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INTERVIEW: The Top of the Top 10 in Fashion and Beauty – RankandStyle.com

The Top of the Top 10 in Fashion and Beauty – RankandStyle.com

Imagine a website based on one of the most searched terms on Google that targets a $180 billion dollar market and you have RankandStyle.com.

Search Google for the top 10 Bucket Bags and you will get over 11 million choices but at RankandStyle.com you can find the “definitive”  top 10 of those 11 million as determined by Rank and Style’s secret sauce algorithm.

Listen as we interview former attorney turned entrepreneur Sarika Doshi, a co-founder of one of the newest disruptors of the Fashion and Beauty segment.

How did this new idea garner over 300,000 page views in its first few weeks of operation?  Listen in as we learn how Rank and Style is quickly becoming the next big fashion authority.

You can listen to or read the interview below:      


Roy:   This is Roy Weissman from MediaJobs.com, and we’re talking with Sarika Doshi from RankandStyle. RankandStyle simplifies shopping by providing data driven Top 10 lists of the best fashion, beauty and beauty products. An algorithm does the research for you by aggregating information from the top magazines, reviews, blogs and stores.

Sounds like you’ve gone out and kind of institutionalized what everybody does manually, Sarika. Maybe you could explain a little bit about why you guys developed the site, exactly what it’s doing for people?

Sarika:   Yeah, sure. Nice to speak with you, Roy. So RankandStyle launched in early April of 2013, and the idea was basically we’re on a mission to simplify and revolutionize how consumers of fashion and beauty products shop. And the way we do that is, as you said, we provide Top 10 rankings of the best fashion and beauty products in any single category. So think of it as the best sunscreen, the best jeans, the best sneakers, the best lipstick. And what makes us novel and what we think makes us revolutionary is how those rankings are cultivated.

Unlike, you know, magazines and blogs and other research platforms in the fashion and beauty space, we’re actually not editorial, we’re not subjective, and instead we mine all of the publically available content that already exists out there, so we ourselves are not editors. We still allow magazines and bloggers to do what they do so well to continue to do that. We just aggregate all their opinions and then combine this with user reviews and also measure a product’s popularity to identify in any given moment in time what’s trending, what’s buzzing, and what really are the 10 best products out there.

Essentially what we tell people – in an easy way to explain this because this can feel a bit abstract – we’re attempting to be the first Consumer Reports for women. For us, what that meant was really narrowing the gap in your experience as a consumer between how efficient and empowering the Internet has been. For example, for consumers of cars or cameras, I argue that within literally minutes, thanks to websites like CNET and Consumer Reports and Amazon.

It’s a very concise lay of the land of what your opportunity set is, and if you compare that to the experience that female consumers, if you were to go to Google right now and type ‘best jeans’ or ‘best lipsticks’, you just get so many chaotic, disaggregated results back, which on one hand signaled a really good problem to us, that there’s no shortage of content. There’s no shortage of opinion on this space, but there’s just nothing that brings it all together in a full, methodical and comprehensive way.

We’re hoping between the use of technology and all this really rich content, that we’ll actually make that process of researching and shopping simple, easy and trustworthy.

Roy:   So you’re going to sites I assume like Amazon or Sephora or wherever people are rating things, I guess. Is that what your software is doing, gathering that up? So they gather all that up, but isn’t it true that some websites, like if I went to Sephora and I saw something written up there, I would have some value to those reviews, and if I went to Amazon, there’s a certain value, and then if I went to iamabeautifulwoman.com and there were reviews there, I might not give those as much credence as I do to something on Sephora. Does you software factor any of that in?

Sarika:   We weigh things differently. We weigh both the sources differently and also the variables of data that we get from those sources. So what we’ve tried to do is study what are the most influential sources of information and categories of information that tend to drive consumer behavior, and in general, women are very influenced by what other people are buying and what other people are rating very highly. So Editor’s Picks gets a strong weighting, even though the Editor’s Picks are selected from the most popular and trusted magazines, not the entire universe.

When we thought about our target audience, which is kind of women from their mid-20s upwards, we were thinking about what are the sources of information that they trust, that they think are credible, and that they find enjoyable to read.

Roy:   But how did you determine what you think women trust? How do you know?

