A co-worker’s wife’s Professor friend sent us a link to a start-up in the men’s retail space called His Catalog by Project Einstein.
If I’m reading their background correctly, it sounds like the idea came from a few students from MIT’s Sloan School who wrote up a business plan, and out of 190 submitted, was 1 of 4 chosen by Highland Capital to incubate. Highland should be a great fit given that they recently raised a huge fund to invest in "boutique retail" companies, and brought on the founder of Staples, Tom Stemberg to assist & advise.
Keeping in mind that I know nothing more than I’ve read from their own website, I assume the idea is to take product feeds from men’s retailers like On The Fly, run the data through some algorithms, and present to each customer a personalized catalog of things he should like. Certainly sounds like a great idea, and their take on the men’s market is spot-on.
However, traditional "collaborative filtering" algorithms (like what Amazon.com popularized with their recommendations), which work really well on hard goods (books, movies, music) but not as good on soft goods (i.e. clothing). That is compounded by the fact that much of what men’s retailers sell is "fashion" that may appear on the site for a few months or weeks, and then be gone forever. Being MIT grads and all, I’m sure they’ve taken that into account, and are building a system that will take some of those issues into account.
I applied personally for a beta account to use the system, and professionally to have our catalog included in the site, so we’ll see if either request is granted (hopefully both). I will reserve judgment until I have a chance to see the actual product in use. At the very least, they’ve got a great idea!