He made Tinder for clothes. Then a $ 30 million contestant came along

When Madison Semerjian was a college freshman, he got an idea for an app: It would be like Tinder, but for clothing. She imagined that the app could use AI to learn her personal style and then pull outfits together from a wide range of retailers. If she liked what she saw, she could swipe right and buy everything. If she hates it, she will swipe to the left.

Semerjian could not shake the idea, so he spent all of his time building the college – developing technology, raising funds and signing partnerships with leading brands such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Prada. He called the app Mada, And tinder launched it in January 2020. It was a quick Hit with the media And style lovers because nothing like this existed.


But that quickly changed

The day before this year, while Semerjian was drinking coffee with two of his advisers, he showed a new tinder app in Apple’s App Store. it was called Yes, And had a similar functionality to Mada. It also had major assistance; It was run by the former COO of Stitch Fix and raised $ 30 million from investors.

“Here I am, fresh out of school. And here are the stalwarts of this industry who have more experience in the industry than my life on this earth, ”says 23-year-old Semerjian, who was very understanding.

“But my mentor changed me at that moment and he was gone, ‘Blinders on, Madison.”

To stay ahead of her well-funded competition, the advisor was saying, Semerjian could not panic. He needed to focus on his strengths while speeding up his plans for marketing and development. Here are three key things he did in response:

1. Build strong bonds with customers

When Mada first launched, it did so with the bug. Its product feeds were not updating fast enough, so sometimes customers would order something and then find out that it was out of stock. “At that moment, I will reach out to them myself and be like,” says Semerjian, “I’m very sorry, it’s out of stock, but here are 10 more options.”

She was stunned by the results. These customers turned into some of Mada’s biggest fans. It made him realize the power of connecting with his audience personally. This gave him the idea of ​​launching a “style concierge” of sorts – which any customer could understand with any style-related question. He felt that he would develop it sometime in the future.

Then his new contestant arrived, and Semerjian decided that the time had come to launch the style concierge now. She wanted another way to differentiate herself, and to lock in long-term relationships with her clients. So instead of offering a style concierge as a premium service, he made it available to everyone using the app. Everyone has to send an email and they will get a personalized response.

The program began in the summer, and Semerjian says the response was immediate. Users became even more engaged with the application and used it for a longer period of time. And he asked questions he never expected, giving him even more insight into his users. “One was emailed and it was like, ‘I wear the same thing over and over again, and I’m bored, but I’m trying something new. Any suggestions?'” She says.

His team had many tips.


2. the market smarter, not harder tinder

Semerjian has a modest marketing budget, so he plans to use it slowly and strategically. Instead of blowing the budget on the budget of a lot of cheerful influencers, she started with a program that regularly paid girls to promote the brand. But once his contestant came on the scene, Semerjian decided to pursue his game – but only strategically remained.

Many startups spend heavily and quickly on marketing, hoping to grab as many eyeballs as possible, but Semerjian did not want to do so. Even though she felt pressured for tinder, she wanted to figure out how to get the most out of her marketing dollars. She interviewed a lot of influential people, looking for someone who was fully aligned with Mada, and eventually decided to run a campaign with one of them. Semerjian speculated that Instagram would attract the most attention, but he was surprised at the results. Instagram did fine … but the influential person casually mentioned Mada on his YouTube channel, and That A huge reaction ensued.

“People loved, versus seeing this picture together on Instagram,” Semarajian says. This was exactly the kind of data she was expecting. “I’m glad we tried to do that, because it completely changed my perspective on how we are going to do effective marketing.”

3. Listen to customers and rethink assumptions

Each founder has a vision for their company, and it was Semerjian: Mada A Set the stage. It was special That’s why It created complete organizations for people to review.

But then his customers started asking for things other than organizations. “People started saying ‘I love this new brand, which I discovered in an organization, but can I see that all the products were taken by them?”

At first, Semerjian did not like it. Mada was one Set the stage with tinder, after all! But then he realized his mistake. “I am a planner. I know what I want, and I am also such a control freak, ”she says. And in business, it can be dangerous. “That’s why I made sure to build a team that has some people who are my absolute adversaries, because I love when the people on my team challenge me.”

He listened to his team and began to move beyond organizations. They created a new feature so that people could search by personal brand. She says, “This is little more than a typical ecommerce experience, rather than just an outfit.” ”

But the users were happy, and that’s what matters most.

Want to hear more of Semerjian’s story?

Listen to him entrepreneur Problem Solver Podcast:


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