Sarika:   So, we just looked at circulation within our target audience. So we’re looking at the Allure Magazines, the Lucky’s, the InStyle, the Vogue, all of those types of publications, and then with regards to the retailers, where we get the reviews, we also drew boundaries around that. And so we do all of the major department stores, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales’s and upwards.

Then we did the same with regards to some of the large research platforms, things like Refinery29, those types of websites, Into The Gloss, they’re all brought into our search. But we had to draw, so while I said we’re not editors and we’re not biased at all, there’s no subjective overlay, we did have to draw boundaries around the sources of information, and the sources of information I should say do vary based on the product that we’re covering.

So, you know, obviously the best magazines and sources of information for fitness are going to be different from a shoe, a fashion shoe. And so we do vary those, we do mine different, slightly different sources based on the product we’re covering. But on the whole, that should give folks a fence that it’s the largest department stores, the largest online retailers, those popular online retailers, and then the kind of household names in the world of fashion and style when it comes to magazines.

Roy:   Now, does your software – sometimes people just write reviews and they don’t necessarily have a score, they only say this is a four out of five. If it’s just commentary, is your software able to parse that information also?

Sarika:   Yeah, so we do, for qualitative commentary from the editors, we do scrub. Right now with regards to user reviews, it all comes down to star ratings. But with the qualitative reviews of editors, we can identify positive statements.

Roy:   So for user reviews, they’re looking for the rating, obviously.

Sarika: Yes, exactly.

Roy:   Is there any weighting – you know, sometimes you go to certain sites and all the reviews are either fives or ones, and other sites will be more balanced, and that might reflect different populations. Does your software factor any of those differences in?

Sarika:   We don’t, because we believe in the law of averages. Because we’re taking in that information from so many sources, extreme opinion and extreme bias tends to get, outliers get found out, and what’s truly the most accurate perspective tends to rise to the top. And so if you have one or two verticals where all the reviews are really polarized, they’re not really likely to show up in our overall results just because of the way averages work and the way the numbers work when you have that many data points being put through the funnel.

Roy:   So is there a minimum statistical sample that you work with?

Sarika: What do you mean? In terms of…?

Roy:   In other words, typically when you do research, they have calculations that are determined, you know, you need to survey X amount of people for it to be statistically accurate to 95% or something like that.

Sarika: We don’t, because we think that some of that can be arbitrary given our role. There are certain products and fashion categories that are so expensive and then there’s certain categories that niche by definition that the opportunities, that and the choice, that is just inherently smaller. So we have not created those, sort of those minimum thresholds. But I would say at any given time, you’re looking at anywhere between 10 to 15 magazines, 7 department stores, 15 to 20 online retailers, and then a much larger number of bloggers.

Roy:   How many different products are you covering at any given time?

Sarika: When we launched, we launched with over 90 in the archive. We felt like it was really important to show users that there would be something for everyone there. And after that, we pushed out two per week. Monday is dedicated to fashion, and Wednesday is dedicated to beauty, beauty includes lifestyle products as well.

We push out this content via newsletter, so we publish those lists via newsletter on Mondays and Wednesdays, they’re delivered to your inbox. We also push them out through all of our social media channels. The idea is that eventually we may increase the number of lists we publish a week, but we’re really trying not to overwhelm our users. We don’t want for people to have a little bit of email fatigue right now and we don’t want to bombard folks. But we may up the number of lists just because there’s so many things that people are thinking about buying and contemplating in any given season, and we don’t want to, we want to make sure we are as helpful as possible in that process. What we might end up doing is just not pushing all of those out by email, but they’ll be accessible for all users on the actual site.

Roy:   It sounds like you’ve created a very unique approach to shopping. Again, there’s so many ways to see things in this world, shopping by pictures, and you’re going for the easier, simpler more efficient way. I actually showed your site to a few friends, a few women, and they loved it, they loved the concept.

So I understand it’s not just you, and I think you have some partners. How did you guys, you know, what are your backgrounds, and how did you get into this business? Maybe give a little bit of a history there or a little bit of a story.

Sarika:   Sure. So I’ve got two Co-founders and a Chief Technology Officer. My first Co-founder, Pooja Badlani, is our Chief Creative Officer, and we actually met when we were both students at Columbia many moons ago. She’s a career graphic designer, and in particular has spent the last several users doing front-end web design. So she’s in charge of all of our branding and our creative, and is really focused on building a user experience that was thematically consistent with the mission we’re on.

