It is an exciting time for technology companies in New York. Now, under the auspices of Springboard Enterprises and Partnership Fund for New York City (PFNYC), technology innovators will have a direct pipeline to leading fashion companies to develop products and services for the industry.
This initiative grew out of my vision to develop the ecosystem around the burgeoning New York technology community, the opportunities available to advance the fashion industry, backed by the strong track record of both Springboard and the PFNYC.
For the 2014 NY FashionTech Lab (NYFTLab), we’ve enlisted the involvement of the fashion elite including Ann Inc., Estee Lauder, J. Crew, Kate Spade, Macy’s and Ralph Lauren. They are the founding members and others are expected to join the effort in the coming weeks. The founding members will provide the technology reviews and serve as mentors for the NYFTLab companies.
When I approached Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the PFNYC in the fall with the plan for the Lab, she recognized the opportunity and immediately agreed to collaborate with Springboard Enterprises to co-host the program. Both Springboard and the PFNYC have been producing results oriented programs to accelerate technology facing companies in various industry sectors such as finance, health care and digital media.
Having served on the board of Liz Claiborne, now Kate Spade, and working in the technology start up community for two decades, it was clear to me that the retail and fashion industries would continue to struggle to keep up with consumer expectations without embracing new technology solutions. Business as usual will no longer generate positive growth for our leading apparel, manufacturing and retail companies.
Fashion and Retail companies today have a considerable challenge integrating all the functions the consumer has in her mobile device. In order to build consumer loyalty, brands and retailers are learning they must integrate in-store and online technology. These include not only digital payments, customer relationship management (CRM), but interface throughout the technology eco-system such as supply chain and inventory management, geo-targeted ads, native advertising, 3D printing and manufacturing and wearable technology, just to name a few areas of the operations effected by technology. The stakes are high. For example, Gartner estimates that worldwide sales of wearables alone will increase from $1.6 billion in 2013 to $5 billion in 2016.
The fashion industry is central to the health of the New York economy as well as our culture. There are 800 fashion companies in New York that employ 173,000 people and generate $250 billion in annual sales. The emergence of a vibrant tech innovation community in the boroughs of NYC and lower Manhattan provides the edge we need to power the $1.7 billion dollar industry.
The 12-week lab for entrepreneurs and fashion companies will be directed by Executive Director Lisa Morales Hellebo, a fashion tech entrepreneur who is also a Springboard accelerator alumna. For 15 years, Springboard Enterprises has produced its accelerator programs for 545 women led ventures in technology, media and life sciences. They have brought their products to market raising over $6.2 billion and building some of our most enduring brands and others that are the engines of the largest global corporations.
In addition to the Founding Retailers, Venture and Strategic Corporate investors and industry experts will be invited to participate in the program providing access and insights to the Lab companies during the program. Companies accepted into the program must be able to demonstrate a working beta and have proof of concept acceptance. Companies from the global community are welcome to apply and must be willing to work in New York City during the 12-week program.