Founders on funding :: Fashion Potluck’s Julia Mitereva

Plan the worst, Y Combinator told all the founders of its portfolio amid layoffs and market declines last month. Sequoia Capital joined its own message to startups warning of a “difficult moment”. Inflation, stock market crashes and geopolitical issues have created uncertainty for the investment market.

As startups start to save money, interest and focus on startups that have been launched has been renewed. Bootstrapping is a situation in which an entrepreneur starts a company with little capital, relying on personal savings instead of external investments. Every month we talk to the founder about their search for investment, but few like Julia Mitereva, co-founder of Fashion Potluck.

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What is Fashion Potluck?

Amsterdam-based Startup Fashion Potluck was founded in 2016 as a platform to share fashion looks for women. Its co-founders, Julia Mitereva and Luis Galdamez Echeverria, noted that user-created content is not limited to fashion. Mitereva says: “One of my first posts was a recipe for soup, don’t ask me why.

Seeing this influx of non-fashion posts, the Dutch startup decided not to restrict its users and instead evolved to become a “platform for sharing content between women”.

“After several discussions and interviews with our customers, we found that this is what they wanted, needed, and still lack online – a secure and supportive environment for content sharing, interaction and growth,” says Fashion Potluck co-founder Julia Mitereva.

Mitereva wants Fashion Potluck to become a “reference point for online content created by women.” It is continuously adapting its services and concept to meet the needs of its customers, and its co-founders say evolution has been both natural and consistent.

Building a safe space for women

Fashion Potluck can be described as a social media platform or even an engagement platform. But Mitter says the platform is designed to be a “safe space for women” to “express themselves, share their thoughts and network with each other.”

As a platform for sharing content between women, Fashion Potluck allows its users to publish in multiple formats and offers them a market to monetize their content. “We provide an ecosystem with a range of tools and services that facilitate freedom of expression and women’s economic freedom,” says Mitereva.

Even if you see Fashion Potluck as a social media platform, it is so unique that you would struggle to find another platform for sharing content between women of similar depth. The lack of content platforms aimed at women, according to Miter, is because most social media or content platforms are created by men. She says that the creators of these platforms do not understand the need for a platform aimed at women.

It doesn’t help that a large percentage of online abuse, hate, and harassment is directed at women, while platforms also tend to censor content related to women’s health and sexuality. Just when Meta’s Facebook parent is transforming into a metaverse company, Mitereva says that social media is “still in its infancy”.

She says “segmentation by topics, interests, formats or gender preferences has only just begun.”

“Community building is one of the main online ‘trends’ for the period 2021-2022. and further “, explains Mitereva. “Instead of serving everyone, brands and companies are looking to build a niche and engage communities around their values. We believe that this trend will extend to the oligopoly of social networks. “

How did they come up with this product?

Fashion Potluck failed right from the gate and in its six years of existence, the company faced a number of challenges before becoming the bearer of women-centered content platforms.

Julia Mitereva says that the biggest challenge was the market that was not ready for such a platform. In addition to the constant competition for the attention of social media users, she says that the two biggest challenges were “fighting the oligopoly” and “developing our startup”.

By oligopoly, Mitter means the dominant position held by Meta, YouTube, TikTok and several other players. “It is extremely difficult to break into this oligopoly without serious funding and support,” she added.

She also talks about the constant struggle between these dominant players for the user’s attention span. That requires a lot of human and financial capital, and Mitereva says that she did not want to engage in such a practice. “[The] The methods used by big players are not always ethical and the ethical construction of our platform is also important to us. ”

“Developing our startup using external resources has been a challenge. We have talked to a lot of investors, funds and corporations who simply do not understand the concept or the need for a platform aimed at women. “Unfortunately, men still dominate the middle of the toilet,” says Mitereva. “This creates a constant challenge that we must overcome.”

Bootstrapping for success

Despite being dominated by a handful of players and investors who are not ready for a women’s-focused platform, Fashion Potluck has risen from the ground by booting up the system. The decision to launch was not conscious. Mitereva says that in the beginning, they did not plan to raise funds, nor did they plan to become a platform for social media.

However, when Mitereva and Echeverria saw their startup turn into a social media platform, they realized the need for more resources than they had available. She says Fashion Potluck could not find the resources needed within the Dutch technological ecosystem.

She also says there are very few visionary funds in Europe that focus on “long-term vision, not current income”. Asked about the challenges facing Fashion Potluck as a startup, Mitereva said: “cost and limited potential for increase”.

“The companies that launched the system also vary in the availability of resources. In our case, we mostly struggled with development costs, human capital and small marketing budgets, ”she explains.

Mitereva is also extremely realistic and says that MVP (minimum sustainable product) is no longer enough for launch and growth. She says: “Today, with great competition for every product that is launched, the MVP will not take you far. Everything you need to grow and compete costs a lot of money, time and effort. ”

Fundraising with a new approach

In February, Fashion Potluck announced a $ 500,000 fundraiser in the form of Seed funds, bringing the total to $ 635,000. This initial round arose not only from the need to raise funds and develop the platform, but also from changing the direction of its co-founders.

Mitereva says that they realized that the current landscape of the Netherlands will not favor them. They reconsidered their funding goals and made sure not to repeat the mistake of trying to fit into the Dutch or European landscape.

“We took a closer look at the funds that paid attention to us and flew to Silicon Valley,” says Mitereva. “We have stopped looking for or communicating with European investors and shifted our focus to US-based funds with a global vision.”

Julia and her co-founder Luis spent two months in California and attended all the networking events in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She says they also activated Luis ’contacts to further break through with U.S. investors.

“It wasn’t easy and sometimes exhausting, but sharing your vision and talking to people without too many expectations can take you far. In addition to all the material goods, we have received encouraging and strong feedback from world-renowned professionals in the field, ”she added.

What’s next for Fashion Potluck?

Fashion Potluck has shown its strength to evolve its platform as the economy of designers develops. As the world embraces Web3 tools, Fashion Potluck doesn’t want to sit and watch from the sidelines. It plans to integrate NFT and other Web3 tools into its platform.

“We believe that Web3 provides great opportunities for content creators,” she explains. “In the ecosystem we are building, the creator will take the main stage, be able to own content that shares, manage the platform, assign uniqueness to digital products he sells, earn money from selling or reselling those products, earn attention and interaction, etc. We are excited about the opportunities and plans that lie ahead, as they also add another layer of empowerment and freedom to our women’s community. ”

Fashion Potluck not only wants to embrace and integrate Web3 tools, but also to collaborate with brands and companies that want to empower women. This July, the Dutch startup plans to launch networking events for founders inspired by similar events in Silicon Valley.

“We were very inspired by the events we observed in Silicon Valley and we want to transfer these best practices to Amsterdam, enabling a more proactive and engaged ecosystem of the founders,” she says.

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