So our mission is to simplify how you shop and that experience for you, and we felt like it was really important for that to be reflected in your actual interaction on the site. Most fashion and beauty sites right now can tend to be a bit chaotic and can be a little overwhelming, and we thought like it was really important to create a simple interface. You land on the site, and all you have are top 10 lists and not much more noise than that. Hopefully that comes through. And she’s also very focused now on developing kind of our mobile app and making this a real utility that you can literally have in your purse while you’re in the store and tackle your shopping list.

My third Co-founder is Sonal Gupta. We actually met in London when we were both practicing as attorneys over there. She handles all of our operations. Our revenue models and affiliate sales models, she manages all of that. She also wears many hats and has led our fundraising efforts and also manages all aspects of our legal needs as well. and Ben is our Chief Technology Officer and he is the man behind all of the coding and then also other product developments that we’re working on.

My personal background, I was an attorney in a previous life. I only practiced for a couple of years, but did so internationally in London and did M&A and IPOs and just general capital markets work. I always had sort of entrepreneurial aspirations. When I left practicing law, I joined a venture backed company, it was a U.S. founded company, but I helped open their London office and eventually moved back to headquarters where I’ve been for the last five years managing their business and growing that company, which was invaluable experience for doing this.

I was just really inspired by our management team there who were lifelong entrepreneurs themselves, and decided, you’ve got experience to give me the courage to do this, and like I said, for us, the light bulb moment was thinking about the role the Internet has played in the lives of consumers of other products and then what that experience looks like for female consumers. It just felt like far too big a delta and one that made no sense to us when you think about the fact that one in five shop every day, and 75% of that time shopping is spent researching, and that felt like both a problem and an opportunity to innovate.

And that really served as our foundation. If you think about it, the most Googled word when you are a consumer are ‘best X’, and yet, there is no website that really delivers a conclusive answer to your search query for best jeans, best mascara. What you get back is lots of information, but not all in one place and one that reflects all of those separate views.

Roy:   You know, it’s interesting, the word ‘best’, I’m sure you’ve heard of Google AdWords, their advertising program. There are certain words that they will not let you use in advertising, and one in them is ‘best’ because best really has no meaning. It’s a relative term to whoever says it, and it’s relative to whatever is on your mind, and many people use it just as a claim, so they won’t let you even use it. So it’s funny that you say the most searched term is ‘best’, yet there is no definition of best that’s credible.

Sarika:   Right. And yet clearly, the thirst and appetite for it, right? That’s what we want as consumers, just tell me what to buy. We live in a world with so much content, so much choice, and increasingly less time to wade through all of that. So that’s our tagline, we’re ‘Shopping, Solved’, and we’d like to think that we kind of cure that sort of sense of content overload, choice overload, and shopping paralysis.

Roy:   How do you define your market? What is your market? Is it beauty, is it fashion, is it everything? What is your market?

Sarika:   It’s both. It’s fashion and beauty, and we’re in the process of scaling to expand to other consumer verticals as well. But it’s fashion and beauty, and then for now, it’s women between the ages, basically women over the age of 25 upward.

And we kind of think we actually have relevance as much to kind of urban, style-minded women as we may to folks, you know, in other places just because everybody wants this information, and arguably folks that are close to kind of a fashion nucleus like New York are even more in need of conclusive, comprehensive information they can trust because they don’t necessarily have the ability to access that in other ways.

Roy:   You define your market quite broadly. You say women 25 plus, and fashion and beauty.

Sarika: Yeah.

Roy:   Then you’re picking really 40 products a week to look at, which is an extremely small set of products given the huge diversity of the audience, just because somebody is a woman, a 25 year old woman has very different needs than the 35, 45, 55 year old woman, and somebody who is a woman in Manhattan sees things a little differently than someone who is a woman in Minnesota or in Los Angeles. They have very different needs, and very different women that work professionally versus women that are into other fields, there’s just such a wide diversity, and then you say fashion and beauty. Isn’t that way too broad? I mean, how do you choose those 40 products across that huge audience?

