Youstory in How Your Story Makes Money

About You is worth 1 billion: How did the startup become a unicorn?

When About You entered the market in 2014, the fashion cake was actually already considered distributed. The big names in the industry, including Amazon and Zalando, hadn't expected the newcomer. About You is a shopping platform aimed specifically at a younger target group. Today, About You has turned over over 280 million euros just four years after it was founded (as of 2017). Compared to Zalando's 4.5 billion euros in sales, this looks like peanuts, but the numbers have more than doubled compared to the previous year. That is an enormous achievement!

So it's no wonder that the massive investment of 300 million euros that About You received from the Danish clothing company Bestseller A / S (through its holding company Heartland A / S) turned it into a unicorn. But money is not the only driving force behind success.

The idea behind About You

Today About You is represented in seven European countries, celebrates undreamt-of successes and asserts itself against Zalando, HM, Amazon Fashion and Co. With more than three million monthly customers (mostly women under 30) and more than twice as many interested parties who browse the platform for inspiration, the Hamburg start-up is a serious competitor for the fashion giants. Because there is one thing that is About You completely different makes.

What you can learn from it: You can't really do anything new today, but you can do things differently or even better. For fashion girls, About You is a haven of inspiration that caters to the individual customer with individually adapted styles and underlines his competence through its influencers.

Which existing products or services in your industry would be good for an overhaul? What would be the special touch that could put such a product in the fast lane?

How did Tarek Müller & Co come up with your special idea, your concept? As the founder himself says, most customers perceive shops like Zalando and Amazon as “digital warehouses”. You have to rummage through the range yourself, which is getting bigger and bigger and can quickly lead to excessive demands. Which parts can be combined with each other? What do I wear on what occasion?

But About You is completely different: It shows every user who has shared a few preferences a very personal stream with suggestions and inspiration and thus creates the opportunity for a digital shopping trip. This is exactly the niche that the founders found: personalized shopping. Anyone who is out and about in the city can also be inspired by individually designed shop windows. In a newfangled way, shop windows are a way of storytelling, and About You translates that perfectly into the digital world. With the crucial difference that the customers of the Hamburger Einhorn themselves choose which brands or models they want to be inspired by, while the shop windows in the city are decorated according to the needs and tastes of retailers.

In the About You app, customers can feel like they are strolling through the city, from the comfort of any place in the world. There are carefully created photo series and thematically sorted inspirations with names like “Urban Hippie Outfit”, “A Day in St. Tropez” or “White Office Look”. These images arouse certain emotions and thus generate intense shopping needs. Another crucial difference is the enormous presence of well-known influencers such as Lena Gercke. The app looks a lot more like a social media feed than a catalog. The feed has individual content for each user, because he subscribes to topics and brands that are of interest to him. So he decides again and again what he gets displayed, similar to Facebook.

What is displayed is not based on the recommendations of others, as is the case with other social shopping approaches, but depends on the user himself. The system, which is strongly reminiscent of Instagram, is close to Amazon's successful concept in its function.

What you can learn from it:

Put your customer at the center of your thinking and just wonder how you can improve their buying experience. What are his secret desires, how can your product or service improve his life and above all: How can you improve existing services or products?

What does the founder himself say about his motivation, what are his tips?

Tarek Müller had already set up his first online shops at the age of 15 and had several employees by the age of 18. He sold the predecessor of About You to Otto and has been doing really well ever since. He is invited to events such as the Webfuture Award as a member of the jury and is, of course, repeatedly asked about his success. He has some tips in store that may also be of interest to you when it comes to getting others excited about your idea or even attracting investors. For a successful pitch, Müller suggests that you:

  • be able to present precisely and in a few words what exactly sets you apart from your competitors,
  • show specifically how you can earn money with your idea, and
  • convince with your personality.

Successful founders have certain personality traits such as assertiveness and innovative strength. Those who present themselves and their ideas confidently can inspire others more quickly.

One of the most important tips von Tarek Müller, however, is his attitude towards failure. As is well known, failure is frowned upon in our society, as if it were realistic to assume that everything always succeeds the same. Every success is based on a series of failures that are easy to learn how not to work. For example, Müller advises facing the risk of failure, as it is unavoidable - but he warns that you have to get up again every time you fall. This is arguably one of the crucial pointers that we can all take to heart: It doesn't matter how many times you fall, as long as you get up one more time.