The Brains Behind the “Infinite Closet”, An Interview with Nikki Durkin of 99dresses

May 1, 2012

9:30 am

Anyone who has waited on a girlfriend to get ready for anything that involves being seen in public knows firsthand that no amount of clothes will ever solve the riddle that is leaving the house quickly.  There is no closet big enough.  That is, unless, there were an infinite closet.

This is the female-utopia that Nikki Durkin, founder of 99dresses, is attempting to create (see: video below).

As one of the most highly buzzed-about startups coming out of the Y-Combinator Demo Day 2012, Durkin and her infinite closet have had a new spotlight shone in the direction of their new headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

I caught up with Durkin to learn more of her background, the inspiration behind her latest startup, how she manages expectations, and the reasons behind a button currency.

Tech Cocktail:  Can you share your background with us?

Nikki Durkin: I’m an Aussie girl originally from the country who went to boarding school in Sydney. When I was 15 I started my first eBay business where I’d design t-shirts and get them printed and drop shipped from China. I sold these online and was making a lot of money for a schoolgirl, which is how I originally discovered my love for entrepreneurship. I then started 99dresses straight out of high school when I was 18 whilst simultaneously studying a bachelor of business at the University of Technology, Sydney. I got that going in Australia (with a lot of hiccups along the way) and now, after getting into Y Combinator, we are bringing it to the US market, and I’ve got some great co-founders now to help me execute my vision.

Nikki Durkin

99dresses founder, Nikki Durkin

Tech Cocktail:  What was the inspiration behind 99 Dresses?

Durkin:  When I was 16 I noticed that I didn’t wear 80-90% of my closet, spent thousands of dollars a year on new clothes for the thrill of having something new to wear and didn’t get rid of my old stuff because there was no easy way to do it. It just seemed so inefficient, and I had this idea of creating a better way for women to consume fashion.

Tech Cocktail:  With the wealth of attention your startup has received since your demo, how do you manage the increasing expectations? Does anything change?

DurkinNothing really changes. We are currently fundraising so the press has helped with getting interest, but really it’s all about creating an awesome product that girls love.

Tech Cocktail:  What’s the reasoning behind creating a unique currency (buttons) for the site?

Durkin:  I wanted the site to feel more community driven and free for girls to use. When buying and selling items with cash there are costs involved, whereas transacting with buttons is free and fun, and feels more like trading rather than buying and selling. In a way, it mimics the way girls already trade clothes amongst themselves offline, and just facilitates this process on a larger scale and more equitably.

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When Zach Davis isn’t getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail’s Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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