Zugara CEO speaks about creating value and the beginning of something new
Matt Szymczk Talks to Fashinvest about His Innovative Software that is Supposed to make Zugara a Star in the Near Future
Zugara's birthday resulted in a team of seven people being laid off their previous jobs and proves how one's misery can lead to creativity. The company came to life March 12, 2001 and co-founder Matthew Szymczk was kind enough to answer some of the questions Fashinvest had about the companies' adventures and experience in the start-up metier.
CEO and co-founder of the Augmented Reality Software Zugara spoke to Fashinvest about the idea and also gave the Fashinvest team insights on his life before starting a new business. “My educational background consists of a mash-up between marketing, interactive development and screenwriting,” Szymczk tells Fashinvest and adds that he always “had the technical background as my father taught me how to program in BASIC when I was younger.” He realized that coding was not something he enjoyed pursuing further on so his “focus ended up being more on the project management side for interactive development.” The CEO spent most of his career in the so called interactive application development world and noticed that “over the last 12 years, it's been interesting watching the web evolve to what it is today.” In this time frame he worked in industries such as entertainment, CPG, automotive, and fashion and even touched base with script development at Universal Studios.
The New York Times stated a year ago that “compared with other industries, fashion has made considerable advances in AR use” which is explained by saying that “its a natural fit” stating that “when people view fashion, they tend to imagine themselves wearing the products.” When asked what the idea behind this new way of shopping for clothing online was he explains that his former girlfriend and her friends “were actually the inspiration” and adds that as he was watching football one day “ they were just chatting and debating the pros and cons of online shopping. Anything interactive fascinates me. In essence, their main problem was that online shopping is boring and solitary.” He found out that many times “they didn't make a purchase because they weren't sure if the item was right for them. A lot of time they didn't make a purchase because they weren't sure if the item was right for them.” Other findings were that just looking at a piece of clothing on a model was not efficient enough for them to visualize what it would look like on their bodies. He decided to take on this “problem” and discussed with the team of Zugara. After brainstorming the company realized that they “could use augmented reality to make online shopping a much better experience, immediately.” Zugara built a prototype because “at the time, we felt like we were on to something big”, he explains and adds that he believed that “ they could create value for shoppers and retailers.”
On Zugara's official website, the company talks about “young” woman trying on these clothes and Fashinvest wanted to know who the company is targeting this new technology to. “We are not targeting any specific demographic with our technology but it's becoming apparent that the younger generations are adapting quickly to the Natural User Interface. The Natural User Interface (NUI) is using natural motions, gestures and even voice to interact with digital content and systems.” He continues by explaining that “with Kinect, this evolution to the NUI is accelerating especially with Gen Y and Gen Z demographic sets.”
In terms of marketing strategies the bootstrapped start-up believes that media, PR, SEO and email play a crucial role in the marketing mix. “Our PR efforts have been rather successful for us, helping to raise awareness and drive inbound leads,” Szymck notes and adds that “outside of the media coverage we've been able to secure, we have been fortunate to be invited to numerous conferences to speak on both our technology and the Augmented Reality Industry as a whole. There has been a lot of hype around AR , so we tend to speak to realities of the technology today and not the promises of tomorrow.”
Although the company has not received any funding to date and has been maintaining itself through self funding by the core team, Zugara is “currently meeting with investors and would use investment and R&D, expansion of our sales and distribution end, and for continued development of our core platform.”
With 24 retailers currently licensing Zagara's technology the company has had a lot of exciting retailers signing up for the technology. “In the U.S. We have Mattel/Barbie using our technology for the Barbie Dream Closet. We also have ecommerce retailers in the U.S. Such as K-Bee Leotards and Scrubtastic using our software.” In addition to that, international companies from the Netherlands, Malaysia and Poland have picked up the technology and Szymczk adds: “ We're also very excited about upcoming launches of our software with retailers in Italy, Russia, Turkey, China and Australia.” Further plans include licensing the technology to integrate it into ecommerce platforms and with 750 retailers downloading the software Zugara is off to a good start.
The CEO sees his company using AR and the technology “ to evolve the social media experience.” He believes that “as consumers continue to shop through different platforms we can connect these consumers with our technology in ways never before possible.”
Lastly, he tells Fashinvest that “what we're working on is just the beginning for both Augmented Reality commerce and the Natural User Interface. This area is quickly evolving and we have quite a few exciting plans for our technology and software.” For the future he seems excited and he has every right to be – just recently Zugara was granted a patent that helps protect the company and its plans for the days ahead.
By Melanie Marusic