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- Interview with YCloset COO Michael Wang?
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“Rent-to-Buy” the Chinese Runway
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Disponibile in Russia Acquista da: Russia per comprare questo prodotto. Aggiungi al carrello Acquista ora Aggiungi alla lista desideri Rimuovi dalla Wishlist. For most people, the opportunity cost is very high. Building a startup from the ground is too risky, especially if you are joining at an early stage as the co-founder. The chance of you getting to the next round, and even making to the IPO stage, is very low.
I think people tend to get more risk-averse after staying this industry for a long time. When I first joined the VC industry, my colleagues told me that if you stay here for more than 2 years, you would never want to do start-ups. Because it seems to me from a VC platform standpoint, you see so many companies, you see different sectors, you know the key success factors.
It seems that this type of person would be very valuable for start-ups especially at the early stage. So now, please tell us a little bit more about YCloset. What do they do, what do they sell, and what are the key next steps for you guys? For YCloset, we are right now the largest fashion rental company in China. We got our inspiration from Rent the Runway in the US, but we adapted it into the local environment.
We are a subscription company, so the users can pay RMB per month, and they get an unlimited access to the cloud closet that we built in China. They can make unlimited orders every month, and each order can only be up to 3 items. On average, our users can wear 12 items a month, whereas with RMB they could probably only buy one dress from Zara. Right now we have up to 1 million users, and we are still doubling every couple months.
That being said, in China we are still trying to educate people on why they should and can wear second-handed clothes.
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Can you tell us a bit more about the difference between both markets. What drives these differences?
We pretty much need to answer that every time we talk to an investor or any partner. I think Rent the Runway is a great business. It started in , a long time ago. That is even before Airbnb and Uber. So I think the value proposition for Rent the Runway is very suitable for the U. So I think there are actually very strong demands.
However, if you look at this business, the difficulty is also very obvious. But the supply of the business runs all year. The dress need to sit in a warehouse all year but the demand is seasonal. That makes it difficult for you to operate as a business and scale up this business. If you are only addressing this type of occasion wear market, that would limit your market.
We are taking a different approach. Sure in Shanghai, the population is more westernized. We are targeting the fast fashion daily wear market where people can wear our products to work, during the weekend and also to a party. I think that our value proposition really targets the population that has limited budget, but that want to change clothes and try new styles.
But also, I know that Rent the Runway started their subscription market last year as well and has been growing quite fast. I think both of us will do well with this new model. You said that this is more daily wear subscription model, so the point is for the user to try something new. What if they like it, would they actually buy it separately?
But for daily wear, people see it as not only a platform for them to rent, but also to try different things. We are promoting the purchase of products through our platform, which distinguishes us from traditional rental markets. We position ourselves more like a subscription based e-commerce company that bridges brands and designers with our customers. Seems to be a very interesting proposition for the users. But in terms of logistics, can you walk us through how you operate that? For 12 different clothing per month, you need to ship back and forth. That seems quite difficult. We have 4 orders per month.
You actually receive one box every week. If you look at the cost of this business, most of the costs are logistics. We estimate that our delivery costs only account for less than 20 percent of our subscription fees. But for Rent the Runway, that percentage is much higher, because the logistics in the U. Why is that, is it because the wage cost per delivery is higher; I suppose density plays a role as well. I think the density is an issue. In China most of the people live in the cities.
Logistic costs are all about density. If you have that high density, then you are able to lower the costs. Like I said, the delivery cost is the key component of this business, that would significantly change the unit economics of this business model. Could you walk us through some of these competitors and how you position yourselves against them? I think luckily we actually see fewer competitors than other tech companies in China. Because if you look at this business, it is very operational and capital intensive. That places a big challenge for startups, because if you follow this model, you need to have a lot of inventory to start with.
You need to have a very good reverse logistics system and run your own dry cleaning facilities, which are big challenges for a lot of start-ups that need to raise capitals. Against our competitors, we actually have very different propositions. Ms Paris started in Shanghai and targeted more of the special occasion market; more like Rent the Runway. So they are basically copying the Rent the Runway model from day one.
But we are taking a different approach. They target the third, fourth tier cities with very limited income, and their monthly fee is half of ours. We think that the unit economics for them is not working out very well because the logistics cost is the same for the both of us. If we charge twice as much as they charge then we will have a much better margin than they do.
But I think over the long term, this market is large enough for a couple players. So sounds like at least currently among these disruptive smaller start-up players, you are addressing a relatively large market size. Do you see this market consolidating over time? To be honest I think in this market, this business model is being undervalued by the investors. We are not raising enough eyeballs as bike share companies. I actually want them to do well because otherwise it would be us raising the eyeballs and raising funds and attention from the investors.
If all of us do well and get good funding, then I guess we would attract more attention from not only the public, but also the VC world. Moving beyond the smaller competitors.