How did you develop the idea for Smartzer?
The idea evolved from a video production company I was working on. The initial notion was to build a ‘Shoppable Netflix’ app, which then evolved into building a technology solution that any brand can use to make their video content interactive and shoppable.
What challenges did you face early on and how did you navigate them?
When I started working on Smartzer, I knew absolutely nothing about technology, which made it challenging to find a developer to build a prototype of the early product idea. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I decided to physically go to the California Institute of Technology, with this being one of the top institutions for technical talent. I spoke with a few professors who then referred me to select alumni, and I actually ended up finding our first technical team member this way.
Hiring expert talent can be daunting but it sounds like you found a great solution! What are your three best tips for building a strong team in the tech industry?
- Resumes aren’t everything!
The personalities and ambitions of the team members are more important than the details on their resumes. We have a young team of individuals who are extremely motivated and willing to learn, creating an environment where we can quickly pick up on new things and steer the business and product in the right direction.
- Transparency is critical.
Complete transparency is the best way to build a strong team. There have been several occasions where we were in a very tough position financially, but because each team member was aware of the situation, we were able to work harder together to resolve the situation. In addition, because I am a single founder, sharing things with the team reduces the pressure and helps us come up with better ways to tackle different issues.
- Motivate, motivate, motivate!
Keep the team motivated and make everyone feel rewarded for their efforts in various ways, which in a startup often can’t be in the form of money.
How did your previous career prepare you for entrepreneurship?
I initially studied medicine…but while at University, I worked part-time on various TV shows and movies, including Harry Potter. This work in film sparked my interest in the creative industries, so I decided to change direction and study fashion design and later video production! When I moved to Los Angeles, I had little success finding a job in production. Once I recognized the vast talent pool alongside extremely limited job opportunities, I decided to set up a video production company instead. So, for me, starting a business almost happened by accident.
It is interesting to look back and see how all my different career experiences have contributed to the business I am working on now.
All my different career experiences have contributed to the business I am working on now.
Since starting Smartzer, how have fashion industry trends shaped your business and product offering?
We have seen various trends like “see now, buy now” emerge along with a general shift of consumers wanting to shop everything immediately. With video serving as one of the main tools to showcase new collections, implementing shoppable video has further enabled see now, buy now – giving consumers more access to what they want!
On the flipside, there are still many brands who don’t immediately sell the items. They use interactive videos to collect data, such as which products are clicked on the most, to help predict demand. Therefore, we’ve had to build a product which can be easily adapted for different uses to meet the needs of our clients.
Why is simplifying the consumer journey so important?
Consumers expect to access everything immediately…so simplicity is everything! If they cannot do so, they will abandon their initial interest very quickly.
The keys to successfully engaging retail consumers…
- Make experiences consistent!
Consumer journeys can be very complicated with several interactions taking place across different devices which can then lead to a purchase. Making these experiences consistent is very important.
- Brick and mortar retail still matters.
Despite the sharp growth in e-commerce, most retail sales still happen in physical stores. The e-commerce sites, however, are much more than just transactional platforms. Consumers use them to do research and find information prior to a purchase online or in-store.
- Your audience is always evolving.
Audiences can shift quickly. Many brands today begin main engagement within social media channels, which are then used to drive consumers to other destinations to complete a purchase. It is crucial for these brands to adapt to changes in audience and shopping habits to maximize the benefit of the product.
How do you initiate and grow relationships with major brands?
One of the best ways for us to initiate meaningful relationships with brands has been through programs like the New York Fashion Tech Lab and Lafayette Plug and Play, which bring startups and brands together. We also stay committed to delivering the best possible product quality and results, which have resulted in further client referrals from existing customers!
Stay committed to delivering the best possible product quality and results.
What is your advice for fellow women entrepreneurs entering the tech industry?
Before deciding to start a tech business, I was concerned with my own lack of a computer science background. However, this turned out to be an advantage, as I have been able to work with our development team to drive the product from a customer need and user experience perspective, without thinking about possible technical limitations.
What do you envision for the future of Smartzer?
My personal ambition is to build a high growth business that delivers value to our clients, with each team member genuinely enjoying being part of the journey of building the company.
What does #EmbraceAmbition mean to you?
Follow your passion. For me, that includes building companies or at least making something useful and other creative things such as pottery and drawing!