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Gilt co-founder launches photo-driven shopping startup Project September

TechCrunch TechCrunch 14/04/2016 Anthony Ha

Alexis Maybank, one of the founders of Gilt Groupe (recently acquired by the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue), has a new startup in the world of fashion and shopping — Project September.

Maybank told me her aim is to “make the visual world shoppable.” In other words, if you see a photo with an item of clothing or an accessory that you love, you shouldn’t have to wonder what it is and where you can get it.

On Project September, those items will be accompanied by green dots. Click on the dot and you’ll get more info, ultimately allowing you to buy it directly from the brand’s website.

The idea of shoppable images isn’t a new one, but Project September is adding to it by recruiting a range of influencers who will post photos to the Project September app. (The initial influencers include photographers, models, stylists and bloggers, but Maybank said anyone will be able to post.) Users can follow their favorite influencers to see their latest updates, then, when they make a purchase, the influencer gets a commission.

Those shoppable green dots aren’t being placed automatically, but rather by the influencers themselves. Maybank said they won’t always link to the exact product featured in the photo — maybe there’s a similar-but-more-affordable version, for example. But since the person who posts them is getting a commission on purchases, it’s in their interest not to waste your time with something totally unrelated.

Maybank added that she sees Project September as primarily a visual experience, using as few words as possible. At the same time, influencers can share more than just individual photos — they can also create collections of images, and eventually, they could upload animations and videos as well.

“We want to experiment in ways you never could with a print publication,” she said.

Project September has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors including Venrock, Montage Ventures, First Round Capital, Greylock, WME Ventures, BBG Ventures (which, like TechCrunch, is part of AOL) and F3 Ventures. In addition to Maybank, its founders include CTO Dustin Whitney (former CTO of Pellucid Analytics) and Chief Design Officer Leah Park (formerly an executive at Gilt).

The startup is launching with an iOS app, with a web version up next. Project September images can also be shared on Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks.

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