How the Internet is changing the fashion industry

I was one of the keynote speakers at the Web 2.0 conference in New York in October, 2011. Here’s a transcript of my talk on how the Internet is changing the fashion industry and the transition of offline behaviors to online.

Retail is a huge industry. According to the US Census Bureau, just in the US, retail spending (excluding food and automotive) amounted to $3.1 trillion in 2010, of which almost 80% was done by women.

Morever, online shopping is one of the fastest growing sectors, with the average growth of 19% a year for the last few years even despite the recession.

Fashion has been a bit slow to get disrupted by the Internet, in contrast to music or news industries. However, that is quickly changing.
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Fashion140 – “Virtual Fitting Room” panel

I was one of the invited speakers at Fashion140 conference May 4, 2011 at the Lincoln Center, sponsored by Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. Not only it was an amazing day where I got to meet everyone from Stephanie Winston Wolkoff to Joe Zee, it was also a great learning experience! Here’s a video of our panel discussion:

Columbia ADI lecture

This past Friday I had the pleasure of reprising my “What is the Internet?” lecture at Columbia University for Application Development Initiative (ADICU) and HackNY. ADICU is a great organization of super talented students who like to develop cool applications. I was extremely impressed with the crowd who showed up for the lecture – I wish I were that smart back in college! Great questions, strong desire to learn, and lots of interest in technology.

The event was organized by Professor Chris Wiggins of HackNY – another great organization that encourages student developers and educates them about exciting opportunities in startups and technology.

Here are my lecture notes: “Internet Overview” (.key) “Internet Overview” (.pdf)

“What is the Internet?” class notes

For the last couple of months, I have been teaching a class at General Assembly, “What is the Internet?”, together with Charlie Robbins of Nodejitsu. It is an 8-lecture series about Internet architecture, principles, history and security. It has been a really fun experience to rehash my knowledge of the space and convert it to concepts that are easily understood by those without a Computer Science degree.
Here are my lecture notes (Charlie taught the odd-numbered lectures):

Lecture 2: “Basic Principles” (.key) “Basic Principles” (.pdf)

Lecture 4: “World Wide Web” (.key) “World Wide Web” (.pdf)

Lecture 6: “Internet Security” (.key) “Internet Security” (.pdf)

Five rules for outsourcing

UPDATE: My post is also on Business Insider.

Outsourcing is a tricky subject. Heralded ten years ago as a business practice that would change the corporate world by making it flat, outsourcing is still an extremely risky endeavor. As an entrepreneur who has employed a team of developers in St. Petersburg, Russia for my fashion technology startup, Clothia, for the last seven months, I’ve learned some general rules to make outsourcing work. Here are a few suggestions:

1. You need to have a project manager who speaks the developers’ native language and understands their culture.

Most foreign developers understand English well enough to read technical documentation (especially if they work on the “bleeding edge” of tech, like the developers I get to work with) but unless they’ve lived in an English-speaking country, their language abilities are not going to be sufficient for meaningful, real-time communication. Cultural and educational differences between countries also play a role. My Russian developers prefer goal-oriented assignments with a degree of creative freedom, in contrast to developers from other countries who – in my experience – have preferred more micro-management. Also, having personal interactions builds a closer relationship that benefits both the company and the developers. At Clothia, we have daily Skype chats and regular in-person visits.

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Augmented Reality: three conditions to make it the “next big thing”

UPDATE:  this blog post got picked up by Business Insider

A robot looks around, scans his surroundings, and detects humans.  Using real-time visual reports on the humans’ vital and biographical stats, he identifies which ones are enemies and efficiently eliminates the threats.

That is a scene from the movie The Terminator – except that the Augmented Reality (AR) technology featured in it is no longer a Sci-Fi fantasy.  Simple AR applications have been around for years: for example, the lines superimposed on NFL broadcasts to show the line of scrimmage and first-down markers.  More recently, we’ve seen AR applications that help with real-world navigation (Yelp), natural language translation (WordLens), and online commerce (virtual fitting rooms that let shoppers try on clothes before they buy them).

In order for AR to reach its full potential, several technological advancements are required:

1. Markerless object recognition needs to mature

  Most AR applications currently use markers that look like small barcodes, requiring users to either print the markers themselves and attach them to objects, or else limiting users to only interact with objects that already have markers on them.  Markerless AR enables applications to recognize objects without markers and thus significantly improves user experience.  Microsoft’s Kinect is the best-known and most successful commercial example of markerless AR, and startups like Organic Motion have created very impressive prototypes for creating real-time AR avatars.

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