IZOTTI is a Canadian Menswear Startup specializing in bespoke men’s suits and shirts. This Startup has come up with a Proprietary Algorithm for Accurate Customer Measurement via smartphones and Webcam. We recently Interviewed Sean Jacobs to know more about IZOTTI and its much talked about algorithm.
Sean, Thank you for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far
Thank you for having me. It’s been a very interesting journey. A great learning experience, but not something that can be replicated. IZOTTI as a brand started at the beginning of 2017. It all started after a good friend of ours was completing his MBA program abroad. As childhood friends, we always had a reputation for wearing very stylish clothing. At that time I was working in a corporate environment, but wearing suits was something we like to do even on weekends. He introduced me to some local tailors. Initially, IZOTTI was making clothing for myself and a small circle of friends and coworkers. But the goal was to provide a simple way for young men to buy finely tailored clothing for a reasonable price.
I’ve always been a man interested in business and sales, so naturally, I had a very extensive network of friends and clients throughout my city and abroad. Although we were very successful in selling locally, on the east coast, I felt that we could do more.
The fashion business was never my forte, but I think it helped me in that being an outsider, I was able to see areas of the business that would benefit from innovation. Tailoring is a business that has been around for hundreds of years, but because it was so labor-intensive and suiting is a very personal purchase, it was hard to scale.
I had the idea to develop some type of application that could measure clients from their phone or webcam but it was difficult to attain consistent results because the sample sizes had to be so large and there were so many variables when capturing measurements; camera quality, distance from the camera, privacy concerns, not to mention our customer’s confidence in using a web-based measurement system to purchase $500 suits.
So I went on a tear, reading everything I could about html5 webcam access, APIs, Machine Learning, etc. It took a lot of trial and error but we got it to work and then we implemented it on our website. We’ve been rolling ever since.
When did you come up with the idea of izotti. What were the initial challenges that you faced in your endeavor as menswear is a highly competitive segment?
The idea of IZOTTI as we know it today is something that came to fruition in late 2016. Initially, it started as a traditional menswear company where we set up shop and used measuring tapes to record our customers’ measurements, and then we manually sent them out to our partner factories for them to construct a suit.
However in 2016 we started to look at the landscape of menswear and thought what would be the new improved way to get more accurate measurements more quickly and have them delivered more efficiently.
So when we came up with this idea to utilize people smart phone or WebCam for them to measure themselves the biggest challenge was accuracy and privacy. We had to train our algorithm to account for a lot of factors a lot of the factors that people might overlook goes into a well tailored garment.
In terms of competition, I think you’re right, menswear is one of the most competitive businesses in the world. I think what separates us is that we are more than just a traditional ‘menswear fashion’ company, we are a nexus of design, advanced manufacturing, and technology.
Most traditional suit makers are retail-based and have brick and mortar setups. At IZOTTI, we are based purely online and we are using a proprietary technology that our competitors don’t have. I have seen some beautiful sites but the measurement profiles are not really based on individual customers, they are more of an estimation. No one in the suit business has any tech that can measure as accurately as us. Bespoke tailoring requires precision and that’s why we focused on building a solid API rather than use gimmicky software.
We have heard a lot about your Proprietary Algorithm which helps your clients in getting accurate measurements. Tell us more about this algorithm.
Well, something that was conceptualized couple years ago and since then we have built a model, trained it, deployed it, and then refined it. Put it simply we are using landmark technology because it allows us to find specific points for specific bodies and then using some math we are able to get very accurate results, calculating circumference.
We’ve tested hundreds of post estimations and trained our algorithm on over 10,000 participants.
All you need to do is take a front and side profile stance and measurements are calculated instantaneously. From there, a 3d model is created and an encrypted key is attached to the profile for reference. We don’t store any photos because our commitment to consumer privacy is our top priority.
Coronavirus has impacted many businesses so far. Clothing Industry has also suffered a lot with many brick and mortar businesses shutting down. How has your organization adapted to the current pandemic?
Yes, you’re right. Coronavirus has impacted the traditional retail industry, IZOTTI included. But on the bright side, the impact of coronavirus has also effectively highlighted the advantage IZOTTI has. When we started this business, it was with the future in mind. From the beginning, we wanted to make a buying experience that could be done remotely and easily, so permanent stores were never in the plan.
We have hired and trained more customer service staff to help our new customers understand and navigate. As well, we created a “work from home” collection. Its a variety of 4 tracks all made of our “athletico” cotton blend. Its a “stay-at-home-but-still-look-put-together” track suit that will help you maintain professionalism on your zoom calls.
