KorsAll – Disruptive Startup in Ethical Fashion Receives $1.4 m Investment


A disruptive U of T Scarborough startup has recently gained traction in Toronto, already attracting over $1.4 million in investment within just weeks of its initial launch.

KorsAll, a multi-dimensional e-commerce platform operating in the ethical fashion industry, launched from U of T Scarborough’s entrepreneurial incubator, The Hub, this past June. It has since rocketed into position as one of Toronto’s most innovative companies of 2017, and one to keep an eye on.

Dikshant Batra (BBA, 2016) began KorsAll, two years ago, having won the U of T Scarborough Startup Competition that year, earning him a place at The Hub, access to its mentors and coaches, plus $7,000 in much needed initial startup seed capital from Ontario Centres of Excellence and the University. In subsequent months, Dikshant was also able to attract $10,000 in additional funds from the Provost’s Office at the University. At every step of the way, his idea of forming a disruptive startup in ethical fashion met tremendous positive review.

Dikshant credits this in great part to the help he received along the way, especially from the faculty of the University and The Hub – a combination that he sees offering tremendous advantage over other business schools in Canada. Moreover, he credits how the University’s overall ecosystem, known as U of T Entrepreneurship is prepared to help promising disruptive startups.

But to tell the full story of KorsAll requires one to go back several years. Batra recognizes that the inspiration for his company stems from his upbringing in Delhi, India. Growing up in Delhi, he was surrounded by many entrepreneurs and small businesses – each with a unique story to tell. This experience is what gave Batra the foundational inspiration for his business venture, tying stories and entrepreneurial inspirations to individual products. Then in his early twenties, Batra set out on a month-long quest across nine countries on several continents, in essence to validate his idea that stories and products together form a most fascinating backdrop for ethical fashion, sufficient to captivate a global audience. He met tremendously talented people, “whose stories needed to reach the world” says Batra. It was then that he came upon the idea of how to help such small businesses thrive in the digital era, and the concept of KorsAll was born. Carrying his idea back to U of T, the desire to build KorsAll took hold. Batra tells of one professor who brought focus to one of its core concepts, helping him recognize that it each of story was grounded in a wealth of data analytics. Korsall truly was born.

So, with his experience and training firmly in mind, Batra began the arduous process of obtaining vital data through extensive, exhaustive research. He found that traditional retail sales in the apparel, clothing, and fashion in general are materially impacted by a growing industry trend that is shifting consumers’from brick-and-mortar transactions to on-line E-commerce trade. This dynamic is further intensified by a counterproductive increase in boutique brick-and-mortar establishments, or supply, in an ever-decreasing market share, or demand. This supply/demand gap is being filled by E-commerce sales in response to changing consumer expectations. Batra’s research pointed him to a Global 1000 report with a “Spotlight: The Future of Global Fashion E-commerce” which concluded, “It’s a category particularly ripe for innovation and growth on-line – from $105 billion in revenue in 2015 to $168 billion in expected revenues by 2021”.

Confident he had obtained supporting data on the market, heeding his U of T professor’s advice Batra proceeded to analyze the data to derive a solution. Although a McKinsey Company report proffered pronouncements such as “digitize or die” many designers, boutiques and growing brands in the fashion industry are not getting their share of the E-commerce surge in sales. For Batra it became apparent that setting up and executing E-commerce is expensive and complex, requires significant capital expenditure, technical knowledge and training to install and maintain, and typically takes a long time to design and deploy. Furthermore, after initial set up, ongoing marketing, return policies, procedures and logistics can be onerous. The result can be a system that lacks full integration with E’commerce market dynamics and may only be as good as its weakest component. This is especially challenging for small to medium sized business as on-line consumers expect an experience on par with that provided by the most innovative or dominant on-line retailors such as Amazon, Etsy and Ebay.

In response with initial grants of $17,000, the inspiration from his upbringing, international travel and the call to action with business skills from his schooling at U of T, Batra created KorsAll Corp. which is comprised of 2 separate but integrated components:

Korsall.com is a multi-dimensional E-commerce technology platform specifically designed for merchants such as designers, boutiques, and brands in the apparel, fashion, jewelry, and accessories industry to create or expand their business through E-commerce and global trade. Such merchants can use Korsall.com to create a unique virtual store, and fulfill orders. This virtual shop acts as a completely new sales channel (market penetration with existing product mix) to either complement existing offline and online presence or to help aspiring merchants to kick-start businesses. Such merchants will have immediate access to web, tablet, and mobile storefronts accessible around the world with no upfront costs or set up fee. We provide a platform for merchants around the world to showcase their wares, create virtual experiences, transact, and grow their business globally.

