First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nick Clayton: Thankfully, my close friends, family, and I have all stayed healthy throughout these last few months.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Savitude
Nick Clayton: My interest in software development started at a young age. The first script I ever wrote automated the somewhat tedious task of mining in a Runescape game, and eventually, I was spending more time writing scripts for the game than playing it. Through my high-school robotics team, I was exposed to my first job writing firmware at a startup, and I have loved the startup life ever since. I have worked for several startups in computer vision, machine learning, and robotics spaces.
My current company, Savitude, arose out of an idea from my cofounder Camilla Olson. I have known Camilla for many years, I used to do musical theater with her son mark in my youth, and she reached out to me about the idea that became Savitude. Through her career first as a successful entrepreneur with predictive modeling companies in the biotech space and then as a fashion designer came to the idea that we could create a system to help serve not just the hourglass body shape commonly designed for but all body shapes. We put engineering principles together with fashion expertise and built Savitude.
How does Savitude innovate?
Nick Clayton: One of the strengths of Savitude is that we built our system with designers rather than just incorporating data into a cookie-cutter machine learning algorithm. With the powerful and flexible AI system, we built the Savitude Design Studio, enabling designers and merchandisers to creatively build collections that simultaneously “fit” their customer base and “get the assortment right” – reducing both returns and excess inventory. Its use generates improved margins, builds customer satisfaction and loyalty, while increasing job efficiency for your design and merchandising teams.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nick Clayton: We are a SaaS company and already have people distributed across the country, so we already had some systems in place for remote work, but the pandemic has cranked that into overdrive. Having a good channel for quick back and forth (we use slack) has been super important throughout. We have also instituted a virtual daily stand-up that helps keep everyone on track and aware of what everyone else is doing and helps some with that lost sense of connection that comes from meeting face to face.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nick Clayton: Deciding to pivot has been a difficult decision. We pivoted once super early on away from being a marketplace to a technology company, which was fairly easy. Our first product was a recommendation engine that could recommend outfits that would complement a shoppers’ body shape and proportion and provide some visual search capabilities. We had some good proof points there, including an 11.1% lift in sales in a national scale pilot, but we realized two things while we were doing it.
The first was that we weren’t really solving the problem we set out to solve, we could pull forward the best designs in an assortment for a particular shopper, but there weren’t any designs that were truly good for many body shapes.
The second was that the recommendation/personalization space is a densely saturated market. We realized that by taking our technology to the actual design process, we could better differentiate ourselves. We could better solve the problems we had set out to fix (and the market size is bigger as an added benefit). It’s tough to change direction like that even though our core technology has remained the same throughout. That adaptability though, is really key to the success of startups.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Savitude in the future?
Nick Clayton: I like to take my stress and use it as a motivator to get things done. If I look at a problem as a whole, it can seem completely overwhelming. “How am I ever going to get all this done?” is a question I have asked myself more than a few times. It’s important for me, when approaching anxiety, to first identify the problem that is causing it. Then, as much as I can, I like breaking the solution to the problem into steps. Its also really important for my stress levels to recognize what I can solve, what I need help from others to solve, and what simply can’t be solved. It’s good for my psyche to check off at least one step of a problem per day, and I try to break things down into steps that are achievable in at least one long day of working at it. I am a realist, and nothing in the future is certain, but we help solve so many fundamental problems for the industry that I believe Savitude will be successful and expand to help designers and shoppers and the industry as a whole to be more inclusive, less wasteful, and more efficient.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nick Clayton: We honestly believe that nobody does what we do; that said, it would be tremendously naive to assert we have no competitors. That said, I think a lot of those we might view as competition also have tremendous potential as partners. For example, 3D design technologies are a tool for product design and development. If for some reason, a company can only purchase one PD&D technology, it would be a competitor. Still, I think there is tremendous potential in taking the output from Savitude and feeding it into 3D allowing designers to get the best of both.
Your final thoughts
Nick Clayton: I think the fashion industry needs to change, and the pandemic is only accelerating that need. At Savitude, we are able to bring meaningful data throughout their entire product life-cycle intuitively. Data and analytics have reshaped so many industries. We want to make sure that it not only reshapes fashion but reshapes it for the better with more inclusivity, less waste.
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