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Innovators: Co-Founder of Clothes Horse, Vik Venkatraman
Innovators. They come in many forms. They dream big but they aren’t just dreamers. They form raw ideas into cool products with disruptive business models. They shatter entire industries and leave established leviathans running scared with their tails between their legs. The Innovators interview series connects you with the most driven people on the planet. What makes them tick? What advice do they have for tech founders? What tools do they use to get the job done? Read on to find out.
Vik Venkatraman is an entrepreneur, author, and free thinker. As the Co-founder of Clothes Horse, he’s playing his role in solving the problem of buying clothes that fit. Retailers who work with Clothes Horse are able to use a ton of data and cutting-edge technology to put the right fit in front of their shoppers, and experience material business benefits. Prior to Clothes Horse, Vik helped build an analytics and data products business at American Express, traveled the world as a management consultant with Deloitte Consulting, and was a brand manager at Red Bull. After starting V Bespoke, a tailored menswear company, he saw that there was a great need to make the lives of normal people much better simply by getting them clothes that fit — a gift that then needed to be shared with the world. He even published a book, Inspired. Vik graduated with honors from Columbia University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.
What do you enjoy most about your work and why?
I love the conversations I have with new people – whether they are entrepreneurs in the early days of their apparel company or salty executives at my favorite brands. These guys are as vested in solving the problem as we are, and the things I learn about our business and where it should go from the eyes and ears of our customer is both invaluable and tickles my inner inventor. There’s nothing more fun than seeing an opportunity to do something better for our product and our customers, knowing that we and they will run stronger businesses and that the shopper will get a better experience as a result.
Where does your passion come from? What drives you, inspires you, excites you?
I love seeing things come to life off of a page in the notebook or the whiteboard. I love figuring out a solution to a problem that a customer thought was beyond reach – for example: we recently figured out that we can use our data to influence the way apparel companies plan inventory — arguably one of the hardest things they have to do. Thats awesome. What other “unsolvable problems” will we discover solutions to? I could do that every day.
Someone reading this wants to start a tech company. What’s your best advice for them?
Make sure the problem you are tackling is actually a problem. Get away from your desk and talk to your customer. Talk to lots of them. Become your customer if you can (we got our start as a clothing company, after all). Have such depth of expertise in your customer, their mindset, their use case, their buying process and their budget before writing a single line of code.
What are a few tech startups that you’re really excited about right now and why?
I’m a big fan of a lot of people pushing the edges of retail and retail tech. Perch, with their showcasing tech, and Continuum for the way they approach design and the crowd. Kickstarter is still awesome, of course, for the platform they’ve given inventors and creatives. I also love tech-driven retailers like Fab and Etsy.
What tech tools (websites, apps, gadgets, etc.) do you rely on both for work and in your down time?
I love Asana for task/project management, and Springpad for capturing lists of things. I use PlainText a ton (it’s better than the “notes” app because you get folders and Dropbox sync). I use the normal stuff like my calendar for scheduling (though Cue is a promising app) and WordPress for my blog. However, as much as I generally love toys/gadgets, my enduring favorite tool is a notebook and a pencil. Its crazy what you can create/organize/accomplish with just those two things.