Why build a free Fashion 2.0 database?

Why build a free Fashion 2.0 database?

When I left the fashion industry after 12 years to take a full time ownership position with a tech startup, my goal was always to take what I learned in tech back to my first love, fashion. Third Wave Fashion is the manifestation of that goal.

After six jam-packed years with Lullabot (I helped take the company from two guys to over 30 people, with a best-selling book, an annual conference and such successful site launches as Grammy.com and MarthaStewart.com), I knew that the company was in a good place and it was time for me to pack up my tech suitcase and head back over to fashion-land.

I decided that my first order of business was to become an expert on the burgeoning Fashion 2.0 space. I started reading as much as I could and researching all the sites that I could find. I started a list but soon realized that a simple list would never do and so I started a spreadsheet. Then the thought occurred to me, “This information is really valuable! I should give it away.”

That might not seem like a normal thought process to some of you, but as someone who is fully indoctrinated in the principles of open source and has spent years evangelizing open business practices, this is precisely how I operate.

I am a huge advocate of “create, then capture“. That is, give as much value away as possible and then figure out how to capture some of that value. For Third Wave Fashion, the database, the accompanying embeddable widget, and the blog are the value that we’re creating – and they’ll always be free.

Eventually, we’ll need to capture some of that value. We might sell access to reports or premium parts of the database, we plan to offer Style Startups bootcamps for aspiring entrepreneurs, and our long term goal is to create an incubator for Fashion 2.0 start-ups. (Meanwhile, you can always pick my brain through our consulting offerings.) Once we’ve created something awesome here at Third Wave Fashion, we’ll be in a much better position to figure out what parts to capture without damaging the business or taking away from our users.

The “create, then capture” idea was best put for me by Henry Chesbrough in his excellent book, Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape.

In it, he says:

Let’s be clear about what is meant by open business model. A business model performs two important functions: it creates value, and it captures a portion of that value. It creates value by defining a series of activities from raw materials through to the final consumer that will yield a new product or service with value being added throughout the various activities. The business model captures value by establishing a unique resource, asset, or position within that series of activities, where the firm enjoys a competitive advantage.

We have a pretty good idea of what our competitive advantage will be, but only time will tell. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on our progress as we figure out what to capture, be sure to sign up for our mailing list!

Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.

(photo via Weda3eah.)