MANY women look to mobile applications for practical needs and fashion needs are no exception, it seems. Tuning into this fact, Jakarta-based startup Yuna & Co has created a personal styling and shopping app of the same name for mobile-savvy Asian women.

In a recent interview with Digital News Asia, Yuna & Co founder and chief executive officer Winzendy Tedja shares that before founding the startup, he actually owned a digital agency in Indonesia.

“So this is not my first business, we got acquired by global marketing communications group WPP in 2012 and I exited last year. I actually have a long background in digital, I have a lot of experience with data and during that time, when I wanted to build a new startup and I wanted to make it count.” He adds that he founded the startup in 2016 and that it is bootstrapped.

“I wanted to ensure it was based on data. I looked at the consumer statistics and I knew that the biggest consumer adopters of technology were not men, but women. So I wanted to build something for the female market that actually could be very useful for them and the best way for me to enter the women’s market was through fashion. And the thing about fashion is, the only thing I understood about fashion is absolutely nothing,” he laughs.

He shares that last year, he lost a lot of weight and had to replace his wardrobe. “It was a very difficult time for me, I didn’t know anything about fashion and needed to learn a little bit more here and there. I asked people and it wasn’t fun for me. I imagined it could be the same way for women and I asked around, and got my info validated—if they could have some sort of personal shopper or stylist that could help them out to buy items that would look better on them and match their fashion style.”

That led to Winzendy thinking about creating a personal styling app; one that could be scalable, as well as convenient for women. “We wanted to make a personal shopper and stylist for women and we brainstormed through that concept and evolved it into a fashion matchmaking app, where it’s not just getting fashion advice from just one source. You get the advice from Yuna but also from all other brands and all of other influencers so you can mix and match based on your preferences,” he explains.

What was his mission at the outset? “Well, the mission is actually, to help women to basically find a way to find better and easier fashion options for themselves. People think that fashion is superficial, but it isn’t, with the right fashion and when it looks good on you, it boosts your confidence. So the mission of the company is we want to ensure we can help women look good and feel good about themselves, to give them the confidence to do whatever they want.”

However, there are other personal styling apps out there, so what makes Yuna & Co stand out from the rest?

Winzendy replies: “I think in terms of how we structured the whole concept, we haven’t really found one that’s exactly the same. We have found some really interesting ones from the US, but none so far in Asia, to be honest. So we have Yuna, which is the fashion matchmaker and basically has her own opinion on how you should style, and that’s basically curated by our own stylists.

“But we don’t just stop there, we want to match you up with other stylists, whether they’re from the brands we have on board, or you can chat with other influencers or stylists which are all chatbots as well. You can follow the stylists who fit your preferences and connect with them. So it’s not just Yuna which is giving advice, you’ll be able to chat with multiple stylists.”

According to him, there are more than 20 brands that are available in the app and the goal is to get 100 brands on board in total by year end.

Commenting on the startup’s revenue, model Winzendy explains that they have two, namely a subscription-based software and services model for the brands and a percentage of commission for transactions made through the app (the latter will only be available in the third quarter of 2017).  “These are the two primary models, we have other add-ons as a service,” he adds.

The Yuna & Co mobile app is targeted to launch officially in the third or fourth week of May, and will be available for Android and iOS.

When asked what his plans are to grow the business, Winzendy says that they currently want to focus on ensuring they build the best product available. “We want to make sure that people enjoy using it. We want to make sure the content we provide to users is accurate and according to their style. It won’t be perfect from the get-go, it’s an ongoing development and we’ll keep improving it.”

He adds that for the next one to two years, their biggest investment will be from the tech side. “We want to make sure the product will be so much more awesome for the user. The next one year, we do have plans to expand to Singapore and Malaysia, for business reasons. I think in terms of pure volume, we have a lot of users in Indonesia, but for transactional value and buying power we feel Singapore and Malaysia digital users have more of that.”

“Right now, the whole fashion and brand community is within our reach. Even in Indonesia alone, the Indonesian fashion segment is worth US$2.4 billion, in Singapore it is about US$69 million. Don’t have data for Malaysia at the moment, but it’s a huge market. For digital alone, there’s enough validation from the success of brands like Zalora which has a huge number of users. They actually have the users, but what we need to see is how we can find a market fit to make our business profitable,” he explains.

How will they fund their expansion plans? “Right now, are working on seed fund raising. We want to boost our tech team and expand into Singapore and Malaysia and it requires a big investment to scale up. In discussions with potential investors at the moment,” Winzendy shares.

Commenting on challenges he’s experienced along the way, he admits that the biggest challenge is on the tech side. “We’re building this complex app, with artificial intelligence and machine learning, within the fashion category itself. For the tech side, it is about finding the right resources, especially finding the right developers, which is hard in this part of the region. I think that goes across every market in this industry, talent is always in demand.”

When asked what the tops skills one needs to have as an entrepreneur, Winzendy replies that imagination is important. “The ability to be flexible in any kind of situation—things can get tough, you need imagination to get through that. Secondly, perseverance, as an entrepreneur you get a lot of rejections sometimes, you face a lot of challenges and you shouldn’t give up easily. The last skill is the spirit of collaboration; it’s impossible for one man to do it all. I may have an idea, but at the end of the day, it is my team who will help me achieve what I’m striving for. And it’s not just my team, but the other people I collaborate with. You need to be able to collaborate with various parties if you want to go very far.”

If he had one piece of advice to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur, what would it be? “To be honest, think twice. Being an entrepreneur is not for everybody, I would say. It’s not just about having the capital to do something, it’s very different from being a professional. I know both worlds, and being an entrepreneur is a totally different beast and if you’ve been accustomed to being a professional for so long, and you want to be an entrepreneur you need to have a total mindset shift,” he concludes.

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