What happened when Nikki Durkin took 99dresses.com to Silicon Valley?
She’s got a new lease of life for her “infinite closet,” a curious offering for women’s insatiable fashion aspirations, besides access to, arguably, the world’s most exciting market.
“We’ve created crack for women,” Durkin, 20, has been telling the American press after three months of internship at YCombinator, arguably the world’s most famous startup accelerator.
99dresses got reams of press. Business Insider has listed it in The 25 Hot Silicon Valley Startups You Need To Watch; and Forbes has called it “The E-Commerce Fashion Startup Even Tech Guys Will Love.” Even the tech press like TechCrunch has covered the Australian startup with enormous potential.
The best thing since Pinterest?
Durkin’s two-year-old startup was among 60 companies that pitched at YCombinator’s Winter 2012 Demo Day, and won fair praise. 99dresses won the “Scobleizer Demo of the Day” award and 500 Startup’s George Kellerman named it in his top 10. Also, tech pundits Robert Scoble and Ben Parr (former editor at Mashable) named 99Dresses their favourite company to come out of YCombinator’s Winter program.
“I love it, it’s addictive as Pinterest,” said Krishna Vedati, an angel investor and serial entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay Area.
99Dresses is the wardrobe no woman has and every woman can have. It is planned to be a huge warehouse of fashionable dresses sparingly used and unwanted by their owners. Using virtual currency called buttons, women around the world can trade these dresses (and, in the future, accessories). In Australia, 99dresses attracted over 4,000 dresses to trade before it was shuttered.
There never has been a doubt that 99dresses can attract women in droves. The buttons were good to trade but, it couldn’t keep the servers running. 99dresses needed cash to keep the lights on. That is where YCombinator’s mentorship will have come in handy to Durkin.
“The last three months in Mountain View, California, have been at tremendous experience for me and the talented team we’ve assembled. We’ve been able to hone in on our offering to women all around the world, perfect our business model, and start marketing 99dresses.com,” said Durkin, whose first tilt at entrepreneurship was as a 15-year-old designer of T-shirts.
Durkin has yet to reveal a business model. Some reports say 99dresses will begin selling the tradable buttons at a $1 each. Regardless, she is ready to take a big stab at the American market, and expects funding on top of what YCombinator routinely pumps into startups it mentors. To start with, Durkin is eyeing universities and sororities, hoping that would be the demographic that will most share her sentiments.
Could 99dresses.com be the most exciting startup since, well, Pinterest? And Durkin the most exciting young woman entrepreneur Down Under, or for that matter, anywhere in the world?