March 2, 2012
Q: How many startup ideas come from watching the NBA?
A: One that I know of – Miami-based YouCeleb.
Founder and CEO Amit Dharmani is a huge NBA fan and was watching clips of stars sitting on the floor before the start of a basketball game. “I loved a pair of sunglasses Kobe Bryant was wearing, so the next day I spent 3 hours searching for them online. When I finally found them, they cost a fortune. Instead, I bought something for less that was similar in style.”
On his way home from work that night, he was thinking, “Who has the time to do this searching?” He realized that the company probably got their sunglasses to Kobe via their PR firm, so the brand got some publicity, but they could extend that publicity much further by making it easy for regular people to find and buy that item.
And thus YouCeleb was born. The startup identifies what celebs are wearing and works with those brands to create exclusive
weekly deals (at a discount, typically 40-60%) on a fashion item, like the Carerra sunglasses Jordana Brewster wore, a ring that was spotted on Guiliana Rancic’s finger, etc. Proceeds from the sale of the item are donated to the celebrity’s charity of choice. If YouCeleb works directly with a brand that is often worn by celebrities, YouCeleb donates to that brand’s charity of choice. Either way, there is always a charitable giving element.
Because I was introduced to Dharmani by Jacob Israel of VaultBox, we talked a bit about being a startup in a non-tech hub. Turns out, there is an incubator in Miami similar to TechStars. “We were part of a program called IncubateMiami, which started a year and a half ago. There were 4 companies in the first class and we were one of them. We did not get much funding, but we are bootstrapping it anyway. We did get office space, PR, access to different mentors every week, and that ‘helping-out’ mentality of working with other startups.”
According to Dharmani, Miami is a great place for a startup. “It’s always awake – and it’s very lively – you never feel alone. And it never hurts to see the sun shining every day! If anyone wants to move this way, we’ll help you out. It’s very much a pay-it-forward mentality. There’s a lot of money here – we are trying to get people to stop investing in real estate and start investing in technology.”
YouCeleb follows the lean startup model, and Dharmani said it’s been the perfect way to go.
“We put together an MVP and then started showing it to people to pique their interest. Based on their feedback, we started adding features we had thought about previously but now knew people actually wanted them. That’s the beauty of the lean startup model – you HAVE to focus. If you have too much funding, you do stupid stuff like throwing a $20k launch party – I actually know a company that did that – and I just thought, ‘What a waste of money.’”
Dharmani has big plans for YouCeleb: “What we’re gonna do over the next few months is transition to a larger place for celebrity fashion. We’ll be a full blown store so you can access other fashion trends that celebrities are wearing. It might not be 40-60% off like our deals, but you’ll still have access to other great items. We are also going to bring our blog out into the forefront to focus on celebrity fashion and who is wearing what – it will be very editorial.”
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