Like the rest of us, Rohan Deuskar WG’11 puts his pants on one leg at a time. Unlike the rest of us, he’s figured out how to turn the process into a bankable business venture.
Deuskar is the co-founder of Stylitics, a fashion analytics start-up that won the top prize in the 2011 Wharton Business Plan Competition. He and co-founder Zach Davis have described themselves as the “Nielsens of fashion.”
Stylitics is a platform that offers brands and advertising buyers real-time insights into what people are wearing. “The way we do that is by giving consumers a really good set of reasons to sort of log what they’re wearing, log what they’re buying, and share it with the community,” Deuskar explains.
The hook: Stylitics promises to solve the daily conundrum of what to wear. Users of the site can build a virtual closet—uploading photos of their old clothes, and adding newly purchased items by scanning barcodes with smart phones. Stylitics gathers information about users’ tastes, budgets, brand preferences, and body types. Based on their preferences, and the preferences of users similar to them, the site provides personalized style recommendations. It can even help users pack overnight bags and decide what to buy to match the existing pieces in their closets.
Dressing up every morning “was a big part of our lives that was analog still,” Deuskar says. With Stylitics, “your world of clothing and style becomes a little more digital.”
Users also get points for logging what they wear and completing surveys, and they can use those points to win gift cards, discounts, and even tickets to exclusive fashion shows.
In turn, brand managers can see exactly what consumers are wearing. Users also have the option of sending direct comments to each brand. And then it gets really meta: “You’re helping to influence what’s coming out next season from the brand,” says Deuskar.
“Over the past few years I’ve kept a running list of things I wish existed in the world that were kind of cool,” Deuskar adds. He was on the planning committee for the Business Plan Competition last year, and when he chanced upon the idea for Stylitics, he decided to enter it this year.
The competition, says Megan Mitchell, the senior associate director of Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, is “an opportunity for students to go through the educational process of writing a business plan.” But the goal is to use the plans they develop for the competition to actually launch their businesses.
Judges offer advice through every round of the competition, and students can opt to attend seminars and request mentors to guide them through the process.
Whether or not you win, Deuskar explains, participation guarantees “free advice from some really smart people.”
But winning still beats losing. Stylitics, which won the competition’s top prize, was awarded $30,000 as well as $15,000 in legal and accounting services when they launch their plan. Deuskar and Davis also get to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ.
Marc Montserrat WG’12, along with Ravi Raghavan WG’12 and Pitou Devgon WG’10, took second place for Next Generation Phlebotomy, which has developed a device that integrates with peripheral IV systems to more efficiently and reliably extract blood from patients for lab testing.
Baby.com.br, a Brazilian baby-care retailer that won first place at the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition, took third place at Penn.
All told, the Wharton Business Plan Competition recognized eight winners and gave out a total of $115,000 in prizes, a figure that has doubled since last year’s competition.
Many of the winning teams have more than just plans; they have become bona fide business ventures. Several are getting ready to launch over the next few months. Stylitics plans to launch a closed Beta version of its site in late June and a full version soon thereafter.
—Maanvi Singh C’13