By Sarah Shields, Executive director, direct and channel sales, Dell
The “lightbulb” moment when you see a gap in the market can come from anywhere. For Daniela Cecílio, founder and CEO of search and shop fashion app ASAP54, that came when trying to shop online. But founding the company was just the start. Thanks to an incredible $3 million investment secured before the app was even developed, Cecílio has created what’s been described as a “Shazam for fashion”.
I caught up with Cecílio to find out more about her remarkable success story.
What is ASAP54 and how did you come up with the idea?
ASAP54 is a tool that combines search and discovery in one single platform, making search easy and fun, and transforming everything into shopping. Our technology combines image recognition with fashion taxonomy and keywords to make the searches more effective. Think of a Pinterest and Google into one single place you can shop from. My idea came from my own frustration as a consumer, as shopping online can be painful. I decided to launch ASAP54 when I was searching for a pair of pearl sunglasses and tried using all the tools available in the market, but none of them helped me to find what I was looking for.
How does the app work to help users find the fashion items they’re looking for?
Users can search in any way they want to, image, keyword, trends or people. If users know exactly what they are looking for, they can enter a simple keyword, and get results that are curated by our algorithm. If users want to discover what is trending around the world, they can simple follow some other users and shop their finds.
They can also take images from daily life, upload them from the internet, or even use the images they liked on Instagram and use ASAP54 to link them to similar products that are available to buy now!
Everything that we display as results in all the scenarios are one click away from shopping.
It’s amazing you managed to secure $3 million of investment to support the app launch. How did you go about securing that funding?
My husband invested the money to allow us to build the prototype of the product, and then we approached the investors behind Farfetch – a global community of fashion boutiques, which I knew from my previous experience working there, and a few new ones. It is a big idea, and therefore would need big cash behind to implement it. I was lucky enough to have the right people backing me up.
Why did you decide to focus on inspiring fashion using technology?
Fashion is the industry that I am passionate about and that I know best. It is also underserved in terms of search and discovery. The top players in the field don’t combine image and keyword searches, and it’s not possible to shop through some of them, therefore there was an opportunity to create one single place where people can search, discover and shop.
What have you found is the biggest challenge getting ASAP54 off the ground?
Getting the company out of the ground was the best and in fact the easiest part so far, the challenge comes afterwards. Growing the business and the team, getting into a healthy stage in terms of revenue, and learning how to delegate have been the most challenging so far.
What’s next for ASAP54?
We are looking into other segments that could complement fashion, such as lifestyle and beauty. I would love to have it all accessible in the ASAP54 world so people could find the whole outfit, including makeup and all accessories in one platform.
Lastly, who do you think is the most interesting person to follow at the moment?
I have been following my husband, and I still think that he is the most interesting person to follow. He has built an amazing business connecting the best boutiques in the world to consumers. It is great to see businesses that are really solving an existing issue, and growing and changing the way people behave.
I also love his work in the boutique side of the business, and watching how he brings them back into the center of the stage is magical. He is an inspirational person, calm, smart, visionary, flexible, accommodating, genuine and extremely helpful to me, and I wouldn’t be here without him.