99dresses pitches to US market

Nikki Durkin, the young founder of wardrobe swapping site 99dresses is reportedly pitching the site to colleges and businesses in the US for their own private versions of the site, according to a new report.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor

update Nikki Durkin, the young founder of wardrobe swapping site 99dresses, is pitching to colleges and businesses in the US, offering them their own private versions of the site.


The new 99dresses home page.
(Screenshot by Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Durkin's fashion-swapping start-up scored funding from the lucrative Y Combinator program in November and is now using that funding to pitch the idea at the US market, according to an interview with the young Australian entrepreneur published by TechCrunch.

According to TechCrunch, Durkin decided to shutter the Australian website in order to "give the US market a go". The founder is reportedly looking to re-open the site on foreign shores within months while at the same time, pitching the idea to US colleges who might want their own private wardrobe swap site built specifically for their campus, which she later confirmed to ZDNet Australia.

The site last week opened up an invite-only marketplace on its front page for US beta users. Users can request an invite and get themselves bumped up in the invite queue by referring their friends to the sign-up page.

Durkin added in her TechCrunch interview that she still gets emails from Australian women asking if the Australian site will ever be back up, adding that she's "proven the model in Oz" already.

She told ZDNet Australia today that she was definitely "not abandoning the Australian side of things". With Y Combinator being a US fund, she said she needed to launch in the US market to start with, but would be back in Australia in a few months and would then look to re-open the Australian site.

The site would have a new design and be based on better technology, but feature the same community, she said. It would first launch to a closed set of beta testers and then open up to a wider user base.

The site would function better under the business model Durkin has created with Y Combinator, she said, adding that she had "a better idea of how to make it work".

Durkin launched 99dresses in September 2010 in the hopes of beating auction giant eBay at the online fashion game. Users were able to upload their own dresses to a virtual marketplace where others would come and purchase them with virtual currency, called "buttons". Buttons were later replaced with real money after the virtual currency model was deemed "too niche".

99dresses ran into hard times in January, however, with the site temporarily closing down. Durkin emailed registered users with an apology, citing a botched redesign and a lack of operating capital as a reason for the site's closure. She promised that the shuttering would not be the end of 99dresses.

"2011 wasn't a very good year for 99dresses. As you may have noticed I had a lot of trouble with the technology, made a lot of mistakes and could not fix these very expensive problems. I really screwed up. But what can I say? I gave it my best shot and, being only 20 years old, I have learnt a lot and realised that I would have been very fortunate for it to run to plan."

Durkin today told ZDNet Australia that she is confident that things will go well this time around.

"I feel like I'm in a much stronger position to achieve this in the long term."

Updated 1.58pm, 27 March 2012: added comments from Durkin.

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