KorsAll In-Site is a set of solutions built around the merchant ecosystem with the objective of easing challenges for aspiring and existing merchants in the industry. KorsAll In-Site resides on the KorsAll.com platform and encompasses logistics, customer service, marketing and promotions, and analytical support mechanisms that enable merchants to manage and grow their businesses with streamlined operations and distribution. KorsAll In-Site solutions will enable merchants to benefit on all fronts in their ecosystem with a single view of their business, and customers. It will enable them to showcase their products, manage inventory, process, ship, receive orders and payments, engage in social media and build customer relationships, expand their market and customer audience, and leverage analytics and reporting and maximize their marketing expenditures.

Batra says KorsAll not only helps merchants sell their products, but shares the stories behind how and why those products came to exist.

“A growing number of people don’t just buy a product anymore – why, where and how its made, is often a driving component of the purchase decision – especially in the Millennial mindset,” says Batra “where acquiring a product is more experiential than perfunctory. We want to be a marketplace that sells the experience and the stories behind the products.”

Merchants are able to tailor their stores and provide information on each product. Batra says this aspect of the site aims to capture the experience of traditional shopping – walking into a traditional brick-and-mortar store, being greeted by an owner or employee, and hearing detailed information and stories about why each product is unique.

“We didn’t want to be another mini-Amazon,” says Batra. “We looked at how and what these businesses need and how they operate on a day-to-day basis in their ecosystem.”

“The idea was very rooted towards these merchants and helping them grow on a holistic standpoint,” he says.

“I was brought up in a culture that taught me to help as many people as I can over the course of my life,” says Batra. “We really want to make a big difference. It was important to me that our business model enable merchants to join KorsAll and create a unique virtual store, and fulfill orders on a global basis with no upfront cost or set up fee charged by KorsAll.”

“Its debatable whether I am the architect of the KorsAll.com platform or if it’s just being responsive to E-commerce dynamics that designs the platform but either way there is a lot of research and very complex and painstaking technology supporting KorsAll,” said Batra. “The first $1.2 million we raised covered over 12,000 hours of highly skilled software engineers writing very sophisticated code to create the technical core of the platform. We are now just finishing the “Merchant” end of the technology and based on my research in the industry its second to none. We are now floating a Friends & Family round to fund the final touches on the Customer side of the technology and expect to have a soft launch of KorsAll.com in the fall.” So, let the fun begin” exclaims Batra.

Whose alums are where? University Top 15 in Entrepreneurship – Canada

Whose alums are where in the Canadian entrepreneurship ecosystem? Whose alums are working hardest in entrepreneurship in Canada? The results are in, based on Crunchbase data.

  • 13.5% University of Waterloo
  • 11.9% University of Toronto
  • 9.9% University of British Columbia
  • 8.1% McGill University
  • 4.6% University of Western Ontario
  • 4.0% Queen’s University
  • 3.8% Simon Fraser University
  • 3.4% University of Calgary
  • 3.2% University of Victoria
  • 3.0% University of Alberta
  • 2.6% Université de Montréal
  • 2.6% Ryerson University
  • 2.4% McMaster University
  • 2.2% Dalhousie University
  • 2.0% Carlton University

These are the results of the author’s estimates based on data run on October 4, 2016. Data were pulled from Crunchbase for Canadian-based startups with headquarters in Canada, whose total equity raise was at least $50,000. Please note, startups listed in Crunchbase are often pursuing venture capital; that situation does not pertain to all startups. Total number of Canadian startups in Crunchbase that have raised $50,000 in equity or above equals 504. Are the results accurate? They are if you consider Crunchbase to be an accurate measure or proxy of the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem of North America.

Data compiled by: Gray Graffam, Director of The Hub at UTSC

Gearing Up

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August 25, 2016. Gearing up for an exciting year. We will be hosting a second UTSC Dragons’ Den in winter term, which will provide critically needed startup funds for exceptional projects. Last year, a total of 222 students took part in The Hub, $45,000 of seed funding was put in play, and $1.4 million in equity value was created, along with a company currently valued at more than $5 million. If you are a student at UTSC with an innovative idea, and would like to explore possibilities further, please come to The Hub to learn more.

We have funds in place to offer space, mentorship, and startup capital. We have the seeds of an entrepreneurial culture growing and thriving. This year promises to be a dynamic year. Come take part.

Mapian wins $100,000

December 5, 2015. Ravi Ravindran, CEO and Founder of Mapian, wins $100,000 1st prize at the Launchpad TV Show.