Sarika:   Well, I guess two things. What we try to do is we do a lot of research into what people are thinking about right now and what their needs are, and that’s driven by the season but it’s also driven by what people are buzzing about and what’s trending as we’re seeing through the algorithm and what all the magazines are talking about. And so our view is, what we try to focus on is really what’s top of mind, number one. Number two, it’s exactly why we’re going to continue – we just wanted to launch with a little bit of a manageable number of lists not to overwhelm people.

But, you know, you hit the nail on the head. We absolutely are looking to expand our content so that given the market opportunity we have, we’re making sure that we’re as relevant and helpful to those users as possible by providing more and more content each week. But what we try to do at any given moment in time, no matter how many lists we provide, is hit that balance, strike that balance between practical, what’s trendy, what’s seasonal, and what people are kind of thinking and talking about at the moment.

Like, with Memorial Day coming up, for example, this weekend, we did a white jeans list, the Best 10 White Jeans last week. The whole point of that was to be kind of timely, white jeans are officially allowed to be worn in a couple days, and we wanted to give people the time to have the information they needed to make those purchases. So it was a little bit practical but also seasonal and top of mind. And there’s a handful of products that people are always buying and always interested in. Things like mascara, things like eye cream, things like jeans, and those types of lists, what we will be doing is updating regularly because we all know that today’s best eye creams are probably not tomorrow’s, and mascara changes all the time. And so those will be regularly updated, just again, to kind of add to that sense of relevance around our product.

Roy:   It’s very interesting, you’re taking a trend marketing approach as opposed to a demographic approach to marketing, which is being used more and more and more as we have more statistics, which until the last 5 or 10 years with the Internet, the marketers have not had that option, or they’ve had the option, but nowhere near the level that is available today where you could literally do a little bit of research online and uncover exactly what’s trending, exactly what everybody is talking about. So your approach is not as much about the demographics, but rather about what people are talking about today.

Sarika:   Which tends to be, like you said, what people are interested in at the moment. We’re very focused on what’s trending and what’s buzzing and what’s viral, and I think it just shifts, it signals a broader shift into kind of data driven insights, data driven marketing, and data driven consumer behavior and demand as well.

One thing that we’ve been really excited about, I think fashion and beauty are spaces of industries that have been historically a bit reluctant to embrace the power of data for their own market research and marketing purposes. If you think about a website like Amazon from day one, early, early on, they’ve been making such thoughtful connections between user behavior to market to other users, so things like if you like this book, you might like this book and you might want to buy this product. And it is the most powerful marketing tool that Amazon has had access to. It’s basically connecting the dots between patterns of consumer behavior.

And fashion and beauty has historically being a bit reluctant because it’s subjective. So how do you connect if someone likes those jeans that they might also like that lipstick? But you can because that’s how we behave, and quite frankly, users are thirsty for those types of connections to be made on their behalf. We’re starting to see it across a bunch of retailers, and it’s great for us because those types of insights A, signal the shift to data which we fully embrace and we’re excited for the industry to embrace, but it also makes our insights and our algorithm all the more powerful.

Roy:   So given your trend approach, how do you define the market in dollars and cents? If you look at any market space, there’s a certain percentage of products that are up and coming, new, trendy, and then there’s the old school mainstay, kind of tried and true stuff that everybody buys but no one really talks about that much because it doesn’t change. So how would you determine if you’re sitting in front of a group of investors and they said, Sarika, how much is this market worth? What would you say, and how do you define that?

Sarika:   So just a couple of statistics. In 2011, U.S. online retail sales totaled $188 billion, of which women spending accounted for over 58%, and we spend $214 billion each year on clothing and accessories.

Roy:   So you’re saying…

Sarika:   And as we oversee, women oversee 80% of consumer spending nationally. And so all of those, it’s how much people are spending in general, what the say that woman have over that spending, and then we can narrow it down a little bit more and say, think about how much the time and money they’re spending online, which under any circumstance is growing.

Roy:   So, you said you just launched what, a month ago? Is that what you said?

Sarika:   Yes, that’s right.

Roy:   And you guys won some awards, didn’t you?

Sarika:   We did. We won a national women-led business plan competition, Grow America, ‘She Can Pitch’ competition, and we were selected as number one out of field hundreds, which was really such a nice honor especially given that the competition that we were facing which were some really innovative, interesting and thoughtful businesses.

