A Q&A with Tailor Brands co-founder and CEO Yali Saar. The Brooklyn-based online branding design startup announced last week that it has closed a $1.1 million Seed funding round from Disruptive Fund and Angel investors. It was founded last year by Saar, Chief Product Officer Tom Lahat, and CTO Nadav Shatz, and this is its first notable round of funding.
SUB: Please describe Tailor Brands and your primary innovation.
Saar: Tailor Brands is an SMB branding platform currently servicing customers in over 35 countries across the world. It allows anyone to design logos, business cards and complete brand identities for their business with zero effort and minimal costs. A sophisticated machine learning technology we developed fuels our entire self-service design process, and this is probably our major innovation. We want Tailor Brands to be able to design all you need using algorithms.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Saar: We are mainly focusing on SMB owners and freelancers. You see a lot of different profiles—from young entrepreneurs with just an idea, to 60-year-old construction companies that decide to rebrand themselves.
One of our main goals was making branding accessible to true brick-and-mortar businesses, while doing so we actually also made the platform a great tool for startups, artists, even bloggers.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Tailor Brands from the competition?
Saar: The design field obviously has some key players in it, starting from big agencies to crowdsourced services like 99designs, and obviously a lot of simple generators. But we don’t really see ourselves as competing with them since we are going for a niche that is currently under-serviced—and that is the true micro-businesses, startups, etc. We believe that’s the reason we now have clients from across the globe in just a little more than four months. In addition, we are doing things a bit differently as we are truly creating machine learning that understands design in order to supply these clients with high-level design for low costs. I believe all the existing players can co-exist in this industry, and that we could actually supply other players with more business as we are trying to teach businesses to acquire taste for design early along the way.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.1 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Saar: I think it’s always time versus money when it comes to funding. We wanted to grow our marketing reach; could we have done it without funding? Yes, but it would take a lot longer to happen. Raising the funds now allowed us to market our service easier—as a small team that allows us to allocate more time to what we really should be doing, which is building the next-generation branding agency.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds, and do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Saar: We are expanding our team and hiring new talent with the money. In addition, we started focusing on a paid acquisition strategy. Up until now, Tailor Brands’ marketing was entirely based on our creativity in getting out there without spending anything. As we grew, we understood that had to change—and no, we have no current plans for seeking additional outside funding in the near future.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Tailor Brands? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Saar: Tom Lahat, the company’s chief product officer, has been a graphic designer for many years. During the summer of 2013, he decided to go on a journey across up-state New York and stay with local farmers, but after a couple of days realized he couldn’t help out with any farm work. So, he decided to help them with design in exchange for room-and-board. It turned out that most of those farmers had a café, or a shop, or other types of businesses that needed branding. They couldn’t afford anything that was on the market, but needed a way to stand out and attract more customers. We realized there was a great need, and that is the story of how Tailor Brands was born.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Saar: Quit our jobs. We were going to develop some major technology and there was no way we could do that part-time. Right after that, we rented a place to work from and I started searching for prospective partners while the MVP was still in development. We wanted to be off the ground within a year; we ended up launching a public version within six months.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Saar: We envisioned the technology as sort of an AI, and were looking for a name that can sound human. We wanted people to be able to say: “—, please design a Christmas theme for my website.” After playing around with a couple of names, ‘Tailor’ came into mind. It was really love at first sight, a name that also bears the meaning of what we do for brands.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Saar: We joke about the fact that each of us founders was a company division at the beginning. Every time one of us was sick the company was paralyzed. We were working 16-to-18 hours a day, seven days-a-week. Every delay was a devastating blow. It’s a bit funny thinking we were so uptight, though we were the only ones that actually knew it existed. It made us get off the ground at a tremendous speed, but it was also tough.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Saar: We charge per-package and we currently offer three packages. The basic one includes a logo design; the mid-tier includes logo design, business card design, letterhead design, and a personal brand book. Our top tier includes all that I’ve mentioned, plus a Facebook and Twitter cover, email signatures, and mailing list banners. Our goal is to release more services as the year progresses, thus allowing clients to expand their brand and ensure it is consistent across all platforms.
SUB: What are your goals for Tailor Brands over the next year or so?
Saar: We are really focusing on cracking down our acquisition structure so we can continue and push as many awesome products by the end of the year. Our vision is to expand Tailor Brands’ capabilities so we can help your business in every aspect of branding—from curating your mobile application to designing t-shirts for your team.