Custom: Maximillian Madile
After noticing a gap in the online fashion market, the former Google employee shares his vision for creating a smooth and beautiful shopping experience
Name: Maximillian Madile
Company Name: Custom
Location: Greater London
Date Launched: 22/10/2015
No. of employees: 6
Tell us what your business does:
Custom is a personalised search engine for fashion, which aims to take the complexity, frustration and time out of online clothes shopping. Our bespoke online shopping experience is tailored to an individual’s tastes, brand preferences and size. The site has search at its core and combines search queries with the knowledge of each individual user to help them quickly and easily find the items they love without visiting multiple sites or trawling through irrelevant results.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We’d tried out a number of fashion aggregators who were claiming to deliver ‘personalised shopping’. Whilst we loved the idea, what we got back was disappointing. Most products we searched for were out of stock or unavailable in the UK. Budgets were ignored as retailers pushed the products with the highest margin to the top. The search function often didn’t work and images were only shown as tiny thumbnails. And when we did buy, the products took a month to arrive and were sub-standard. We spotted a gap in the market for a tailored, seamless experience and believed in its potential so much that we quit working at Google to launch our own business.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Online shopping is exploding – especially in the UK – and fashion is its biggest growth segment (the online shopping market in the UK alone is expected to grow from £10bn to £19bn over the next four years). To validate our initial hypothesis around the stresses of online shopping and the demand for personalised search, we organised focus groups and did a straw poll amongst friends and colleagues. Everything indicated that people want online shopping to be a smoother, more relevant and more beautiful experience. These became our guiding principles for our platform.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was working for Google in the marketing team. I used to run marketing for Chrome in Europe and most recently was the team lead for the Creative Lab in London. The Creative Lab is responsible for big brand campaigns and that’s where I met my co-founders Andy and Robin who were running digital production company WEIR+WONG which was primarily working for the Lab.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Always. Our family business back in Austria is over 130 years old, but it’s real estate, I find technology more exciting. And as for my co-founders, they were already running a successful technology company, but they found the idea of Custom not only highly relevant but an exciting opportunity as well.
How did you raise the money?
We raised our first round from friends, former colleagues and family. A lot of the investors come from the creative and tech industry, something you would expect with our background.
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Describe your business model and how you make money:
We’re a consumer platform, so there are lots of potential ways we can monetise once we achieve scale. So right now, our focus is clearly on reaching that scale whilst engaging and retaining our target audience. We believe our greatest strength is our ability to understand each individual user and provide them with relevant products. Over time, we believe that this understanding will also drive our biggest opportunity, namely offering targeted ad formats to brands and retailers.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The path to becoming a start-up is riddled with challenges. The first one is assembling a team. We were lucky enough to have had personal connections that referred us to great talents and within a few months we were ready to go. The second one is to build the right product. That challenge is ongoing but we approach it with constant iteration, permanent interaction with our users and meticulous tracking of our metrics. Last, but not least, there is the challenge of getting your start-up funded. There are many VCs and angels in London but we didn’t have much experience about fundraising and went through a steep learning curve.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We just opened our platform to the public and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. It was great to get so much positive feedback from people on something that we had invested so much time and love in.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Starting a company is hard, but you need to develop a thick skin, believe in yourself and have the willpower to drive things yourself. No one else will do it for you.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We want Custom to become the starting point of every online shopping journey. It would be a great achievement if Custom sparked a wave of innovation across the whole online fashion ecosystem.