We are always improving the buying experience for our customers, and we have been expanding our sales channels with Instagram and Facebook shops, as well as exploring the idea of a fully virtual shop with unique AR features. Very cool stuff.
IZOTTI is regarded as a specialist in crafting bespoke men’s suits. Are you considering diversification in the near future?
Diversification in terms of products of course. Right now we are developing our accessory line of executive travel bags and luggage. We had initially put together a plan to roll out our wedding service but that was delayed because of the pandemic. We have set a target to release our wedding service for groomsmen in Q2, 2021.
We have also been contacted by many manufacturers and larger corporations interested in using our API to collaborate on creating PPE for worker safety.
What are your plans for 2020 keeping in mind the ongoing pandemic? Also, what suggestions would you give to businesses who are going through a rough patch?
Part of our brand identity is perseverance and confidence and so we always hope for the best. For the remainder of 2020 you can expect to see us continue to grow and raise brand awareness. We have a fantastic marketing team and we are in talks with some great ambassadors to help deliver an experience and show our customers we mean business.
My advice to any business is going to a rough patch would be to maintain optimism and keep customers first — we’re all in this together. Talk to your team, and always look for ways to improve the experience and maintain optimal efficiency.
An Interview with Yasmin Bashirova around Strategic Finance Management for Start-ups
Yasmin Bashirova is the Chief of Staff at an e-commerce start-up on a mission to bring trust and simplicity to the peer-to-peer used car market.
She graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. and M.S. in Energy Resource Engineering. After graduation, Bashirova worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York City, where she provided data-driven financial analyses for capital decisions such as M&A deals, IPOs, and LBOs.
Combining her engineering and finance background, she delivers data-driven results for projects in the finance, product development, and marketing sectors. Bashirova’s top skills include research, data analysis, economics, and strategic leadership. She also speaks four languages, including Azerbaijani, French, Russian, and English.
We recently got a chance to Interview Yasmin Bashirova about strategic finance management for start-ups.
How did you get started in strategic finance management for start-ups?
Starting out as a Chief of Staff at Shift, I had to wear many hats and found strategic finance to be most aligned with my background. In a growth stage company, the strategic finance arm is crucial for scaling the company in a sustainable fashion, so it’s been exciting to be a part of an impactful team.
In your experience, what does strategic finance look like at a start-up as opposed to a big business?
I never worked in a strategic finance arm of a big company, but a guess would be that the experience is most likely more focused / niche vs. broad. When you’re in a small company, as the team is still small, you have an opportunity to work with more business partners and capture more business management and decision-making than you would in a big company FP&A role.
What was the biggest takeaway for start-ups during Covid?
Managing your runway early on is crucial. As we saw during COVID, start-ups that weren’t well-positioned for the recession and couldn’t pivot in time ended up not making it through the difficult macro environment.
How do you think your background in engineering has prepared you for success in the field of data-driven finance? And more specifically, would you say your background has any perks when it comes to finance for start-ups?
I think studying engineering in school prepares you for any kind of job, even if your role doesn’t end up being super technical in scope. Engineering teaches you how to become a structured thinker. In computer science, for instance, I learned how to decompose large tasks into smaller manageable steps. This type of mindset is something I encounter every single day in my work in strategic finance. If a business has a problem, the answer is rarely a binary decision dependent on one variable, so isolating for different components that drive the issue is an engineering approach that I use in strategic finance on a day-to-day basis.
When it comes to finance, how do start-ups strike a balance between short-term growth and long-term resilience?
It’s tough to summarize this question in a quick interview, as this is the billion-dollar question that many companies are dealing with every day. From my perspective, the business model needs to have a profitability path in sight as the business scales. The heaviest costs from the unit economics components need to decrease as the network effect becomes more prevalent. When operational or corporate expenses are growing linearly with the company’s topline, that’s when issues start to arise because the business model will never become profitable unless there’s a sudden change in the profitability profile.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while coming up with a financial strategy for a start-up? And how did you overcome it?
Start-ups are resource constrained relative to big companies, so the biggest challenge I faced was building out tools and dashboards from scratch. In order to come up with a strategy, you need to understand the state of affairs for key drivers and challenges for the business, and getting clarity is not the easiest thing in start-ups as the data is not perfect. I overcame this challenge by partnering with operational and technical leaders and letting their expertise drive the analysis from the bottom-up vs. judging based on my assumptions.
What are some tools that are essential to your craft? If you have a problem related to strategic finance, what kind of things can you rely on to help you find an answer?
