HBS has contributed immensely to the burgeoning fashion start-up scene. But the vast majority of fashion start-ups are focused on innovative new selling strategies (Gilt famously built its business model around flash sales). In contrast, LookMazing focuses on the curation and expression of personal fashion styles, and enables fashion discovery through social networking.
I sat down with Doris Lin, the founder and CEO of LookMazing, to learn more.
Q: Given your pre-HBS experience in finance, what made you want to be an entrepreneur?
A: Finance equipped me with skills to evaluate a business model or idea, but it never excited me as much as entrepreneurship. I always admired entrepreneurs for their ability to create something new to improve society, but had been too scared to take the “leap” until I came to HBS. I have always wanted to combine my two main passions: fashion and technology, but did not feel the time was right – until now.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of LookMazing?
A: As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I loved people watching. Whether it was in class or at Sproul Plaza, I enjoyed admiring people’s fashion. Whenever I saw an interesting outfit though, I found it difficult to approach that person even more so if she was just an acquaintance; there is a social stigma around asking about a person’s style. Thus, I wanted to create an online platform to act as a broker for these types of interactions. For example, if you like my style, you can see what I’m wearing and buy the same or similar pieces instantly, without having any direct communication with me.
Q: In your words, what is LookMazing?
A: LookMazing serves two purposes. First, it is a place to discover and admire the looks of your friends. Our platform combines Facebook and Pinterest functionality to provide a seamless and simple way to share your style. Upload a photo, tag the items you’re wearing, and share the look with your friends. Second, LookMazing immediately connects an inspiration to the purchase by allowing you to click-to-buy online any of items featured in the looks. LookMazing’s users can also peruse other members’ closets to create a wishlist of coveted items and discover new ways to style items they currently own.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I had a technical foundation as a Computer Science major at Berkeley, which helped me overcome obstacles typically associated with a tech startup. I also met my technical co-founder during undergrad and had been discussing this idea before HBS. At HBS, I struggled to formulate a clear action plan but the HBS Business Plan competition really forced me to flesh out my idea. The feedback I received from that competition gave me the confidence to focus on my startup over the summer and allowed me to bring LookMazing to where it is today.
Q: A lot of our classmates left HBS after RC year to focus on their startups. Why did you choose to stay?
A: One of the biggest reasons I decided to stay is because of the advice and insights I get from my friends, classmates, and professors. For example, I have been able to use my startup as the topic of discussion in class; getting smart (and free) advice from professors and classmates is invaluable. Many of the entrepreneurship classes have also given me great ideas for my business. Lastly, given LookMazing’s focus on sharing everyday looks, HBS is also a great place to find models – everyone looks so good all the time!
Q: What EC classes would you recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurs interested in tech startups?
A: Online Economy, Launching Tech Ventures, and Competing with Social Networks (Professor Piskorski is also a LookMazing model!) were all great classes that gave me concrete skills and frameworks that I could apply to my tech business. More broadly, Founders’ Dilemmas (figuring out if you are King or Rich) is helpful for people launching a startup, not just a tech startup.