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How you can share in Thread’s success

How you can share in Thread’s success

In 2012, as they were preparing to sell their first start-up together, Thread founders Kieran O’Neill and Ben Phillips were celebrating when talk turned to their wardrobes. Both wanted to dress better. Neither enjoyed going to shops where they didn’t know what suited them, where they had to hunt through rails for their sizes or to find things in their budgets. They enjoyed online shopping even less, bored to tears of the endless scrolling and interminable options.

Their solution? A new kind of online shop, that approached its customers as individuals and offered an experience that was truly personal. Seven years later, over a million men have signed up to Thread and the company has taken funding from world leading investment firms like Balderton Capital as well as the H&M Group, who recently took part in a $22m Series B funding round.

From the outset, Kieran and Ben wanted Thread’s customers – the people who are truly integral to Thread’s success – to be part of its growth. Which is why they’ve opened that round up to you, offering the opportunity to invest in Thread on the exact same terms as the professional investors. Here, Kieran explains his plans for Thread’s future and how you can get involved.


How did Thread come about?

I’ve always wanted to have good clothes and dress well, but I found the process of shopping time-consuming and frustrating. What I wanted was somebody who had amazing taste but who, crucially, knew me and what I liked. I looked around and there were a couple of services doing trunk things, and I tried one of those, but I just found the experience clunky. I wanted to see options to choose myself.

Ben and I began looking at how we could solve this problem for ourselves, and ended up writing out a plan where we would offer everyone in the world personal stylists for free so that we could also have one for ourselves. We realised that you could take the uncreative bits of a stylist’s job – knowing what’s available, remembering sizes and clients’ favourite colours – and create algorithms that would manage those much more effectively. The symbiosis between the two would let the stylist focus on styling, but they’d be empowered by machine learning.

For me, it's been a game-changer. The pictures of me from pre- to post-Thread, it's a different place. The time I spend on shopping has gone down yet how good I feel about what I wear, and myself, has gone up massively.


Thread’s just closed a big Series B round. So why did you decide to crowdfund?

The main way that we've raised investment since founding Thread is from professional investors. But the people who actually make the biggest difference in our business are our customers. That includes the people who joined when Thread was much younger, when the site was naff but they believed in the idea. Traditionally, investing in private companies is limited just to professional investors. So this is a way of opening it up to people who really have been most important to our success.


What does it mean for people who invest in the crowdfunding that investors like Balderton Capital and H&M have just put in $22m?

We're using this round to really build the brand, make it personal to customers, improve our logistics, make the algorithm better and continue the journey of growing thread into a household brand. Our amazing investors are global experts, especially in fashion, so this is a chance for our customers to invest alongside professionals who understand the market very well and have done lots of research into our business. From the independent investor's perspective, it means that you get to invest on terms that have been negotiated by a multinational retailer and some of the world’s biggest venture capital firms. They didn’t make it easy for us. They engaged Ernst & Young, one of the world’s biggest accountancy firms, to conduct all of their due diligence. So you can be confident you’re getting a fair price.


If you weren’t already involved in Thread, what about the company would make you want to invest?

Clothing is one of the biggest industries in the world and it's one where a lot of change is happening. Over the last 15-20 years we've had e-commerce emerge and take about a quarter of fashion sales in the UK. My view is that the majority of fashion will ultimately be sold online and all e-commerce in the future will be personalised. The idea that guys should have to browse through 10,000 pages to find the best things for them is ludicrous. They should get recommendations that are in their size, in their budget, in their style.

It's hard for existing fashion companies to do that because you need a strong tech DNA to build the software and integrate it with human styling. So a competitor is most likely to be a new entrant, like Thread, rather than existing business. There's a very good chance that personalised e-commerce will become the majority of the three trillion dollar global fashion industry, and we're the leaders in that today. That excites us, and it excites some of the world’s top investors. So hopefully it can excite our customers enough for them to get involved too.

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