Roy:   What made them choose you?

Sarika:   Gosh, you know, I haven’t had a chance to speak to the judges myself. We get access to a board of mentors and also a cash prize, which we’re just kind of finalizing some of the paperwork on, but I think they just thought, hopefully, that we’re innovative and it’s a novel use of technology science and data principles in space where those words generally don’t ever apply, fashion and beauty.

I think just that combination hopefully feels really interesting and timely to folks and especially the judges. But it was a really nice honor. The other thing I think is there’s so few consumer facing businesses, especially ones targeting women, that are run by women, and in particular, tech businesses that are run by women, and I think that’s just, it has to be the way forward just because of the role women play in making decisions as consumers. I mentioned before, we oversee 80% of consumer spending in the States, and there’s something to be said for women managing and controlling more of the businesses that are marketed to women.

Roy:   Do you think Yahoo will become an 80% women service?

Sarika:   Yeah, well maybe. They’re off to a good start.

Roy:   So since you launched, did you – when you say you launched a month ago, was your site available prior to that, or really was it not anywhere and all of a sudden there it was?

Sarika:   We did a beta last fall/end of summer with just a small group of people, a focus group, to test out on and to build the product that we used to fundraise again, but then it was shut down, and we really launched in April.

Roy:   When you say it was shot down, what happened there? Oh, shut down, I thought you said shot down.

Sarika:   We weren’t adding any content to it, it just wasn’t live. And then we added 90 more lists and then we did kind of a big push both in terms of media coverage and just trying to spread the word. But most of it happened pretty organically, which has been really nice. We’ve had a healthy amount of traffic, but I think there’s two things that have happened that are really nice with a handful of kind of bloggers and just influencers talking about us, that kind of naturally just stumbled upon it and have really positive things to say, and then I think the other thing that’s been really strong in our favor is that the average time spent on our site by users is just over six minutes, which in a world of a lot happening and people moving around a lot and spending very little time on anything, six minutes feels really promising to us and we’re optimistic that if we can kind of continue to acquire users, develop this broad traffic, then that level of engagement is exactly where we aspire to be.

Roy:   Do you have any sense of what kind of sales you’ve driven in the last month or so?

Sarika:   Well, we do. I probably, I shouldn’t be sharing that kind of information publically, but we, you know, it’s pretty a healthy level of – we don’t sell anything ourselves, we do everything through a click-through affiliate sales model. So we’ve got pretty precise numbers on the number of people clicking through to retailers. We offer three buy links with each product, and what we attempt to do is offer multi-brand retailer links to underscore our value on remaining neutral and objective in this space versus driving you to the actual brand’s website. The other thing that we’ve done is we have no direct relationships with the retailers. We work through a middleman, which again I think it helps with the cause of remaining neutral.

Roy:   Can you give us any sense of traffic, engagement? You gave us the six minutes, but anything else to get a sense of traffic, what kind of visitor level?

Sarika:   Yeah, we’ve had well over, I want to say 320,000 page views, again, all of this just in kind of a handful of a couple weeks. We aren’t requiring log-ins or to sign up for anything, but people have opted to sign up, and again, that list is over 2,000.

Roy:   How did you get that kind of pages? What did you do to generate that kind of awareness?

Sarika:   You know, it’s a mix. There’s the social media, you know, we won that competition. We were featured on Refinery29. We were in PeopleStyleWatch this month in June, the summer issue, and a lot of bloggers have been talking about us and putting a link to our site on their pages. We were on womenshealth.com last month. So it’s been a full variety of coverage that we’ve been fortunate enough to receive.

Roy:   Well, that’s fantastic. When you got the 320,000 page views, any sense of the unique visitor level to that?

Sarika:   I don’t have it off the top of my head, but I can follow-up with you.

Roy:   I’m just trying to get a sense – I mean, what you’ve accomplished in the first month is phenomenal.

Sarika:   Thank you.

Roy:   I mean, that’s – coming out of the gate with no subscribers, no viewership, and all of a sudden a month later, you have close to 400,000, 300,000, 400,000 page views. That’s substantial, and hopefully you’ll get a lot of repeat users and people coming back. That sounds fantastic.

Sarika:   Yeah. I’ve got the number of unique visitors, it’s 13,000 unique visitors.

