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Big boost for Ministry of Supply, the ecommerce startup that uses NASA technology in shirts

Now here’s an intrigu­ing ques­tion to test the mar­ket savvi­ness of the enter­pris­ing ecom­merce ana­lyst: what does men’s busi­ness attire share in com­mon with NASA space­suits? Most peo­ple would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer. How­ev­er, Boston-based start­up Min­istry of Sup­ply is aim­ing to ensure that its moniker comes to the lips of every ecom­merce ana­lyst or con­sumer who gets asked that ques­tion.

The NASA-inspired busi­ness shirt 

Found­ed in 2010 by two engi­neer­ing grad­u­ates from MIT, Min­istry of Sup­ply aims to build a new type of menswear that has the com­fort and func­tion­al­i­ty of work­out gear, but looks per­fect­ly at home in the board­room. To that end, it’s adapt­ed tech­nol­o­gy used in the design of NASA’s space­suits to ensure its dress shirts not only don’t wrin­kle, but con­trol odor and per­spi­ra­tion, too, while retain­ing a sar­to­ri­al­ly dap­per appear­ance.

Most ecom­merce ana­lysts will be aware that fledg­lings in this sec­tor often face a strug­gle to find investors. Orig­i­nal­ly rebuffed by ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists who want­ed more proof of con­cept, the intre­pid co-founders of Min­istry of Sup­ply approached Kick­starter, and that’s when things start­ed to take off. They bagged $400,000 more than they were intend­ing to raise — and that was just for the line of shirts.

Ecom­merce + bricks-and-mor­tar = real via­bil­i­ty 

Sub­se­quent­ly, Min­istry of Sup­ply launched a hi-tech range of robot­i­cal­ly-knit, cof­fee bean-infused socks (to ensure fit and kill odor) so it returned to Kick­starter, this time walk­ing away with an addi­tion­al $200,000. Armed not only with proof of con­cept but proof of demand as well, the start­up final­ly per­suad­ed those hard-nosed ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists it was worth the invest­ment. This week, they raised seed fund­ing of $1.1 mil­lion in a round led by Vegas tech Fund, with SK Ven­tures and angel investors Kevin Hen­rik­son and Craig Bres­low (the Boston sox pitch­er) par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Min­istry of Sup­ply will be using the new mon­ey to build up a viable ecom­merce and fash­ion brand. To that end, they’ve brought in the tal­ents of ecom­merce and UX design expert Bri­an Kalma, who is already tak­ing steps to define the brand as one with a bricks-and-mor­tar and ecom­merce pres­ence. As well as a few East Coast pop-up shop appear­ances, the firm has a show­room in Boston and is extend­ing its dis­tri­b­u­tion span by devel­op­ing part­ner­ships with oth­er ecom­merce brands.

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