Buying bras off the rack can be quite an unpleasant experience for your rack. Or at least, that’s what San Francisco personal online bra fitting startup True&Co is banking on. Announcing $2 million in its first funding round today and launching to the public with a well-timed appearance at All Things Digital’s D10 conference this morning, the company aims to make buying bras online easier and more appealing than the in-store experience.
“The bra shopping experience is so uncomfortable that women would actually put off buying a bra and say, ‘I’m not going to replace my bra until it’s falling off my body…just so they would not have to go through a bra fitting room process,’” CEO and co-founder Michelle Lam told me when we spoke before the holiday weekend.
Echoing her sentiments, co-founder and Head of Product Aarthi Ramamurthy added:
“We just thought there had to be a better way to do this.”
Both co-founders bring stints with notable companies to the table. Lam was most recently at Bain Capital Ventures and has worked with RentTheRunway, Microsoft, BCG and PwC. Most recently at Netflix, Ramamurthy is the author of photosharing mobile app bubblegum (which she built on her honeymoon) and worked on Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime, Visual Studio and Xbox LIVE platforms. Funding comes from First Round Capital, SoftTech VC, Aileen Lee, Softbank Capital and former LinkedIn executive Ellen Levy.
Despite their buttoned-up tech business backgrounds, Lam and Ramamurthy began building their company using an oh-so low-tech approach: they went bra shopping the old school way. That meant many sessions with traditional bra fitters (you know, the ladies with the tape measures and the cold hands). From their experiences watching the pros, the co-founders compiled a list of universal rules that they noticed bra fitters using again and again to achieve the right fit. Using these rules as a guide, they built an algorithm that not only took into account traditional bra fitting wisdom, but also considered sizing data across numerous brands and developed a quiz to help further personalize the shopping experience through customer input.
“If you wear a Calvin Klein demi bra, it fits completely differently than a Calvin Klein full-figured bra because they’re made by different manufacturers,” Michelle said.
Once shoppers visit True&Co, they answer questions on a short quiz. Next, they’re offered a selection of bras from over 20 brands, including Natori and Calvin Klein. It’s common to find a personalized list that includes bras of different sizes. A 34C in one brand or style may fit like a 36B in another. Shoppers select three styles. Along with those styles, True&Co ships an additional two that its data suggests will work well for the customer. Shoppers have seven days to try on the five bras in a shipment, decide which they like and send the rest back. Each bra is priced at $45, and shipping is free both ways.
True&Co then notes which selections worked for each customer and which didn’t to further refine the individual fit process.
According to data from their beta testing period, Lam and Ramamurthy say most women report that three of the five picks work well for their bodies.
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