Roy:     So that means the average person had probably 30 page views?

Sarika:   Yeah, exactly.

Roy:     Something like that. 25 page views.

Sarika:   Yeah.

Roy:   They’re obviously very engaged with your site. One of the things that they talk about today is engagement. Are you building an email list also?

Sarika:   Yes, we are building an email list. We don’t require you to sign up for it at all to access all of our content, but if you do sign up for it, you get the list delivered right to your inbox. And we’ve got over 2,000, or about 2,000 subscribers.

Roy:   That’s phenomenal. You guys have done a phenomenal job in the first month. It sounds very exciting.

Are you, looking from a revenue standpoint, where do you see, you know, what is your revenue model with respect to generating income?

Sarika:   It’s affiliate sales. So for each Top 10 item, we suggest a handful of buy links on where you can go find that Top 10 item, and we make a commission on traffic and purchases that we inspire.

Roy:   And what about regular display advertising, sponsored things?

Sarika:   We’re open to it. We have not launched that, but I think we will have boundaries around who we work with in that space. We’re open to multi-brand retailers and to other services within the ecosystem our target audience is interested in, but what we want to steer clear of is taking advertisements directly from the brands because we think that comes in the way of our neutrality, and that for us, that separation of church and state, is what really sets us apart in the fashion and beauty space, and we are as a company and as individuals really committed to that kind of, keeping that ethical standard.

Roy:   You know, what you’re doing sounds like – obviously, it’s very creative, intelligent way of making it easier, smarter, cheaper kind of thing for people. Is there no one else doing something like this, is there anyone else doing it?

Sarika:   No. You know, it’s a crowded space when it comes to content, but no one is doing a data driven research model that we are.

Roy:   I mean, it would seem like a company like Amazon could implement this in a short period of time.

Sarika:   Right, but they’re still going to have as a retailer, as a direct retailer themselves, they’re always going to have their own personal bias in the insights they provide because it’s going to be about the inventory that they have, where we have the good fortune of not being in that position because we’re not an e-commerce company. So we have no products that we’re trying push, which really, it’s incredibly liberating because you’re not limited to the insights you provide and the suggestions you make.

Roy:   So do you see yourself more like an unbiased journalist kind of approach then, versus…?

Sarika:   Yes. We think of ourselves as a Consumer Reports for women that’s essentially an unbiased research platform.

Roy:   Okay. That’s definitely a different approach. Don’t you think that definition could limit you in your ability to generate income for the site?

Sarika:   Well, we think if this utility is as valuable as we’d like to think it is and as we are as focused on making it, then we think the traffic in and of itself will make our website a really interesting place and thus an attractive business model to generate revenue. We think that if the whole point of these research insights that we’ll provide is to drive traffic and make efficient, quick, bold, confident purchasing decisions, then we have a lot value and that could be captured in many different ways, but primarily to the affiliate sales model. The idea is, you know, you’re on our site, we help you make that definitive decision in a matter of minutes, and then you just click to buy. We won’t be in the business of selling it to you, but we’ll tell you where you can buy it.

Roy:   Do you see anyone as a competitor?

Sarika:   It’s a crowded space just in terms of there’s a lot of voices and a lot of content. We’ve just got to rise above that and make sure people understand how different we are in that space. But, you know, there’s no shortage of people talking about fashion and beauty, and there’s a lot of great businesses out there that are leveraging kind of social media to identify what’s trending as the best at any given moment in time, and then there’s all of the bloggers who have their own opinions and are very influential these days around their views on what are the best products.

There’s lots of people that are talking about it, we’ve just got to make sure we really distinguish ourselves and deliver really powerful, insightful content that is, by definition, novel and feels novel from the user’s experience. I think that’s an important thing to have in mind is, you know, you get your product better than anybody does just because you work on it all the time and you think about it and kind of live and breathe it, it’s really important to step back and say, does this translate for the user? If they land on our site today, do they understand what this is? Do they get how we’re different, and is that value not just perceived but also experienced? And that’s something that we set a really high standard for ourselves and are doing everything we can to constantly need it, but it’s one you’ve got to be very focused on always.

Roy:    Have you gotten any initial feedback from any consumer?

