24 Minutes with Goxip's Juliette Gimenez and Chryseis Tan
Revolutionising your shopping needs
Ever saw Taylor Swift's ultra-cute #OOTD on Instagram and wished you could shop for a similar outfit but at the fraction of a price? You're in luck, because there's a new shopping app you can download that actually caters for the likes of you, and offers way more than that as well.
If you haven't heard of Goxip, here's the gist: It is essentially a "shoppable Instagram", in the words of CEO and co-founder Juliette Gimenez. You can search, shop, and discover fashion through celebrity style feeds and more. Crushing on your frenemy's chic shoes but refuse to ask where she got it from? Goxip lets you snap an image with your phone and offers a selection of similar products from local and international retailers.
We spoke to Gimenez and key investor Chryseis Tan on why Goxip stands out from other shopping apps, along with the evolution of shopping habits in this digital age:
How did the idea for Goxip come about?
Juliette Gimenez: It was one of those bathroom ideas I had—I was literally reading a magazine in the toilet, and I saw Jessica Alba wearing an Alexander McQueen leather jacket that was really nice. I couldn't afford it as it was quite expensive so I wanted something that was similar. I tried to Google it and browse through other websites but they didn't have that design from that particular season. So I told my co-founder [YC Lau], 'Why not create an app to find things with just an image?' And it is crucial that it has to be an image, not a keyword or anything else.
Why the name "Goxip"?
JG: We thought people would be more interested in celebrities and what they wear. We initially wanted to focus on using images of what celebs wore and making it easy for people who are inspired to buy something similar. But now this has grown to a wider range of content that isn't just celeb-centric. So I asked Chryseis if we should still use the name "Goxip", and she said yes we should, because the name is catchy and memorable as well.
What made you decide to invest in Goxip?
Chryseis Tan: I actually read about this online and really liked her idea, so I called her via Skype. For shoppers in Malaysia, we all love checking out our daily dose of fashion inspiration and what people are wearing. Not everyone has style or can pull off things easily, but all they need is to get inspired to do so. When I heard of Juliette's idea, I thought this would be good for the market here. So I flew her to Malaysia, and we decided to invest in Goxip. It didn't take that long for me to decide actually—it was after a few hours of speaking to her! My dad has also been very supportive with this endeavour.
How do you think Malaysian's shopping habits are like?
JG: Malaysian shoppers are really active online, even more so than Hong Kong shoppers. They actually check out the app twice as often as shoppers in Hong Kong. Malaysia's a big market for online shopping, and now that most people own smartphones, it just makes it easier to shop and browse online.
What makes Goxip different than other shopping apps?
JG: We like to think that we're a shoppable Instagram. People like to discover fashion through different platforms—initially it was magazines, then it was blogs, and now it's via Instagram. But the thing with Instagram is that it's not shoppable. And some bloggers don't really mention what they wear on Instagram as well, so you're still stuck with the same problem. So this was what we wanted to solve—anything that you see, we make it shoppable with a click. This is why we chose to go with image recognition for our app. There's too many kind of florals, biker jackets, peplum tops, and more in the world to discover, so this image recognition mechanism is something that we exclusively have to offer.
How long did it take to perfect this mechanism?
JG: It took us almost a year. We started about a year and a half ago now, and to make it work, we had to perfect the database too, from the number of merchants to the brands and products. Even if I had an excellent image recognition program, I wouldn't get good results if I don't have enough retailers. And if users don't get meaningful results, they won't want to use the app. The algorithm behind image recognition isn't new, but how you use it makes a difference. For clothes, it's really quite challenging. We needed to train the mechanism to differentiate arms from nude-coloured sleeves, for example. It's almost like an artificial intelligence. We partnered with a great AI research lab in Singapore to speed up the process behind this—it would've taken five years to train the data if not for them.
Do you have plans to expand to other markets instead of Southeast Asia?
JG: We are very accessible. We're not a localised app that differs according to countries. We're currently in nine countres: USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Thailand. But as a start, we're focusing in markets we know best, which are in Southeast Asia.
What are some of the challenges with managing and starting your own startup?
JG: Too many! We talked almost everyday about new problems, from people quitting to the app crashing and not getting the latest products from retailers. But the most difficult part about this was to convince all the retailers to get on board with us. To them, we're just like any other app and startup, and at the beginning, it's not like we could bring in the most sales anyway. But we pitched to these brands persistently, and it took us six months to get them on board. We kept telling them what we are, why they should get on board with us, and we didn't have any results to show them yet because we're a startup. I think passion and persistence pays off, definitely.
"Every milestone matters to us...The first two weeks after we launched, we weren't even in the top 500 list of most downloaded apps...But we pushed for more features and products, improving along the way. I've to say that it's really been a journey for us." - Ceo & Co-founder of goxip, Juliette Gimenez
What is your ultimate vision for Goxip?
JG: I'm hoping everybody uses the app.
CT: I won't ask for too much—we can take on Southeast Asia first!
JG: After we launched in Hong Kong, we got about 110,000 downloads. And the best part is that, for the last few days, we ranked number one under shopping apps in Hong Kong for a few days. And we're number 12 among the most download app in Hong Kong, that's even before Facebook, Instagram, and Taobao. Every milestone matters to us. To be in the top 100 app category is easier, but to get to the top 20 is definitely not a piece of cake—the apps in the top 20 category are already in our phones and have gotten millions of downloads, and we're relatively smaller compared to them. It's an encouragement for us to work harder. The worst thing about being a developer is to create something that you love but no one likes. The first two weeks after we launched, we weren't even in the top 500 list! We thought, 'Oh no, it's been a week and we've only gotten 2,000 downloads.' But we pushed for more features and products, improving along the way. I've to say that it's really been a journey for us.
How do you think shoppers in the digital age has changed?
JG: The last two years already have definitely changed the shopping sphere a lot. People used to use Instagram to post pictures and what goes on in their daily lifestyles. But lately people are using it as a money-making platform, or Insta-shop, as we call it. But Instagram is hard to shop from, there's no payment gateway, there's no shopping cart etc.
CT: You basically have to Whatsapp and meet somewhere to pass the customer the products!
JG: Which is crazy, but it happened and there were many Insta-shops at one point too. And I thought that there's an opportunity to do that but make it better. We're very excited to launch our marketplace, because that's another great opportunity as well.
CT: We're going to create an easier way for people to sell their items comfortably, and also since we use image recognition, people can use it to check out more options from millions of brands. This makes it easier to find that one item. And some products can have different prices according to different sites, and we all want to save when it comes to shopping.