Thomas Rankin had been having trouble shopping for clothes he liked on the Internet. He did it, for sure—we all do—but he had yet to find one website or platform that had everything he wanted: social recommendations, multiple brands, a seamless buying experience. One night late in September, he was on Pinterest, when he saw a Burberry coat that he liked. It was pricey, but he steeled himself, decided to invest in it, and clicked on the item with the intent to buy it. The link was dead. "It totally destroyed the intent," he recalls.
That’s when he resolved to build the product that he himself wanted—a single, reliable, social, aggregating platform, mobile-centric and geared towards young men like himself, offering a seamless buying experience. Months later, he launched Dash Hudson, which just closed a seed funding round led by former Groupon CTO Paul Gauthier.
In a world awash with style and fashion sites, what sets Dash Hudson apart? Its mobile focus, and the way it caters to a particular demographic: men in their early 20s. While a 55-year-old man goes to a store to buy clothes and turns to a tailor for advice, and while a 35-year-old man buys online and turns to GQ for advice, Rankin says that the average 21-year-old would rather make purchases through a smartphone, and relies on social media and blogs to develop his personal style.
Rankin says that of recently college-graduating men, 85% prefer to shop online, 50% purchase fashion via smartphone, and 40% report looking for "social validation" about their purchase. Above all, though, they want efficiency. (His research is rounded up here.)
How does Dash Hudson work? Using proprietary search technology, it gathers available clothing items from across the web. A staff of style experts hired by Dash Hudson write up small, blog-like articles about favored garments, and these get pushed to a news feed in the Dash Hudson app. Users can scroll through these items in what amounts to an Instagram-like experience; clicking on an item expands it to further display the style expert’s take. A user can then click through to purchase the item directly through Dash Hudson, which ultimately buys the item on the user’s behalf.
"We’re essentially like a styling service," says Rankin, but there’s no surcharge for the user, who gets the best price available. Rankin says he’s "building relationships with brands" in order to get a paid transaction fee each time a product is sold through the platform. (He ultimately calls the company’s business model a "work in progress," though, so we can’t rule out a future surcharge entirely.) About 15,000 items are currently available through Dash Hudson, whose search technology updates the platform as new items become available or old ones sell out.
And those style experts? Many are paid on commission—in proportion to how well the item they pitch sells—while other, more experienced members are paid a flat fee per item, particularly for what Rankin calls "longform items," which in this world means 800 words as opposed to the usual 120. Style editors—about 200 of them—"come from all walks of life," says Rankin, and not all are guys; indeed, many are women. Oftentimes, their articles may be themed or seasonal: "What to Wear for Memorial Day Weekend," "A Great Outfit to Wear to a Barbeque for Less than $100," and so on.
Since launching in March, Rankin says Dash Hudson is seeing 20% week-over-week growth, with a quarter of customers engaging with the application more than once per week, "which for a shopping site for guys is pretty incredible," he says.
Whether Dash Hudson grows to join the ranks of the e-commerce fashion sites Rankin admires—he mentions Gilt, Frank and Oak, and Mr. Porter, among others—remains to be seen. For the time being, Rankin’s satisfied to have at least created something that would have spared him a lot of frustration last September, when he set out to buy that Burberry coat. "I basically realized the social shopping experiences weren’t being built for me as a younger male shopper," he says.
If there are many others out there who share that frustration, they have a new app to turn to.