Founders · Fashion

What is the best approach to attract talent for a fashion tech startup?

Melíssa Alexandría Rodríguez

February 9th, 2015

In recent, I have been networking to find the right talent and or co-founding team, but ultimately developers shy away from fashion tech. I would like to better understand what would ultimately attract developers to a fashion tech start-up? 

Lalit Sarna Business & Technology Leader

February 10th, 2015

@Danny and others have made some great points. 

It's like dating both sides need to convince each other that they are a good fit.

When I am building a team, the question I usually ask my self is : 

"Why would someone take a bet on me?" 

In my experience, the best founding teams have shared conviction in the idea and strong faith in their co-founders ability to create value. 

For tech companies, non tech co founders have to get creative to prove their value to the venture, especially in early days. 

Here are some of the ways that have worked for my non tech peers in the past

  • Passionate Janitor: I think this is the role for every non coding founder, your number 1 job should be to remove obstacles for your team.  
  • Customer development : Put in the ground work to get customer input, validation through out the process. 
  • Design specs : Mock-ups, design documents, any thing that shows that you have done more than just think about the idea. This develops confidence in your commitment to the idea and inspires passion in others. 
  • Non tech MVPS : For my last venture, our MVP was a landing pages + FB ads. We were able to build confidence in the need for our product, the customer segment and distribution strategy, all before writing a single line of code. Having quantifiable data goes along way in getting a developers attention. 
  • Outsourced proof of concept: I am not a fan of outsourced product development, however it can be a great way to get a cheap proof of concept done. Having something that you can play with goes a long way to rally support around your idea. 

Lawrence Lerner Digitalization and Transformation Coach

February 9th, 2015

First congratulations on starting your own company. It puts you in the 1%. 

Developers, like most technical people like to build cool things.  We want to push the envelope on technology and make it do new things in new ways for people/companies.

Can you share the cool things that your company will do? It help to craft the story to attract the talent you'll need.

Danny Sung

February 10th, 2015

As a developer, here's some of the things I'd look for in a startup:
  • Does the business make sense?
  • Is it a field that interests me?
  • How much creative freedom will I have?
  • Is the compensation worth it?
  • Will I have any input in the direction of the company?
Not all developers care about all of these things; I think some are more tech focused than others. Also, I suspect fashion isn't always considered very high tech, so developers may shy away from that.

Personally, I've worked in a number of very technical industries and have had the opposite problem where I've had a bit of a hard time trying to find people needing a good developer in more creative fields.

Kevin Goldstein IT

February 10th, 2015

I would add that, especially in small environments, developers want to be part of the overall team. They want to be able to listen and in some cases participate in non-technical discussions, at least to get their point of view out there. One of the most unattractive qualities ( I think already touched on by Steve ) is that many times developers and technical operations people are expected to sit in a dark room and emerge with a beta project while the rest of the company gets to build the experience. 

Steven Schkolne Computer Scientist on a Mission

February 9th, 2015

First off, good developers are hard to find. I hear many founders complain about this difficulty, so maybe fashion is not the issue. There are many fashion startups that have tech, so it must be possible, right?

Part of the issue may be the way you approach tech cofounders. I know from being approached that, a lot of the time, it just feels bad. It feels like people want to use me. They don't care what I think, they have something, they think it's amazing, and they know exactly how it should work and what the product should be. Like they want to use me for my ability to execute, but don't care for my insight.

Any technical cofounder you would want to have, probably knows what the right product looks like better than you. (you however probably know the market better - your collective challenge is to bring the two together ;).

I'm venting a bit here -- and, trust me, I've heard form people on the other side of the coin and it can feel equally awkward. Potential startup devs have all kinds of issues and things. So I think, in general, it's a difficult chasm to cross and - well, you gotta keep on persevering! But reaching out to techies as partners, listening to what they want to do, and trying to make the venture a hybrid of your two wills combined will certainly make it easier. Tell them you have a problem. Challenge them to solve it, and watch their eyes light up.

Melíssa Alexandría Rodríguez

February 10th, 2015

Thank you everyone for the valuable feedback!

@Lawrence, Arun & Alex. Thank you!

@ Hemanth Great point in regards to "where". From my own experience, the tech meet-up environment tends to be much like "speed dating" and difficult for anyone to maintain focus. I will have to re-focus on finding the best networking events.  

@Steve & Kevin: I completely agree as I have experienced this myself as a designer of digital, soft-line and hard-line products. I have spent the majority of my career decoding marketing briefs and producing products in a dark design lab without having the opportunity to participate or giving input to build the best product for the brands consumer. The KEY is partnership! My principles are embbeded in "design thinking" and the paradigm. As a designer or all products, it is imperative to learn our disciplines from all facets and manage it well for competitive advantage. Understanding how design affects the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit), while enriching our health, productivity, and efficiency without creating disruptions between us and ecosystems around the world. I believe the co-founding team should value these principles as well.

@ danny & Lalit :Awesome insight!! 

@Arpit : Thank you for the reminder to look into Alumni and discussion forums


Alex Horoshkevich CEO at / Looking for co-founder CTO

February 9th, 2015

Really good question! What about your idea? I also have a project related to tech fashion - a virtual 3D fitting room. I've found out that it's not so easy to find developer. It demands a good presentation, I think, and be attractive. You have so add a real value proposition to your project and pitch, pitch, pitch.
Hope you'll find your co-founder


Arpit Gupta CTO @ AA Creator|Mentor ML|IoT|Cloud|Analytics|SDDC

February 10th, 2015

Already some good valuable suggestions have been made. I'd add our experience when scaling
We roped in our past colleagues and college mates. Its good to be part of industry that is experiencing hyper growth i.e Big Data, Cloud and ML
Some open source forums stackoverflow, quora, Github and likes can be good places to find some founding employees
It helps if pay is good weather its upfront or in the form of equity

Arun Joshi President / CEO Visulon Inc.

February 9th, 2015

We started building an Enterprise SaaS cloud based solutions platform 2.5 years ago. It is hard work.
We are still boot strapping it. we have now 5 clients and 18 people in the team,
We believe that technology will play key role in tomorrow's fashion / outdoor industry.
Good luck..


Hemanth Satyanarayana MIT TR35 Innovator | CEO of Imaginate | Mixed Reality Expert

February 9th, 2015

Firstly, as Lawrence mentioned, congratulations on the startup. 

With respect to attracting talent to the startup, in my opinion, it is about the vision that the founder is able to showcase to the talent alongside with the perceived reality and not particularly the sector that the startup is operating in. Fashion is the coolest sector other than healthcare that I can think of that could be pitched to an audience. Of course YMMV. It depends upon the people that you talk to and the places where you are searching for talent. I would suggest remove the fashion tag from your question and look for answers from where you are.

Disclaimer: I run a fashion tech startup in the virtual fitting room space.