MakerSights, the retail product decision engine used by Levi’s, Allbirds and Calvin Klein, closed an $8.5 million Series A that it said will facilitate key leadership hires, build out data and engineering teams and galvanize a push into international markets.
Forerunner Ventures led the round and BazaarVoice founders Brett Hurt and Brant Barton participated. MakerSights previously raised a $3.1 million seed round.
Dan Leahy, who co-founded MakerSights and serves as CEO, described China as “an especially important growth driver” for its brand clients and said the company is working to achieve a “better understanding of the Chinese consumer.”
While the startup helps brands discover the “voice of the consumer,” Leahy explained, it’s important they understand the cultural norms behind the “systemic differences in how people respond to market research.” Response rates from German consumers versus Chinese millennials residing in tier 1 cities aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons, he added, and MakerSights helps clients make sense of consumer feedback data.
Leahy believes partnering with Forerunner, among the leading retail-centric venture firms, is an invaluable opportunity to glean actionable insights on how to win in the market today. “They’re intimately involved with the fastest-growing retail companies in the world right now,” he added, noting the VC firm’s prominent DTC startups like Warby Parker and Glossier. “They’ve seen what is working in the modern retail paradigm.”
Sustainability is among the pillars of the MakerSights platform. “Informed decisions lead to better outcomes, ultimately keeping inventory from landfills and lifting brands’ bottom lines,” Leahy shared in a statement announcing the funding news.
Environmental responsibility is top of mind for most brands, he said, because consumers are voting with their wallets. “There will be some sustainability-related supply chain initiatives that are so proprietary and are such big investments for brands that they want to keep that to themselves,” Leahy explained, but there are other things that could and should be shared across brands rather than toiling away at siloed efforts with minimal impact. He described the apparel retail industry as “insular” when it comes to the notion of sharing best practices, though sustainability seems to be forcing a change and fostering openness.
Fashion overall has been slow to embrace technology but that could work in the industry’s favor in the same way that third-world nations unburdened by legacy technology leapfrogged wired telephone infrastructure for the superior portability of the mobile phone and all of the innovation it spurred.
“Hopefully, the technology that they’re adopting is a little bit more forward thinking on the tactical needs that it serves,” he concluded.