Serial entrepreneur Brian Lee spoke with TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy today at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing about his latest startup ShoeDazzle. ShoeDazzle is so hot right now, just this summer raising $40M in funding from Andreessen and others.
ShoeDazzle monetizes by subscription, with users paying $39.95 a month for shoes that have been curated by Hollywood stylists and master stylist and co-founder Kim Kardashian.
Lacy pounced on the Kardashian thing immediately (she’s apparently been in the news today), referring to the fact that Silicon Valley goes through cycles of “celebrity du-jour” – this time around everyone from Hammer, to Leonardo Di Caprio has been dipping their fingers up in the startup pot. Lacy emphasized that these partnerships usually don’t work (while she did give props to Ashton for hanging in there).
Lee explained that the problem is that many startups think that they can get the traction they’re looking for by hooking up with just any ole’ big name celebrity – the completely wrong way to do it.
“A lot people think that they can have an idea, attach a celebrity to it and it will work,” said Lee, “When you start attaching Ashton Kutcher [or any random celebrity] to a travel site, it doesn’t work,” using Kutcher’s investment in Hipmunk as a paradigm. He emphasized that a startup interest in banking on the popularity of a celeb needs to have a “true” authentic partnership, like Kim Kardashian and sexy shoes for example.
“That’s why Robert Shapiro [Kardashian's father was friends with Shapiro] worked,” Lee said, referring to his previous startup LegalZoom.
Later in the interview, Lee also brought up being inspired by another celebrity, fashion designer Valentino, in the initial idea for ShoeDazzle. Valentino’s secret to 40 year success was knowing what women want … Okay so what is it then?
“Women just want to feel beautiful,” Lee said (note: TRUE). “So if you can make women feel beautiful every month for 39,” he went on, “You’re going to win.”