Sarika:   Yeah, I mean, I’ve never – and touch wood – and maybe they’re just being nice, but the feedback is so overwhelmingly positive that it’s humbling, but it also, it’s really inspiring. Everybody just says we can’t believe something like this didn’t exist, and thank you, you know? Which makes our jobs really fun.

Roy:   So, your technology, do you think that your technology provides you with a strong barrier to entry for others, or can other people just simply write some software and get in the game?

Sarika:   We feel pretty good about our software, but we live in a world where obviously, you know, there isn’t a ton of IT protection for doing thoughtful, smart things, but we feel like we’re the first in time and we’re creating this category of research that’s very novel in fashion and beauty, and there’s something to be said for not just being the first in time but being the best at it, and we feel pretty confident about being able to maintain that position.

We sort of think that, you know, you’ll always have competition in the world. I think competition always validates what you’re doing. It highlights that other people think it’s a good idea and they want to try to get on board as well. So it’s not something that I, I’m not, you know, going to suggest that others won’t come along the way, but I actually think again all of that bolsters our efforts and validates the mission that we’re on.

Roy:   So at this point, would you say at this point you hit the ground running, you’re not waiting for any more development? Now, it’s really a marketing mode?

Sarika:   Exactly. We’re in spreading the word, acquiring users, driving traffic and partnering with businesses around our content. So businesses that are non-competitive but share an audience and want to leverage our Top 10 list and our data driven insights to engage their users. So we’re partnering with lots of different businesses and services, but also tastemakers, bloggers and things like that to help spread the word.

Roy:   So where would you see yourself in 12 months, how many users? What kind of metrics would you like to see in 12 months?

Sarika:   Gosh, I probably don’t have it off the top of my head. We have projections written out, but I would have to go back and check those.

Roy:   Do you have any sense, any thoughts? Do you want to have 100,000 users? Do you have any sense?

Sarika:   Yeah, I would say about, I would say it would be great to have 150,000 users by the end of 2013.

Roy:   By the end of this year?

Sarika:   Yes.

Roy:   Oh, okay. That’s an impressive goal.

Sarika:   It is. It’s ambitious, but again, that number of users, it’s an interesting metric because right now what we’ve made is a strategic decision not to require log ins or users, so that number may be less relevant at the end of the year, and our numbers might be more about page views and traffic. But right now we define that in terms of users, and the number we’ve pegged for ourselves is about 150,000. But again, that will be only as meaningful whether we acquire folks to become users. And we kind of think given the number of people who search by the word ‘best’, you know, if we make the right investments on search engine optimization, then we’ll be able to just drive traffic around our product, and log ins won’t be necessary and we can be helpful for folks who are just looking for quick information and that will be enough to sustain our business.

Roy:   So have you gotten a sense of any kind of conversion rate at this point? What percentage of the people that come to the site actually click-through to buy something?

Sarika:   We have a sense of, we know exactly the number of people that are clicking, and it’s a really high number. We can track all of that. It’s a pretty good statistic. I don’t have it off the top of my head, but it…

Roy:   I’m really hitting you with all these questions on statistics, I’m terrible, but I know our audience is very focused on where are people going, how are they doing…

Sarika:   That’s okay. Yeah, I would say it’s very consistent, and it varies a little bit by product. I find that the fashion ones tend to get a lot of clicks just because people want to go to the website, to the retailers, to see more pictures, whereas beauty, I think people also click-through when they’re looking to buy, but there isn’t that need to go look at that lotion container from a different angle.

So I would say the click-throughs are probably a little bit higher for the clothing, denim in particular, running sneakers in particular. We did a list on trench coats, and that was really popular as well. So it can vary a little bit, but it’s a nice, consistent click-through rate.

Roy:   It’s interesting that – I wonder if the actual sales conversion rate for beauty will be better or worse or the same as fashion. In fashion, they’re obviously clicking through for more discovery trying to see what it looks like, but it all depends on how many people are going to buy at the end of the day. It will be interesting to see which one, is it beauty or fashion, win.

Sarika: Yep. It’s too early to tell, but we should know, you know, we’ll have good sample size in a couple of months from now.

Roy:   Have you raised any funding for the business?

Sarika:   We have. We did a friends and family round that we closed in the winter. We are continuing to fundraise.

Roy:   Can you give us a sense of how much you raised initially?

