Today we feature a UK company who has built their solution on Microsoft Azure.
WildeRooms connects retailers’ websites to their dressing rooms, enabling consumers to try the garments they see online before buying.
We sat down with Co-founder and CEO, Kevin Dhami, to ask him how he got the company started, and to ask him for advice that he could give to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?
We wanted our users to be able to curate and select items from across the web, so that they could create a bespoke retail experience. Once we developed and observed our platform we realized it was just as powerful for retailers to use as a marketing tool, as it was for original target users. This was, and is very exciting as it makes our platform a meaningful tool for both individuals and organizations alike.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding?
We have been self-funded to date, and were fortunate to benefit from a UK government backed initiative to get initial start-up funding. Now that we have developed our first generation platform, we are looking for funding that will establish WildeRooms as a relevant fashion retail brand.
How many employees do you have? How many of them are developers?
We have six employees and our CTO is currently looking into all the technical aspects.
Microsoft technologies that you are using in conjunction with the development of your application:
C#, Asp.net MVC4, LINQ, WCF, Azure, SQL Azure
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
WildeRooms is a new method of retailing where the customers try what they see online before buying. This platform lets our customers create their selections (similar to a wish list) and schedule their visits for wilderooming. Our platform also has several social aspects to create a community of like-minded people. We also provide a management portal for our retail partners to automate and control all the logistics involved to make this big vision happen.
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
We have designed and architected this platform from the ground up taking scalability and performance into consideration all the way through our development process. Though it’s a very comprehensive platform, the responsive design approach makes it accessible on any device and easy to use for our customers. High scalability and resilience are achieved by architecting the system utilizing various distributed capabilities inherent to Azure like Azure storage, queues, caching, worker roles etc. Front end and all the service end points are hosted inside web roles. The worker roles have been configured to run de-coupled multi-threaded tasks that handle several background processes based on Azure Queues.
What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?
Resilience of SQL Azure, Asynchronous and distributed processing capabilities using worker roles and queues were mainly the deciding factors.
What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?
Most developers miss the importance of re-architecting their existing apps or building new apps specifically for the cloud. Though some of the scalability advantages are inherent to the cloud, it’s always vital to understand the underlying technology and its capabilities and design your app accordingly in order to get the most out of the cloud.
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
We have built a scalable platform first, which has the ability to generate significant revenues. We approached it in that order. Apparel retail is a fickle market, we were aware that entering such a competitive market place with an inferior platform trying to generate small revenues, would compromise our integrity. That is not something we wanted to risk, so we spent time developing a product that users would feel comfortable using from day-1, which would also have the ability to generate significant revenues.
Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue
We hypothesized on how we would achieve revenues then once the pieces were in place we tested it. We feel the test is just as important as the theory, and any scalable business needs to demonstrate ability to generate cash under the test phase, else it is not a viable proposition. You pivot, revise your hypothesis, and try again, until you get the results you are looking for. This is the path that all successful consumer businesses take. Incremental changes to deliver what the consumer is looking for, ideally before they realize they’re looking for it!
What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, specifically during the business model generation period
Can the cloud support the vision for global expansion?
What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?
Mainly concerns about usability vs features. Also as every other startup, trying different ways to reach our potential customers. So working with different channels, integrating technology and social media etc.
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?
We are building for profit. We know that if we generate profit – we can then optimize to increase efficiency. When you get to that stage – you realize you are building something for life. There is no fun in just having a great platform.
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
I am an accountant by trade and when I left practice in 2007 I joined a London based property developer. It was a small firm with a dynamic and nimble culture, everyone was accessible, and the owners ambitious, they planned on changing the London skyline. Then I joined another real estate start-up in 2010; where the founder sensed the credit-crunch presented a buying opportunity. So we did – we bought shopping malls at big discounts to their peak price, growing rapidly, raising equity and buying assets. I was captivated by personalities who believed they could create something. I left to build something of my own - and built a house. I then came back to the City working for a real estate PE fund. It was at this point that I realized, it was the act of “building” – that was most satisfying – and starting and delivering of a product most fulfilling. I had seen a gap and would build to fill it
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
Technology has evolved and adapted to make every day processes easier. Shopping online has evolved over the last ten years – whilst shopping in-store is pretty much the same as it has been for the last 100 years. You go to a store, you browse, and you select, try and then buy. We want to introduce WildeRoom-ing as a verb to the world: the act of seeing online and trying in-store.
What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?
Founding a startup means you meet those that believe and those that don’t; in both family and social settings. Those that believe appreciate you need to make short-term sacrifices to achieve the bigger gains. Those that don’t believe – don’t understand or don’t want to understand what you are working so hard to deliver. They don’t see the problem you’re trying to solve as a problem worth solving. If we all thought like that we would still be sitting in the cave around a fire – that was pretty comfortable.
What characteristics do you possess that make you an entrepreneur? What makes your startup a startup?
I am a guy who is not happy with the shopping options available to him, I am frustrated with poor retail experiences, so I decided to change that. The characteristics driving this are: self-belief, and confidence. I am confident that as an individual I can build a team, and deliver a product that will change the way people have done something for a long time. We’re a start-up – we’re starting a new way of transacting – that’s exciting.
Do you have any advice for young startups?
Be flexible and prepared to evolve and pivot your business to react to results you see. Do this quickly and you will quickly find a solution that fits the problem you are solving.
What do you think of the BizSpark Program?
We really appreciate what Microsoft is doing to support startups via BizSpark. In addition to availing the free software and support, we feel proud to be part of the Microsoft Partner Network.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
Being part of the BizSpark family, it opens a lot of doors and provides a great visibility and credibility as well. BizSpark helps to connect with other startups and the investor community too.