- Founders: Anna Franziska Michel (CEO), Daniel Manzke (CTO);
- Founded in: 2020
- Employees: 8
- Money raised: Investor, Seed Round;
- End goal: Rapid Internationalization – Holistic Digitization of the Fashion Industry;
As a fashion designer, Anna Franziska Michel experienced how time-consuming and inefficient the design process can be. Given the rapid change of fashion trends, it is clear that long development processes inevitably lead to problems. Data can change that, said Anna Franziska. So she started a research group at HTW Berlin in the Business Informatics department to research AI modules for digital product development. She has now developed the software-as-a-service solution Yoona.ai, which has also been tested by major German fashion companies. In this episode of today’s startup, Anna Franziska talks about her innovation and the challenges of starting up.
What problem are you solving and why is it important?
“Before fashion designers know what to design, they need to gather information, such as the current bestseller in a category. Artificial intelligence can perform this time consuming research in seconds. To then digitize the finished design, conventional applications must first cut a 2D cut to create a three-dimensional model. Currently, only ten percent of all fashion companies can make digital or 3D products without first making a 2D cut. We want to make this technology accessible to everyone. ”
“Our software should make it possible to create a 3D object with a few clicks and then use it for various media channels. Because the faster fashion companies can respond to current trends and the needs of end consumers, the greater the chance that the produced goods will be sold and profits will be avoided. ”
How can you automate the design phase?
“Users of our software can create a profile on our platform. There they can upload basic data for the product development process, such as color data, moodboards and technical drawings. In the semi-automated design process, artificial intelligence works in the form of two neural networks in the background. One of the networks handles data, ie. product images, web analytics, color analytics, etc. The latter creates the digital design. Both neural networks need to be trained for different specific requirements. When the training is complete, you will receive up to 20,000 design offers in a few seconds. ”
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
“Before I founded the company, I first had to work with a research team at HTW Berlin to find neural networks that were relevant to our purpose. It is also a challenge to find the right team. To decide who fits and understands For a programmer or a regular technician, a T-shirt is a square with a hole in it. But for a designer it is different. A technician must have a good understanding of a designer’s thinking and work. For example, my co-founder is very good at.”
What have been the best moments so far?
“There were great moments where we were able to shorten the process chain, and we realized that the product really has the expected effect. It was also great when companies started using our product and saw the added value. ”
“When we later won prizes, we were proud and happy, because it’s nice to get something back for all the work you had and have. But above all, it was not easy for me to dive into a topic that involves very complicated technology. I’m actually a fashion designer. This step alone, from designer to software company, was a huge success for me. ”
Was it difficult to get financing?
“As a woman, do you mean? (Laughs) I think it’s always a challenge to get funding. But an additional obstacle was definitely that our innovation is rooted in the fashion sector and that I as a founder am a woman. But could eventually quit a very normal pre-seed round.With Techstars, we found an American accelerator that invested in our startup, as did Alexander Gedat, the former CEO of German fashion companies such as Gerry Weber and Marc O ‘Polo. ”
Where do you want your business to be in five years?
“In the meantime, our design process has been partially automated. But we will continue to research to further develop the system. We also just got it yoonaverse conference series established. We want this together with partners such as Telekom, H&M and a number of Italian brands Metaverse Berlin build together. Our goal is to become a global company – and the leading provider of digital clothing production. I’m flying to New York next week for the PI Apparel Conference. We want to start rolling out our product in the US market. Ultimately, we want to be the fashion industry’s Tesla. ”
Tesla in the sense of sustainability?
“Yes, it is very important that people understand that technology can have an impact on the sustainability of products. With technical support, you can calculate what you need to design much better – and thus fit faster and closer to a trend. By making models in 3D, you can reduce the need for physical prototypes. The digital models make physical samples for prototyping, photo shoots and fashion shows superfluous. This makes the design process more sustainable. With my startup, I wanted to make it understandable how to work with new technologies. As a designer, I would have been one of many, but with Yoona.ai, I can drive the back end of the entire industry and create an effect that is exponential. “