EXCLUSIVE: AI Styling Firm FindMine Scores Nearly $9M Series A

AI-driven styling outfit FindMine, one of LVMH’s La Maison de Startups, has raised $8.9 million in a Series A that closed just days ago, the company told WWD.

Led by Grayhawk Ventures, the round puts FindMine’s total amount raised to date at $17.6 million. The list of Series A backers include Grayhawk Capital, Frazier Capital, PJC and angels Sarah Wallis and Vikas Gupta, among others, adding to a robust slate of previous including Adidas Ventures, XRC Labs, RevTech Equity for Women Fund and Amplifyher Ventures.

More from WWD

It’s tempting to lump the company in with the recent spate of start-ups hopping on the artificial intelligence bandwagon. FindMine, however, rejects that categorization.

Founded in 2014, the business started taking on clients in 2016, long before the latest generative AI boom, Michelle Bacharach, chief executive officer and cofounder, pointed out.

From the start, the team was laser-focused on building out its own models. ”We actually needed what you might call old school AI, kind of like discriminative AI models, [with] supervised machine learning and stuff that needed very structured data in the old-school data-science era, in order to be able to do what we do,” she said.

The company quickly attracted Adidas as one of its early clients, which was a boon, but also an intense challenge.

“They have such massive scale, and every time a page on their site loaded and called our API, our servers struggled under the weight,” Bacharach said. APIs, or application programming interfaces, are tools that allow different technologies to communicate. “Normally, you don’t start at that level. But what’s also interesting about that, is we were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to be a billion-dollar business overnight. We’ve made it,’ right? But they were such an early adopter for technologies like AI.

“Adidas was like the bleeding edge, and then everyone took literally like seven more years to sort of catch up and be comfortable with using AI to do something that is very human at its core — which is styling, putting your brand out there and editorializing around your product,” she added.

Michelle Bacharach
FindMine’s Michelle Bacharach

Bacharach likens AI to online banking adoption, which initially took time to gain traction. Early on, people were nervous and unsure about the technology, but today, she pointed out, everyone uses it.

It’s still early in the race for fashion AI, and not everyone uses data science as a styling tool right now. But the comparison does seem apt, as a range of platforms from Big Tech to scrappy newcomers are developing AI-driven styling features at a breakneck speed.

When asked what separates FindMine’s technology from rivals, Bacharach immediately delved into a deeper conversation about its use of discriminative AI, machine learning and vector databases to understand products, alongside generative AI models that can offer different visualizations for the consumer. There’s plenty there for data scientists to chew through, but the takeaway for brands is that this is a rare blend of “old school” AI and newfangled genAI — not an AI styling feature that secretly relies on humans to power product recommendations — and it works, even using a brand’s unstructured data.

That aspect can’t be overstated. Right now, the lion’s share of brands and retailers desperately want to use AI, but more than half admit that their data is in a fairly messy state. FindMine’s approach would be able to overcome some of that messiness and make sense of the data.

That’s key for backers like Sarah Wallis, chief operating officer of home goods and stationary marketplace Minted. “FindMine has the ability to take a lot more unstructured data, which is what retailers struggle with, bring it in and turn it into results and capabilities. It can help pull in that unstructured data and make it digestible,” she said.

Her view is informed by more than two decades in fashion and beauty retail, including an advisory role for Kendra Scott and previous executive positions at Gap Inc. for Old Navy and Athleta, Walmart, Lululemon, Bare Escentuals and more.

“When you have a technology like FindMine powering your web experience — that is so good at taking all of this unstructured data, putting it together and creating an outstanding customer experience that drives sales, that drives my margin, drives my inventory management — I can actually focus on the stuff that I really love to do, which is selecting product and thinking about trends,” she continued.

“That’s the interesting work to me, and now I get to do that instead of having to match up outfits on a website.”

The company’s combination of deep technical development and fashion focus is also a major appeal for investors like Vikas Gupta, an entrepreneur in his own right after stints at Google and Amazon.

A lot of companies brag about their AI chops in building models and infrastructures, he said. “And then there are some specific companies like FindMine that are building application use cases [focusing on] how businesses function in specific verticals. I haven’t seen a lot of use cases come out.“

According to FindMine’s data, its tech directly powers $89 million in retailer and brand revenue annually, and nearly $1 billion in annual revenue happens downstream because of FindMine content. The effect spans single brand players to multibrand retailers, and categories from lifestyle to menswear to jewelry, driving upticks in user engagement and repeat purchases through brand-building and shoppable content.

Destination XL, for instance, saw a 5 percent jump in sales on its highest margin category, accessories. One major brand reported clearing out more than 100,000 units of a product that was, at one time, at risk of a price slash. But the item sold at full price when the tech dynamically featured it in outfits and style stories.

Today, the company’s client roster spans the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan and features names like Lululemon, Lands’ End, DXL, Annie Bing, Vineyard Vines, French retailer CFOC and others, including Fortune 500 brands.

When reached for comment, Lululemon explained that the tech partner “has helped us achieve outfitting experiences for scale quickly. The partnership allows us to curate and create outfits across a vast catalogue that leverages both our own internal expertise combined with FindMine’s.”

Best of WWD