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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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