Most of my work is done in Excel/Google sheets. The majority of my analysis relies on pivot tables and excel formulas like index match, as well as scenario planning using what-if analysis. It’s tough to point to one tool as the panacea for the problem; usually, the combination of all is what you need.
An Interview with Tamas, London based Economist and founder of Alpha FX Acacdemy
Tamas is the founder of Alpha FX Acacdemy. He is an ‘economist by qualification and banking professional by experience’. Tamas teaches practical trading methods which can be immediately applied. thereby helping his students take full advantage of the Forex and Capital markets. His main goal is to shorten the learning curve for his students without compromising on the quality of strategies taught.
Tamas, thanks for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far.
I moved to the UK when I was 19 and had low-level jobs in catering. I quickly realized that I need to change my life so I applied to University and studied Economics where I graduated as one of the top students.
After that, I had the chance to work for some of the leading companies in finance and banking such as Thomson Reuters and one of the largest banks in Europe. Then I changed my career and moved to asset management and worked as a Fixed Income Trader at a Hedge Fund Bank in London. I spent years as a trader and had the opportunity to trade in capital markets in several assets ranging from futures, equities, bonds, and of course foreign exchange.
How did your background in Finance help in starting your new journey?
Working in a professional environment and managing over 600 million dollars in bond portfolios helped me to completely change my view to money and risk management. The strict rules and regulations formed my psychology and the way I look at returns. Most people fail because their attitude towards money and risk management is unreasonable. You cannot be a millionaire overnight, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Many people say that Trading is full of risks. However, many traders make huge profits? Why are many people afraid of trading?
Traders who make huge profits usually spent years of studying financial markets and charts. New traders often mislead by social media and fake mentors who post insane profits and promise the world. People who are afraid usually have had some bad experience and lost money.
Many people assert that trading needs a long learning period. How can experienced traders shorten the learning curve?
Absolutely true. Successful people in every profession spend years of studying and have years of experience. However, general professions have options to be studied at university, college, and in form of courses. Despite university education in finance, working on a trading floor and trading, in reality, is completely different. Experienced traders often offer education and mentoring to teach new traders about their mistakes, experiences and this can shorten the learning curve. However, the market is very diluted with fake mentors who never had any education in finance or experience in trading at a bank, hedge fund.
Tell us more about your tryst with Fx trading?
I started FX trading on my own account when I started working as a US equities trader at the hedge fund. Even though I was a professional financier, I made huge losses at first. Then I took a break and analyzed my mistakes. I quickly realized that in order to succeed in FX trading I must change my mentality and apply the same rules in my personal trading as what we had on the trading floor: risk management.
What are the top 3 mistakes people make when they start trading?
I would say, Impatience, greed and impulsive trading are the biggest enemies of any trader.
Tell us more about your book on Price action techniques and their relevance in trading.
It is a great introduction to price action trading. People over mystify trading, looking for the holy grail strategy but there is no secret, just simple rules to follow. Price Action book helps to change the way people look at the charts and answer their questions, correct their mistakes.
In your view, with the advancement in trading algorithms, what is the future of trading, and what will remain constant in the world of trading?
Algos were present 10 years ago, they are present today and will evolve further. The problem isn’t algorithms, the main issue is the high frequency of which area algorithms are executed. However, there is one weakness of algorithms that can be the advantage of corporate and retail traders.
Algos monitor the same charts and analyze the same data just like human traders and their strategies are mostly based on price action events and technical indicators, for example, simple Exponential Moving Average crossings. Since algos run on billion dollars portfolios they bring liquidity to the market which can be at the advantage of the everyday trader if he or she knows what to look for.
The new gold scalping course has an indicator-based strategy that works very similar to the indicator-based algorithms. Once the indicator strategy shows a clear entry signal then it is often in confluence with large liquidity flow to the market. That flow is created by algorithms at big banks. so all you have to do is ride the inflow of money.
An Interview with Michael Eisenga – Former Mayor of Columbus and Entrepreneur
Michael Eisenga is a commercial real estate investor, entrepreneur, and proud father of three boys. His wide range of skills includes commercial real estate investing, property management, assisting living facility operation, leadership, strategic planning, public policy, and community outreach.
We recently interviewed him to know more about his life including his entrepreneurial journey.
Michael, Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
My best days at work are when I arrive, and essentially, everything is running smoothly. And when I’m checking into things and following up on things, everything just seems to go like clockwork.
My days that aren’t so great at work are the days when big decisions have to be made. And sometimes they’re big and important decisions, and there’s not a lot of time to make those decisions. I never like to be in a position where I feel like I have to be rushed to make a decision, but unfortunately, things like that happen. Or if there’s some type of other crisis
What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?
