How computer science will rescue fashionistas

WHAT PROBLEM DOES YOUR BUSINESS SOLVE?
Due to the boom in online shopping that's taken place over the last five years, the internet is swarming with items of clothing for us to buy. If you're trying to find something similar to an item that you've seen in a magazine, or on the catwalk, it can be a frustrating and laborious process.

Consumers have to visit multiple retailers, manually narrow down categories, trying to find words to describe exactly what it is that they like about the item and then sometimes discovering that it's out of stock.

Snap Fashion addresses this by letting people search by images. Consumers take a photo of what it is they're looking for and our algorithms return results within seconds. Shoppers can search nearly a quarter of a million items in just a few seconds and three clicks.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
I came up with the idea because I was tired of trying to shop on a student budget. I always admired clothing in magazines and that other people were wearing, but could never quite find anything like it in high street shops without spending hours scavenging on a Saturday. Searching the internet using images seemed like the obvious thing to do.

WHAT DID YOU DO PRIOR TO STARTING THE BUSINESS?
I came up with the idea for Snap Fashion in 2009 when I was studying Computer Science at the University of Bristol, and developed some of the algorithms behind the visual search as my final year thesis. After graduating, I worked as a project manager for Thales, an international engineering company, for a few years. I really enjoyed it but found trying to build a business in the evenings and weekends challenging, which is why I decided to go full time on Snap Fashion at the beginning of this year.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES?
The first hurdle was having the guts to quit my full time job in the middle of a recession. There's so much press about how hard it is for recent graduates to get a job, so I was aware that my decision was a leap of faith.

My biggest business challenge was finding funding. The recession is a great time to start a business due to the growth possibilities, but it does mean that there are fewer Angels willing to take risks.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PROSPECTIVE ENTREPRENEURS?
Listen to all of the advice that you're given, and then take time to weigh it all up. There will be many conflicting views about your product: some you will want to hear, and others you won't. However, they normally stem from other people's experiences, so it's worth very careful consideration.

WHY DID YOU ENTER CISCO BIG AWARDS 2012?
I was drawn to the Cisco BIG Awards because they seemed to be looking for a company like us: someone small but with the potential to go global and champion British innovation. And there's no denying that the prize fund is amazing.

We've benefitted hugely from the experience. It's added to the buzz surrounding our product launch, given people more confidence in our idea and most importantly introduced us to a room of experienced and influential individuals.

WHAT ARE YOUR BUSINESS PLANS?
We've got a really hectic roadmap over the next couple of months, from launching our app on a variety of mobile platforms to launching our product for men.

In the long term we really want a global company. Searching via pictures removes language barriers, making this technology particularly easy to expand abroad. I think our first target outside the UK will be America, but we'll see.

CV JENNY GRIFFITHS
Company: Snap Fashion

Founded: 2011 (idea in 2009)

Company turnover: £0 (we only launched last Monday)

Number of staff: 1 full time, 7 part time

Job title: Founder and chief executive

Age: 25

Born: Kingston-Upon-Thames

Lives: Surbiton

Studied: Computer Science, University of Bristol

Drinking: Interesting fruity cocktails

Currently Reading: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon

Motto: I don’t have one, but I love the George Bush quote of “The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur.”

Talents: Programming and baking complicated cakes

Heroes: Stephen Hawking and Roald Dahl

Awards: Cisco BIG Award; Technology Strategy Board Tech City Launchpad Competition; Red Bull Future 50 Competition 2011; Bristol University’s New Enterprise Competition; South West Universities Business Plan Competition

First ambition: To walk on the moon

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