– Look good and spend a little less

The beta tag has come to retailing. Online retailing that is.

Indochino is a Victoria, BC startup that is trying to bring made-to-measure suits to customers who want to look good, but don’t want to spend a fortune on Hugo Boss, or whatever the must-have designer suit is this season.

An entire suit, which looks pretty good in the pictures on their site, will cost between 250$ and 350$ Canadian. Their pricing is no-nonsense, duties are taken care of and if you need to have further alterations done, Indochino will pay your tailer up to 25$ for the work. Delivery time is 2 weeks from your order, and that includes being hand-tailored in Shanghai, China.

Shirts are a little more expensive. 100$ to 150$ for a shirt, which I am sure is nice, but Indochino has the problem that their brand is not strongly differentiated — which means it is hard to convince someone to spend that much on a shirt they haven’t seen in person.

The market for a service like this is huge. Every large city is full of middle aged and younger men who want to look good, but really don’t feel like shopping all the time. If Indochino can find a way to open up this market, then their business will grow dramatically.

Kyle from Indochino tells me they plan to keep up to date on new trends and styles, in a similar strategy as Zara and H&M. I think this is smart, as it lets you keep selling a lot of new clothing to a young to middle-aged demographic, but I keep thinking that the name “Indochino” isn’t sustainable long-term. It pigeon-holes the offering and limited their horizontal mobility later on. I’d like to hear from them on this.

These guys don’t sit still however, they are already experimenting in BC with an option that involves having a tailor come right to your house to measure you for your suit. If you aren’t in BC, you can have a sample of cloth sent to you along with a tape-measure, so you can measure yourself. Indochino already has a few hundred customers, and I am sure that will grow to thousands soon.

Their operation is lean — no inventory or exposure season to season — but they are going to have to do something significant to stand out from the crowd. A strategy focused on driving sales through social networks could, in my opinion, really set these guys apart. I have shared some of those ideas with them directly, so won’t post them here.

Indochino is a real business with a solid international infrastructure in place, they have the backing of a strong group of angels and their product is good and stylish (I will hopefully upgrade that to great when I have a chance to order my own jacket this week). Now it’s time to break away from the pack and stand out.

Indochino is tentatively looking at raising a new round of financing based on their early success. Contact Kyle Vucko.
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Nova Scotia Startup Competition

Innovacorp, a Halifax based quasi-governmental funding, assistance and mentoring organization for startups is running a startup competition for companies, or soon-to-be companies, based in Nova Scotia.

Each first place zone winner will receive a $100,000 prize package of a combination of cash and in-kind contributions and each second place zone winner will receive a $40,000 prize package of a combination of cash and in-kind contributions to be used towards the establishment or further development of their start-up ventures. Prize packages will include support and resources in the form of expertise (i.e. legal, accounting, marketing, human resource services), funding and seed investment to be used by winners to develop their start-up businesses.

At the end of the competition, one provincial winner will be selected from among the five first place zone winners, and will be awarded a $100,000 seed investment from InNOVAcorp?s HPiTM Microfund.”

In places with less private-sector startup activity than cities like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, these competitions play a significant role in getting potential startups to come out of their shell. The bonus for this competition is that, unlike most competitions of this nature, the prize is significant enough to truly launch a new startup.

They have divided Nova Scotia in to 5 ‘zones’, with significant prizes for the winner and runner up companies in each zone, with one final competition to determine the provincial winner, who gets a 100,000$ cash investment.

Are you in Nova Scotia? Get off your butt and start building that startup! We will be following this very closely and will try to profile as many of the competing companies as possible.

StartupWeekend Toronto is rumbling along

Reports are rolling in from StartupWeekend Toronto, both from various blogs and some more candid reports via the backchannel.

Attendees were as many as 60 on Saturday, with an estimated 40 working away today (Sunday).

The good news? The application is actually getting built. It’s called Lobbythem and it is a very basic platform that lets you create a sort of petition with a few actionable items that come off of it (from what I understand, things like getting key influencers in the lobbying group to push the petition forward, tools to get more individuals involved, etc).

There is a screenshot here of the app so far.

Is a business getting built here? It’s hard to say. The biggest hurdle for a lobbying platform is that the ‘enabling’ or community-based lobbying has not been spectacularly profitable yet. Sites like Petitionspot and loads of others are essentially user-generated SEO content, but they are making some money doing it.

We will get a final wrapup from some participants in a month or so to see how things shake out. In the meantime, keep an eye on the site and let’s see how it all comes together.

Note: Interested in what is happening at StartupWeekend? Want to check it out? Don’t show up at the site — people are being turned away from visiting on the basis of not having signed an NDA.

I am going to send the organizers an email to find out what on earth would fall under an NDA that is going on at StartupWeekend. I can’t imagine much.

Update #2: Just had a call from one of the StartupWeekend organizers. People are not being turned away for not having signed NDAs, but they are trying to keep visitors from dropping by and interrupting the flow. I can understand that completely.

He tells me the app will launch tonight and I can tell from his voice, there is a lot of excitement in the air. We will check in with them tonight to see if it all comes together.

Update #3: Some of the guys from StartupWeekend presented at DemoCamp4 here in Toronto and announced that the site will be live later this week.

Also, there is a bit of backlash starting to surface about how the Toronto organizers handled things.