A Shazam for fashion?

Could we overcome current machine learning limitations to enable the cataloging and identification of clothing items on a user-friendly Shazam-like platform? Mindspace-based startup Syte sets out to find out.

Written by Mindspace Magazine

3 years ago

If there is one thing that the members of Israeli startup Syte understand, it is that the endless catalogue of fashion items is making it impossible for machine learning / deep learning experts to create a working image based search platform.

“There is a lot of potential in what can be done with image recognition and machine learning,” founders Idan Pinto and Ofer Fryman explain. Yet in the realm of fashion, it is often difficult to tackle. “It is an endless catalog,” they say, making it all the more hard to identify items which vary in fit and shape and are at times offered in limited edition volumes. “There are a lot of products that are solid and easy to identify – but clothes are flexible, and they fold, which makes it very difficult for a machine to identify [and differentiate between] an item worn by a person and one which is folded.”

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While an estimated 40-50 companies have sought out to solve this problem, they have all failed, Pinto and Fryman say. Yet Syte reached a breakthrough in the field – one that enabled the young Israeli firm to raise necessary seed money in a market with huge potential that is “worth billions.”

Questioned about their breakthrough, the founders say with a smile, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.” So we didn’t push forward. But the little information we did get was this: Syte steered off-trend. While most competitor companies focused on deep learning and deemed it key to breaking the technological barrier, Syte concluded that state of the art deep learning would not suffice as a solution for fashion.

“Our passion is machine learning and image recognition,” the Syte founders say. “It is also fun and you get lots of satisfaction when you can see visual results of new developments and algorithms immediately”, they say of their product.
It sounds complicated but in practicality, Syte is quite simple: whereas Shazam scans song lyrics and tunes for identification purposes, Syte scans and analyzes an image of a clothing item and matches it to one of the millions of products within its database.

The product launched a few months ago at Mako and Ynet and already produces great results in terms of user engagement and revenue. Down the line, Syte hopes to partner with premiere fashion publications, develop a chatbot and develop a mobile application. “Our current business strategy is B2B,” via reach to publishers, the founders say. But the plan is to expand the service to B2C. “Development is in Israel, but sales and marketing will likely be in New York,” the founders explain. They hope to be the go-to source for all consumers and businesses looking to identify an article of clothing .


“The aspiration is that Syte becomes a standard for monetization,” Pinto and Fryman explain.
But who will capitalize? Bloggers, of course. “The world of fashion blogging is huge – and that’s part of our market,” they explain. “It is a multi-million dollar market, and our goal is to provide bloggers with visual search capabilities via an automated process, on top of their manual process which they currently do.”

The biggest challenge to running a startup, they say, is uncertainty – especially that which revolves around fundraising. But working in a co-working environment like that of Mindspace helps one remain sane.
When asked how they profited from Mindspace, the Syte founders say they gained a workforce.“We recruited workers thanks to Mindspace. It gave them facilities and they saw that it’s a nice collaborative environment.”
The Syte team is currently spans 8 employees yet will soon grow to 10.


Their tips for a young entrepreneur?

  1. Maintain emotional stability – Every entrepreneur will face lack of funding, series of rejections and unmet expectations
  2. Persistence is key – don’t give up on a goal when things get rough
  3. Learn what works & adapt your presentation strategy


Office: 108, Rothschild, 1st Floor

Members: Idan Pinto, Ofer Fryman, Lihi Pinto Fryman, Omri Rotem, Liz Marr, Idan Pinchas, Helge Voss, Alex Shmaltsuev,  Shani Trabelsi, Mika Katz

For more information on Syte, click here.

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