What I like is to be able to focus on is the big picture and vision of the businesses and how we’re going to continue to expand, improve ourselves as far as the services and the cares that we’re offering, how we can make the facilities we have better. Then also, looking at opportunities to maybe expand and grow the business as well.
When it comes to your business, what was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?
I think that moment for me was when I transitioned from being a small business owner, where I was essentially doing all of the jobs to being able to delegate. I realized that I had delegation skills to bring other people on board to do the day-to-day operations with me overseeing them, which allowed me to focus on, as I said earlier, the overall vision of the business and growth opportunities, and things like that.
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
I would say the most important part of my professional journey was my decision to become self-employed. When I initially started my mortgage banking company, that’s when I first became self-employed. And I had worked for others up until that point. I was concerned—I had never been in that position before. I was in my 20s at the time, and I thought, “Boy! Am I going to have the drive and ambition to wake up in the morning and go to work because it’s me?” Before, I’ve always had to make sure I show up to work because I had a boss. And if I didn’t show up to work, I’d be in trouble, and I could eventually lose my job.
I felt confident about the industry and the business that I was opening, and I knew it would be successful because I understood it. But when you’re taking that leap from being an employee to being a self-employed person—and I hadn’t taken the leap yet at that point to be an employer—I wondered how that would work out and if I’d be successful in that kind of a role, which I was.
What risks is your company facing?
The biggest risk right now with assisted living is really where you are located and doing good market studies gearing toward the private pay residents. Because if you miss the mark on that, you may be forced to take a lot of the public pay residents. And while we certainly want to see that everybody has a nice place to stay, the public pay managed care companies that administer those programs are continuing to cut rates. In fact, I’m dealing with one of the providers right now who’s trying to cut our rates again, too.
Eventually, we will probably have to just phase-out of the entire public pay scenario because there’s just such a difference between what they’re willing to pay for a resident compared to what our private pay people are paying. It can’t be justified. It’s not feasible to take off that kind of a loss on your units. That is probably a risk.
I think there’s always some risk with regulations. As time goes on, it gets to be more and more costly to meet those regulations. I’m always concerned about being in a business that’s heavily regulated by the government because you always hope that the government is going to keep regulations that are feasible and rational. But you never know.
That’s essentially what brought down the mortgage industry. When I first got into it in the mortgage industry, there probably weren’t enough regulations, and there were abuses that took place. And as a result, however, the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other, whereby it made it to the point that the business is not profitable anymore. A few big people out there are doing a lot of volume, and they have the connections. But what they really did was they knocked the small operators and the medium-sized operators to a large degree out. And even the large operators are not making a lot of money; they’re taking on a lot of risk for the business they’re writing, and there’s not a lot of margins. It’s become a commodity business, and commodity businesses are never very profitable.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would probably try to do what I’m doing right now but just on a larger scale with expansions. Looking at larger properties, I may even look at getting into some additional industries that I may have some interest in that could piggyback on what I’ve already been doing. But I guess right now; it’s not something that I’ve thought a lot about because no matter who you are, you don’t have unlimited resources. So that would probably be a direction I’d go.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I get into the swing and the flow of things, usually during a business day, especially if I have a time crunch, where I’m trying to get something put together for a meeting or forwarded on to a third party to take a look at. I can’t think of anything specifically. But that does happen, and then all of a sudden, you realize that the day is almost over, and you might be at work a little longer that day just finishing it up.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work, I have three boys, and I spend my time with them. I share placement with my ex-wife, so if I don’t have them all the time, I spend time with friends and family, dine out, do some traveling here and there. I’m kind of a movie buff. I like to watch movies. I like to play cards; I like to swim. That’s what’s keeping me busy outside of work. I enjoy going to events. I’ve hosted fundraisers; I go to fundraising events and things like that.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
In the past, when the mortgage company was open, I made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I mean, we did mortgages that lowered people’s payments and gave them extra money every month. And sometimes we saved them tremendous amounts of money every month. I mean, that was gratifying. We were able to get people in homes that maybe wouldn’t qualify someplace else.
In the assisted living industry, we make a big difference. We provide housing at an affordable price to people who need assistance. But yet, in many cases, they’re still very capable. But it’s a lot cheaper than going to a nursing home, and it’s a lot cheaper than having somebody at your house 24 hours a day. We provide services on top of that. We provide meals; we provide activities; we provide care. So we’re providing a nice place for our residents, but we’re also providing peace of mind for our residents’ families. So that’s a good feeling.
Then, of course, I look at the people that I employ. I’m providing them with opportunities and employment, and a paycheck. So I think that makes a difference to a lot of people.
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