Pittsburgh, specifically the Oakland neighborhood, has recently been making headlines for advancements in business and technology. It’s now seen as a hub of big ideas, extensive research, and impressive implementation.
The wave of startup activity has also led to new job opportunities in the city, for every position from graphic designer to app developer. It’s a great time to be a tech junkie in the Steel City. A big opportunity for talented job seekers now? A spot on the Shoefitr team.
A member of REVV Oakland, Shoefitr was founded in 2010 by CMU grads Matt Wilkinson, Nick End, and Breck Fresen. As avid runners, they saw a flaw in the process of purchasing running shoes online. Often consumers will shop for a shoe on an ecommerce website, pick the size the usually wear, and have a product delivered to their door that… doesn’t fit, which leads to a return. A bad online shopping experience then leads to consumers shying away from ordering online.
“It’s all about customer service,” said Wilkinson. “Some people are hesitant to shop online even though they really want to.”
A Fitting Solution
The Shoefitr team wanted to create a solution that would fuse digital and physical; using technology to somehow help customers order products would fit correctly the first time, eliminating a need for returns, which are costly for retailers. The trio’s background in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, and computer science turned out to be the perfect foundation for an app that would change the way we buy shoes forever.
Shoefitr created software that helps online shoe hunters find not only shoes they like, but shoes in the proper size, with the proper fit. The software uses 3D scanning technology to take the inside measurements of shoes, comparing them to shoes that the consumer already owns. The consumer then searches on the web-based app to find shoes fit to them.
At the beginning, the team struggled with establishing a fit baseline on which to build their technology. “It was just an extremely difficult problem to solve,” Matt Wilkinson told us, “You can’t find anyone with a PHd in shoe-fitting.”
The past three years, however, have shown that the team proved more than capable of taking on the challenge of creating a new, unique solution in the technology space. After years of building the business’s infrastructure, creating a database of products, and branching out to styles beyond running shoes, the team is now focused on creating a useful product for every shoe buyer. Their goal is to give meaningful shoe recommendations to every shopper.
Today, Shoefitr has 41 clients. These are any businesses using the Shoefitr app on their website. There are now 700 brands in the Shoefitr database, which grows daily and is accessed from 10 different countries in 7 different languages.
While success rates vary by usage and client, the app has an effectiveness rate of over 90% for shoe sizing, and has helped retailers reduce shoe returns by up to 38%. The 20-person (and growing) team focuses on sales, operations, and product development, and is split between San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Along with plenty of talent, the team also has plenty of great things to say about their hometown.
“We have a lot of pride in this city and are excited to be a part of its transformation into a tech town,” said Wilkinson.
The Shoefitr team has big plans for the company’s future. Now that they have actionable data on which to build their solution, they want to help retailers significantly increase sales and lower the rate of return. And they want to accomplish this while also making the buying process more engaging and personalized for shoppers, keeping the entire process simple.
“ It’s a compelling combination to provide a big wow factor with very little effort from the shopper,” said Wilkinson.
Another challenge that Shoefitr faces is getting their name out there. Key partnerships on a national scale with Running Warehouse and recently Nordstrom, as well as local partnerships with organizations and companies such as REVV Oakland and AlphaLab have gotten them off to a tremendous start. The company currently operates out of a REVV space on Oakland Avenue, right above Fuel and Fuddle, a popular spot for local students to stop in. “That takes us back to our college days,” said Wilkinson.
Oakland’s easy access to college students has been a big plus for the Shoefitr team, as they employ student workers when possible. Part of the company’s growth within the immediate future will be in bringing on new, full-time team members. So who are they looking for?
Wilkinson noted that beyond exceptional talent, they pay close attention to candidates with a competitive edge and a sense of accountability. “Most importantly, we want someone who is going to take pride in building an awesome business,” he said, “Someone who will want to be a part of a team that helps build something special.”
Interested job seekers can apply for positions such as Software Engineer, Footwear Taxonomy Specialist, Senior Inside Sales Professional, Graphic Designer, and more here. Creating new technology, fitting a need in the industry, and just plain working hard has made Shoefitr a big topic in the Pittsburgh startup community. So are you a perfect “fit” for their team?