Marks & Spencer, one of the largest British retailers invested in Texel, the company that designed the technology of the electronic fitting room, Sergey Klimentyev, co-founder of the Skolkovo resident company, told Sk.ru.
The negotiations regarding settling an investment contract and a commercial contract have been held for quite a while. The parties will not disclose the financial side of the transaction, which was concluded through Founders Factory, a company engaged in digital transformation of M&S that acted as a corporate venture fund. In other words, M&S invested into Founders Factory, and that company in turn invested into Texel.
Sergey Klimentyev, co-founder of the company resident of Skolkovo. Photo: Texel
And the story is not about money alone. The British retailer has acquired the Texel technology to test it in the pilot mode during the summer. By the fall, the Skolkovo participant intends to launch the final product to scale, which will include its presentation on major European markets.
Sergey Klimentyev refers to Marks & Spencer as his company’s “strategic client and investor,” and adds that the goal of his company this year is to expand onto the markets of the UK and Europe. In a few weeks Texel intends to announce yet another major transaction, this time with a major player on the retail market of Germany.
Texel is the only Russian company that is ranked among top ten world manufacturers of 3D body scanners, says Ekaterina Ryzhkova, head of the retail division at the IT cluster of Skolkovo Foundation. “We are happy to see the largest British retailer invest money into the Russian project, this confirms the high competitiveness of the Skolkovo solution,” she added.
Sergey Klimentyev shows the visitor how the virtual fitting room works during the Retail Week in Paris in 2017.
Over the past two years, the initial idea has been transformed beyond recognition, and the company has entered the UK market.
Now plans are to conclude a similar deal with a major player on the German retail market. Photo: Sk.ru
Texel Company, a Skolkovo resident since 2016, was created by three people. Two of them served as “brains,” working on the R&D component. The General Director of the company is Maxim Fedyukov, Ph.D. (Phys. & Math.). His doctoral dissertation, defended at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics of the RAS, discussed creation of a 3D model of the human body made from photographs, and this algorithm has been implemented in a hardware and software complex. Andrey Poskonin is also a graduate of the Faculty of Computational Mathematics at MSU; they worked together in the Computer Graphics Lab. Andrey, as a technical director, is directly responsible for designing hardware and software. Sergey Klimentyev deals with business development. He graduated from the Higher School of Economics and the London School of Economics. His previous experience has been mainly associated with corporate investment banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Unicredit. Since recently he has been managing the project office in the Corporate and Investment Division of Sberbank.
Two years ago Texel took part in Skolkovo’s business mission at the Paris Retail Week, where it presented its virtual fitting room, which was met with astounding success.
“We have been trying to solve the eternal problem of fitting clothes,” Mr. Klimentyev told Sk.ru at the event. “The share of purchases made online is constantly growing, as people do not want to waste time in shopping centers. When you shop online, however, you can never tell which size of which brand to buy. Our system makes a highly detailed 3D model of someone’s figure with all the measurements. Then the customer can order the clothes that would fit him or her ideally. This is convenient for the customer and profitable for the online store because it helps cut costs. Now most people order two or three sizes of the same item, try them on, and then return the ones that did not fit. The online store suffers considerable losses as clothes tend to accumulate in the warehouse; this practice also incurs considerable logistical costs.
Over the past two years Texel has achieved a quantum leap in its development, both in terms of improving technology and promoting the product on foreign markets.
The latest Texel product allows you to create a digital avatar of a person using one static sensor to get all the measurements. Image: Texel
“The main task in our cooperation is to simplify the process of buying clothes for consumers. For the customer this means fewer returns and more conversion, as well as more online customer traffic.”
“After the Paris Retail Week, the company’s main focus was to reduce the hardware share in the project,” the co-founder of Texel said. For these purposes, we used a grant provided by Skolkovo, which, among other things, allowed us to conclude commercial and investment contracts with M&S.
In Paris, we presented a model with two columns that revolved around a person. Next, came the smaller version, which consists of a single column and a turntable. Now we are working on a smaller version of the 3D scanner, which will essentially be a single sensor; in this case, the scanner will be affordable for anyone. This way we reduce the hardware component of the product and create a parametric model of the human body, which allows us to create digital avatars of our customers with just one static sensor to get their exact dimensions. Physically speaking, we will need to install a sensor, looking not unlike an ordinary photo camera, in the store. This solution will make adapting our product to our customers faster and easier.”
According to Sergey Klimentyev, the Texel technology has been discussed with, and approved by, the senior management of Marks & Spencer, including the company's CEO. “The main aim in our cooperation is to simplify the process of buying clothes for consumers. For the customer this means fewer returns and more conversion, as well as more online customer traffic.”