company also launched self-check out at its Greene Street store, so a person can be private and not have to wait in line.
Rebecca Minkoff, cofounder and designer, is excited about the partnership because she feels more women need to be involved inScience, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. “There are not enough female engineers, female coders, females working in the tech space to bring their user experience to the conversation when it comes to design. The opportunities to invest in a company that is really developing technologies is what excites me the most,” she added.
What appealed to Torres-Mackie was partnering with domain experts who know the fashion industry as well as software. He said the big opportunity over the next 10 to 20 years is the intersection of software and virtual reality, or software and artificial intelligence. “All these technologies intersecting with fashion are superinteresting. That’s where the opportunity is.”
Uri Minkoff said retailers have gone to market the last 100 years the same way, and things haven’t really changed until the last 10 or 15 years. “We’re now at the beginning of this total sea change of activity. When you think of the idea of a person in Iowa who will be shopping at Bergdorf Goodman through virtual reality headsets in a couple of years, with a blogger/influencer guiding her process. There are such radical, profound shifts that are about to happen, and for us, it’s about discovering who are those talents and next emerging stars who have the best ideas of how to change the world, and we can really leverage working with them through Pedro’s background and our background and give them an audience, give them a voice, give them some money and give them a platform.”