Successfully completing a Kickstarter campaign has surely opened up some interesting doors. We were contacted by a VC company called LMarks about applying for a programme called Toppitch just before the summer. The programme is run jointly by LMarks and global fashion retailer Topshop. They had put together a programme for fashion tech start-ups and thought that we should apply. Knowing that Topshop has several great initiatives for young British designers, and that we share the same target groups, we were thrilled to get the chance to attend mentoring sessions with some of UK’s most respected retailers, brand strategists, buyers and designers.
So in mid-July Kristoffer and I packed our bags and flew to London. We shared a flat with some of the other participants whom had flown in from the US to participate (Luma Legacy and The Crated).
Not surprisingly we were all in rather different stages of development. Luma was preparing for their Kickstarter (look out for it – it should be going live in September), and The Crated already had a big team in New York working on their products. Not only did we get to meet a few Topshop executives, we also had some time with the London based hardware incubator called CRL and fashion tech writers like Fash & Mash and Dolly Jones from Condé Nast.
From our point of view we really got an enormous amount of input on matters in which we lack experience. We had some ideas about how to define a go-to-market strategy before going to London, but we definitely got to re-evaluate this after our Topshop sessions. My previous doubts about the benefits of co-operations with big retailers was somewhat reinforced as we gained more knowledge about their purchasing processes, and what it means to be one of 16 000 items in a store. Many Kickstarter hardware projects have faltered due to something called the retail chasm, and the solution to surviving this chasm isn’t being part of a huge retailer due to several factors (I’ll try to write some more about this later).
We also had some great discussions with the guys from CRL, especially on the moulding processes and the mechanical design possibilities. We would have appreciated some more hands on sessions with the hardware people but time was a bit scarce.
The pitching event was cancelled in the end, which we thought was a wise decision as it didn’t really make sense for any of the companies attending the programme. Going forward we will have a continued mentoring relationship with Topshop moving forward which will really be of benefit to us.
To summarize this whole experience, we had some really awesome meetings in London and gained input and feedback to what we are doing from some of UKs most talented people and we will continue to be guided by them going forward.