Go Shopping Together Online With Ann Arbor Startup: HangTrend INTERVIEW

Leore Avidar has built a new social network/e-commerce hybrid platform immersed with fashion. As he tells us in the interview below, he started HangTrend, an Ann Arbor startup, when he couldn’t easily find a pair of driving moccasins. He had searched all of the usual sites to buy a pair online, but to no avail. Along the way he also realized that there wasn’t an easy way to interact with friends who may be shopping at the same time either.

Now a lot of shopping and e-commerce sites allow the user to share an item they like but no shopping site allows you to share a possible purchase online in real time to get feedback on a purchase. Just think about how often this scenario plays out in a brick and mortar world. You go to the mall with your buddies or girl friends and say do you like these shoes? Will this look good on me? Is this too much to pay?  All of these questions could easily be asked online on a platform which allowed easy sharing, easy re-call and social feedback.

That’s exactly the concept behind HangTrend works.  As more and more people take to the web for shopping on multiple screens, HangTrend is a natural evolution of the e-commerce space. Now only that but HangTrend has access to millions of products by tens of thousands of designers and of course you can ultimately buy the latest fashions, direct.

We got a chance to talk to Avidar in the interview below:

What is HangTrend?

HangTrend is a place where users can explore the newest fashion items, share them with friends and find inspiration for new outfits. Hangtrend has over 1 million products from 10,000+ brands. Users can find clothing and accessories that they like and add them to their “Closet”. The closet is a way for users to express themselves, add items you like, own, or want to own and showcase your style to your friends. Hangtrend users can also follow people’s whose style they like and add items from their friends closet. Everything on Hangtrend can ultimately be purchased directly from the designer.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

There are 4 founders.

Leore Avidar – Graduated from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in 2011. He has a background in Finance and Computer Science. He has previously founded startups in the tech space and most recently worked for Citigroup as a Hybrid/Asset Management Derivatives Trader.

Val Gui – Graduated from the University of Michigan in 2010. He worked on previous start-ups with Leore and was the Director of Business Development for a large automobile dealership group.

Enea Gjoka – Enea graduated the University of Michigan in 2011. Enea has a background in Cellular and Molecular Biology. He taught himself programming at a young age and has developed multiple successful websites and mobile applications. One of his iPhone apps has over 1.7 million downloads and over 300,000 active paying users. In his free time he goes to Medical School.

Zubair has a background in Business, Biomedical Engineering and Pharmaceutical Engineering. He has founded multiple successful companies in the biopharmaceutical, SaaS, and property management industries.

Where are you based?

We are currently based in Ann Arbor, MI.

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

Young but budding. Ann Arbor is like the Palo Alto of the mid-west; Top tier university, very strong community ties and a lot of people with great ideas and the will to take risks to make things happen. The University of Michigan just started a new Masters of Entrepreneurship (you actually start a business and they expect you to continue it once you graduate), there are a couple small incubators/accelerators in the area and the start-up community is tight knit and growing.

How did you come up with the idea for HangTrend?

Leore came up with idea about a year ago. He was looking for a pair of driving moccassins when he realized the struggle he goes through to shop online. He realized shopping online is not like shopping at the mall. Shopping online should be social. He saw many users struggle to find a shopping site that fit all needs. Most people he talked to would search multiple sites like Amazon, Zappos, Hautelook, Gilt, Bluefly and each site had different products and users would have multiple tabs open. There was also no easy way to get friends opinions or recommend products to friends. HangTrend allows you with a single platform to search for products that you like, get your friends opinion, and recommend products to your friends.

What problem does HangTrend solve?

HangTrend solves the problem of having to go to multiple websites to find products that you like and having to copy and paste links to sites in emails to ask you friends for preferences. Additionally, all your friends are on the site too and you can see their style and get influences from other people. Hangtrend aggregates all products and makes it easier for user to share things with there friends.

What’s your secret sauce?

Our secret sauce is two fold. Our proprietary algorithms are able to quantify a user’s style and based on their style we are able to recommend them new and relevant products that they ultimately would wear and purchase. Our recommendation engine is unlike anyone else’s and since we have so many items on our site you are not limited to one brand or one style. On hangtrend you can get introduced to new products and find stuff that is your style and in your price range.

Secondly, we have created a trending and trend setter software that helps us determine new trends and what users set those trends. This information is extremely valuable and retailers are willing to for this information.

What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?

Our biggest dilemma is one that a lot of start-ups face; with the limited resources available in both time and money, how do you decide whether to focus on site functionality and site design. I.E., what’s more important “form or function” Our target market are users that are concerned with appearance and how something looks, that’s why they are into fashion.  However, we want the site not just to look good, but have a high degree of functionality, allowing you to interact with other users and items in unique ways. The challenge of splitting our time between the two is something that we still haven’t figured out yet. We need to dedicate enough time to each while making sure that we don’t compromise so much that both get ruined.

What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?

Finding talent and passion. We spent much more time than we expecting looking for the right team members, but now that we have them things are cruising and we know we made the right choice in being very picky who we let on the team.

What’s the first thing you would do for HangTrend with a one million dollar investment?

More fulltime staff, specifically programmers and designers. We want this site to look sleek and clean. We have so many ideas and only limited personnel.

What’s next for HangTrend?

Hangtrend is currently in the process of securing our first round of financing. Our goal is to completely redesign the site’s UI making it much cleaner and simpler to use. Additionally, we plan on scaling our site up and possibly moving to silicon valley to take advantage a more mature start-up environment with additional resources.
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