June 9th, 2015
A week after it was announced that online fashion and shopping platform Obsessory was in the semi-finals of Virgin Media’s ‘#VOOM: Pitch To Rich 2015’ competition, there seems to be no stopping it in its race to the finish line.
With an impressive initial pitch and over 1,500 online votes, Obsessory reached the top ten in the ‘Grow’ category out of 75 shortlisted companies. It has now outperformed most of its competition with day-on-day voting from the public, keeping it consistently in the top 3. With a whopping 5500 votes till date and counting, Obsessory’s online and offline campaigns has brought in an outpouring of support for a concept that the people seem to be ready for.
The competition is far from over, though. The category is the most competitive of all, with the most experienced entrants and a diverse array of companies and business models. The next stage of the competition will see the semi-finalists cut down to just three finalists. The semi-finalists were whittled down from the top 250 pitches which received the most public votes since the competition launched in March. In total, over 2,500 pitches were submitted and over 550,000 votes cast, in the first round.
People now have until June 16th to vote for their favourite pitch from the list of Semi-Finalists, whose ideas range from food, finance, extreme sports and social initiatives. The top three contestants in each category will then pitch their business ideas, at the live Finale on June 26th, to Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Media Business Managing Director Peter Kelly and their panel of judges: Jon Oringer, Jo Malone, Justine Roberts and David Gandy. The winners will each win a slice of the £1 million prize fund up for grabs.
Obsessory provides women’s and men’s fashion, shoes, handbags and accessories from more than 100 international retailers. It acts as an online shop window for brands to promote their fashions to a wider UK audience, and for customers to find even more choice online. The site currently has listings for more than a million products, and users can track price drops, availability and special offers on each item.
The site keeps tabs on changes in pricing, with email alerts to show customers when to get the best deals on the fashions they love. It also tracks new arrivals, restocking and sales promotions.
In a first for online fashion retail, Obsessory lets users find items by similarity using a new built-in search engine. The company uses data to bring fashionistas a ‘personal shopper’ experience on an intuitive and simple web platform. Algorithms behind the site learn what customers prefer, tailoring search results to be even more custom-made than the clothes. It’s also possible to mix and match items to create the perfect outfit online – and then to buy the whole ensemble with one click.
Voting for the next stage of the competition is open now. And until June 16th, it’s raining fashion gifts for all voters, with Obsessory giving away daily gift vouchers and also a designer product as a grand prize. One lucky voter also stands the chance to win a cash prize of £10,000 from Virgin Media. All the users need to do is vote for Obsessory and provide a screenshot as proof. To enter the contest, visit obsessory.com/pitchtorich and click on the ‘Vote Now’ button.
Notes to Editors
Obsessory was founded in 2012 with the vision to make online shopping quick, pleasant and painless. The web and mobile platform helps shoppers search for and track items and their prices across retailers and brands. It aims to be the virtual stylist for busy people, continuously refining search results and presenting the user with the most relevant selection of items and trends. The team also generates original editorial content for the site, including pictures, curated fashion trend lists and blog posts.
Obsessory aims to be the platform where end users, fashion influencers and sellers (brands and merchants) come together in a symbiotic, unified way, and where users enjoy access to millions of products. The user experience is enriched by smart text-mining algorithms to enable a long-tail search (such as for a ‘red backless kimono top’ or a ‘long-sleeved snake-skinned bodycon dress’) to buy or put on their wishlists, favourites, and by the ability to follow brands or products. Obsessory’s smart algorithms and analytics help fine-tune search results based on user behaviour, and at the same time the site uses this intelligence to provide recommendations. The cross-border, cross-brand buying behaviour shown is used to analyse and segment the users, to provide better recommendations and send predictive consumer analytics to merchants. This in turn can help sellers on Obsessory better position their products in their markets.
The business model is based on affiliate revenues and various subscription-based services to businesses including data enrichment and revenue-sharing platforms with fashion influencers.
The company is based in London with overseas development centres. The software engineering team consists of big data experts, data scientists and machine learning experts to underpin the site’s capabilities. Obsessory already holds a number of trademarks for the technologies it uses, and is in the process of filing for a number of patents related to data structures and algorithms.
Jay Rao holds an MS in math and MBA in Finance. His passion for solving complex problems involving cutting edge math and technology comes from his past life in the investment banking world, where he traded equities, fx and structured products and later managed several multi-million pound projects in the city. He loves cycling and technology.
Farnoush Mirmoeini holds a BASc and MASc in electrical engineering from the University of British Columbia, and an MBA from University of Michigan and LBS. She has work experience in quantitative analytics and derivative pricing in a venture-backed startup, as well as with global banks in the UK and Canada. She was born a fashionista and loves shopping.
The three competition categories are:
Start-up: for exciting new businesses with huge potential.
The winner gets £150,000 marketing support plus mentoring and help from Virgin StartUp’s professional business advisers for a year. Two runners-up receive £50,000 marketing support.
New Things: for big new ideas with the capacity to disrupt.
The winner gets £50,000 cash towards development, plus mentoring from Virgin’s Investment Team. Two runners-up receive £10,000 each towards development.
Grow: for existing businesses that are ready to go big-time.
The winner gets £250,000 marketing support, and two runners-up receive £100,000 marketing support.
All three category winners will also receive a full internet and fixed and mobile voice package from Virgin Media Business for 12 months, unlimited travel on Virgin Trains for 12 months, a place on the Accelerator Network programme (www.theacceleratornetwork.com/), a free package of pro bono advice from the ICAEW Business Advice Service (www.businessadviceserviceblog.com) and a membership to the not-for-profit private members club at The House of St Barnabas (www.hosb.org.uk).