Startup Spotlight #105: Queenly
Queenly is a marketplace and search engine for the formalwear industry.
Queenly is a marketplace and a search engine for the formalwear industry. Bantigue and Zhou help women find the exact dresses they’re looking for - and resell it after! They’ve proudly captured the largest formal dress inventory in the US by surpassing that of Macy’s, Rent the Runway & Nordstrom, since launching. Bantigue and Zhou are tackling the highly underserved prom, pageant, quinceañera, and wedding industry (and more!). The two cater to this massive community of dress enthusiasts for this high-priced & low usage inventory, similar to how GOAT and StockX have built a platform for the sneaker and streetwear community.
Bantigue was born in a small province in the Philippines and immigrated to Las Vegas when she was about 10 years old. She then became an emancipated youth at 17 due to extenuating circumstances at home. Bantigue was forced to start working at a young age where she had to be independent and provide for herself. She went to UC Berkeley and got a degree in Political Science, then worked at various tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and most recently Uber, where she worked on the Executive Recruiting team for Engineering and Product, thus having a chance to directly work with Uber executives. Bantigue has been competing in pageants since 2013 and she has won the titles of Miss National Asia 2014, Miss California Earth 2016, Miss Asian Global 2017, and Miss Enterprise USA 2021.
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Startup Spotlight: Queenly
Problem: When it comes to shopping for THE perfect dress, women used to have to go to multiple shopping sites and stores, and this process takes hours if not days. Most platforms also don't have a robust search engine to help filter for specific features that would cater to the woman's height, body shape, skin color, etc.
Market: There are at least 100 million women in the US who will need a dress for a special occasion every year. The average dress order is $650 and we take a 20% fee off of every transaction which makes the formalwear industry a $13 billion dollar market.
Solution: Our company has made meaningful progress in solving that problem with our software solutions: we’ve built a recommendations engine, a custom NLP search engine, and a computer vision categorization system. Alongside our tech, we’ve also managed to hone in on fostering a sense of community for women, where Queenly serves as a way for women to help one another find their dream dress.
Team: Kathy Zhou is my co-founder and CTO and we met when we were both interns at a tech startup in SF back in 2014. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Computer Science and Environmental Science and she was a full-stack software engineer at Pinterest.
Bantigue and Zhou: We have been extremely successful at acquiring the largest inventory of formal dresses in the US at no cost by tapping into the underutilized assets in women's closets. Our inventory is now worth $10 million and we have spent zero dollars acquiring this. We also have the largest plus-size inventory for formal dresses. We have been successful at getting industry leaders to support us in our journey from day one, such as leaders from Uber, Pinterest, Google, StitchFix, and more. Lastly, we've been successful at creating a startup business model that is already profitable, which is a rare occasion when it comes to the startup industry.
Bantigue and Zhou: We've struggled with certain gender bias that comes with being a female founder in a male-dominated industry. We've gotten doubts about our market size, the validity of our product and even gotten questioned on who built our app when my cofounder is fully technical and has built our website, iOS, and Android app. We have gotten the statement of "I'm going to ask my wife" many times from the VCs we've talked to. It has been a disappointing uphill battle trying to consistently prove that our market exists, that it's large enough to become a billion-dollar company, and that it is worth investing in. We recently talked to the GOAT founder and he told us that investors were still doubting the validity of his streetwear & sneakerhead market up until Series C. I think that whenever you are creating something disruptive and that has never been the norm, there will always be non-believers but it's our job to push through and prove them wrong in the future.
Bantigue and Zhou: My advice for entrepreneurs is to persevere in their goals and to be unapologetically confident in your vision. Being an entrepreneur is the hardest thing that you'll ever have to do, and it's not always gonna be pretty. There are many times where you're going to fall but the only way to move forward is to keep getting up and to keep pushing. Never give up when you are so passionate and you have a lot to prove.
Three Cool Founders You Should Know About:
Bantigue and Zhou: Here are three founders you should check out next!
Andrew Yates, Founder of Promoted.ai: Promoted.ai provides the software, infrastructure, and real-time backend delivery systems for marketplaces to build their own self-service, native promoted listings business.
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