Sarika:   I’d rather not share that number, but it’s been enough to – we were pretty successful and managed to raise enough to work full-time as a team and do so for some time. But we are continuing to raise an additional amount.

Roy:   Do you want to say how much you’re looking to raise going forward?

Sarika: Yeah, we’d like to raise another $50,000 to $150,000.

Roy:   $50,000 to $150,000, okay. Do you have any, besides your partners, do you have any other employees?

Sarika:   We have an intern that just started this week, but no, we’re a pretty lean team. We work with a PR agency, we work with someone that’s consulting with us on search engine optimization. So we have a couple folks that are working with us on a freelance basis, but our core team is four full-time folks and an intern.

Roy:   So where do you see – do you see that in three to five years, you will have sold this business, or do you think you’ll still be in the business? What are your plans for that?

Sarika:   That’s just hard to tell. I mean, we’d certainly be open to contemplating all sorts of options, acquisitions are obviously very common in the tech space. But I love what I do right now, it’s busy and it’s a lot, but I could not be happier with the business that we’re building and the space that we operate in, and I just think the world always – there’s so many different directions this can go in both in terms of just growing the business but also kind of what we focus on in terms of products and consumer verticals. So to be honest, not thinking about that right now, and just so excited to build a product and a business that I believe in.

Roy:   Out of all the things you’ve done in your career, is there one that maybe stood out the most that you’d say that influenced you the most and educated you the most on being prepared and ready to start this business?

Sarika:   Yeah, I would say my most recent shop where I was, you know, I spent five years on the business side at Axiom, which is what I did before this. It’s a company that is disrupting the legal industry and is a real innovator and pioneer in what they’re doing, and it takes courage to do that, it takes persistence to do that, but if you have both and you’re successful, the reward just personally and mentally and emotionally, all that, is just so massive and it is such a fun journey to be on both in terms of the work you put in but then the kind of seeing your hard work pay off. And so I think Axiom was just an invaluable experience, just learning how to talk about an idea, to sell an idea, and to get people excited and inspired by your idea is just something I really learned from Axiom.

Roy:   When you were in school, did you study entrepreneurship or anything?

Sarika:   I did not, no. I studied economics at Columbia. So I was always kind of business minded, but was very into political science and more on kind of the theory side of things, and then worked in not-for-profits after undergrad, and then went to law school where I also had a very diverse focus. But I always had sort of this itch to do something entrepreneurial. It was just about finding the right time and the right idea to do it.

Roy:   Well, I guess it’s lucky you weren’t working for Procter & Gamble. You might not have been in an entrepreneurial mindset or maybe you just would have escaped. I don’t know if you could take corporate America.

Sarika:   No, where I worked was really inspiring. I was around all the right people and was very influenced by my surroundings, my environment, and the people I worked with, and I couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring set of colleagues.

Roy:   Is there anything I didn’t discuss or ask you a question on that you want to share with our audience?

Sarika:   No, I think that covers all of it. I think we’ve hopefully given people a fairly comprehensive sense of what we’re doing and got folks really excited to check out the site.

Roy:   Well, I think it sounds like you have a fantastic idea. I think the concept – you know, we’ve seen so many successes on the Internet with better, smarter, cheaper, faster kind of approach, so there’s no question that you’ve targeted a consumer group that spends billions of dollars in a market that, you know, beauty and fashion are considered necessities, especially in the female. Men aren’t exactly worried as much usually as women are.

Sarika:   Right.

Roy:   And you’ve really targeted a very lucrative market and I think you have a very strong concept. So it’s going to be exciting to follow and to keep track of what you guys are doing, and we should definitely check in and see how things are going.

How would somebody get in touch with you if they wanted to get a hold of you?

Sarika:   Yeah, they can email me. If you go to my page and you go to our About Us page or anywhere you look on getting in touch with us, you’ll see an email address for info@rankandstyle.com. You can also email me directly at sarika@rankandstyle.com. All of that information is on our site. But if you do visit, I just encourage you to sign up for our newsletters and we say you’ll get to live blissfully ever after if you do.

Roy:   Well, that’s fantastic. Well, Sarika, I totally appreciate you taking the time to help us learn more about what you guys are up to and the thoughts behind it. It sounds like a fantastic business, and we of course wish you the best.

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