Accelerator for Fashion Tech Launches in New York

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What you need to know if you plan to apply to this brand new program with a fast-approaching deadline.

By Lorraine Sanders (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

For entrepreneurs in the fashion tech space, the New York Fashion Tech Lab accelerator program launched this week aims to connect startup founders with key players in the fashion industry from companies such as ANN INC., The Estee Lauder Companies Inc., J. Crew, Kate Spade & Company, Macy’s and Ralph Lauren Corporation. The goal? To give the inaugural group of selected applicants direct access to C-level industry executives who can help them shape their businesses into ones capable of creating real innovation in the retail fashion landscape and prep them to present at an accelerator Demo Day in July.

"Fashion tech is a really nascent industry or sector and right now investors are struggling to understand just how diverse it is. This is a very different type of accelerator because it is founded by retailers," the New York Fashion Tech Lab’s Lisa Morales-Hellebo tells Women 2.0.

Intrigued? A few things you should know before you start your application:

  • The accelerator is looking for companies with working technology, not just ideas. "We are looking for something that has an already launched a robust beta," says Morales-Hellebo. Companies with proven success in other sectors seeking to pivot their existing products into retail fashion are also encouraged to apply.

  • They’re looking for business solutions more than consumer fashion plays. Says Morales-Hellebo, "We’re looking for things that solve real world business needs. They’re not looking for the next social app." Among the areas they’re hoping to see applicants addressing are data standardization, security, geo-location, customer engagement, merchandising, RFID, iBeacon, inventory contextualization, micro-manufacturing, wearables and 3D printing.

  • It’s not your run-of-the-mill tech accelerator selection committee. "You’re pitching to retailers, so the retailers are actually the ones reviewing and vetting the applicants. They’re not pitching to a VC, so you need to sell why this is relevant to the industry."

A few tips for applicants:

  • Morales-Hellebo suggests making it clear in your application how you plan to spend your time and leverage the program’s resources during the 12-week accelerator. Be specific.

  • Consider your ability to relocate to New York for the duration of the program. Selected companies are required to be local while the program takes place, though they are not necessarily expected to continue operating from New York afterward.

  • You’ll need to act fast. The application deadline is April 4.

  • The timeline calls for finalists to begin undergoing interviews by April 17. Chosen companies will be notified by April 28, and the program kicks off May 1.

Along with its founding member retailers, support for the New York Fashion Tech Lab comes from Springboard Enterprises (whose Chairman Kay Koplovitz spoke at Women 2.0 Las Vegas in November) and the Partnership Fund for New York City. It’s modeled, in part, after the FinTech Innovation Lab, which has raised $42 million in venture financing for its participants since launching in 2010.

Are you considering applying?

About the blogger: Lorraine Sanders is a journalist, blogger and media consultant. She is the author of the San Francisco Chronicle Style Bytes column and writes regularly for FastCompany.com and others. She is founder of the blog Digital Style Digest and an inhabitant of the San Francisco Writers Grotto. Connect with her on Twitter @digitalstyledig or @lorrainesanders.