The prize comes as an investment – a 10% equity stake – in Mapian, Inc., a mobile map-based social networking platform. LaunchPad is a TV program not unlike Dragons’ Den, where entrepreneurs compete for a cash prize and investment into their company. LaunchPad is a Toronto-based TV program, specifically geared towards helping Tamil entrepreneurs across North America, as they pitch their ideas and launch their businesses.

Mapian is a unique social networking platform that uses digital maps to orient its users to events going on around them. And with the iOS platform completed and Android just around the corner, Ravi plans for a launch this early Summer that will see the social platform take flight.

 

Introducing Willow by Nova Sentio

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I got the chance to speak to Dikshant Batra & Nathan Tran Trinh from Nova Sentio about their latest project, Willow.

Tell me about what you guys have been working on.

Nova Sentio’s latest project is Willow, a global eCommerce solution that eliminates the inefficiencies of the current fashion industry by allowing designers to connect to their audience through the real time production of clothing. We aim to fairly compensate artisans for their passion and creativity while striving to give consumers access to a global market of goods through international shipping. Willow makes the system more transparent and fair for both the consumers and the designers.

People didn’t know they wanted sliced bread until it was made. The same thing goes for the global shopping experience, you won’t know what you’re missing until you’ve experienced Willow.

What was your motivation behind creating this project?

With the rise of fast fashion, the environment, labourers, and consumers have been exploited to their limits. Brand owners only care about cashing in big, without thinking of the impact of their actions. Designers get less than 0.1% of the value of their designs’ value over its lifetime. Consumers are frustrated by their expensive and unsustainable shopping experiences. Our motivation behind Willow stems from our intrinsic passion to break through this exploitation chain. We are offering a sustainable, fair, and efficient customer and designer experience to make it a rewarding experience for all.

Any words for the general consumer?

It is important for today’s generation to realize the concept of consumerism and its aftereffects. If we don’t think for the future generation now, then there will be none. Corporations and consumers alike need to realize that everything we do has an effect on the future of society. Through Willow, we will make progress towards a fair and environmentally conscious future.

Words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t require you to have a sexy idea. I think some students discourage themselves from being entrepreneurs by believing they need to have the next big idea/innovation. People should know that innovation and entrepreneurship can be separate things.

We would also encourage other students with ideas for their own startups to come to The Hub. It’s a great place to get started, and a great place to be part of if you want to create your own business.

By Lily Li

In Celebration of Entrepreneurship

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“What kind of dent do you want to make in the universe?” This was the question that Andrei Arkhanguelski, founder of Crowdlinker and U of T alum, pressed home at The Hub’s event, In Celebration of Entrepreneurship on November 9th.

The Hub is University of Toronto Scarborough’s incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship, and the event was held to celebrate the 18 students who passed the gauntlet of The Hub’s Dragons’ Den.

Principal Bruce Kidd kicked off the celebration, congratulating the winners and bringing to attention the University’s long-standing commitment to experiential education, and the considerable efforts now underway at UTSC in entrepreneurship. Also present were Vice Dean Mark Schmuckler, Professor David Zweig, Chair of Management and Economics, and Professor David Fleet, Chair of Computer and Mathematical Sciences. They spoke about the University of Toronto Scarborough’s emerging academic programs in entrepreneurship, and the importance of working with The Hub, government, and industry to create a vibrant pool of outstanding talent that will lead the way for tomorrow’s business – particularly as that may benefit the eastern GTA.

Following these inspiring words, the nine winning teams – Flipd, Willow, Connect 4.0, VIS, Discover, Stacksity, Frrand, Envoi and Minds Matter Magazine – were invited to introduce their projects to the audience. The team at Willow noted that the Dragon’s Den has been a “critical stepping stone” to help them start “the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey.” Funding for the teams was made possible by a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, plus a match from the UTSC’s Office of the Dean and Vice Principal (Academic). In total, $45,000 will be distributed to the winners in support of their efforts.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @UTSCTheHub

By Lily Li

Ron & VIS

I got the opportunity to speak with Ron who is the mastermind behind VIS. Check out what I learned about his product!

Tell me about VIS.
VIS helps people navigate the increasingly complex world of social media. Our tools are fueled by a very powerful and well-tuned engine, consisting of state of the art machine learning algorithms that compile results in a meaningful way.

Who will VIS benefit?
Our product will benefit anyone who wants to measure social media on a large scale. We’ve all seen the comments “trending now” and our tools allow you to design your own queries around the specifics of what and how a social media trend is evolving.

How was your experience working at The Hub?
Initiatives like The Hub provide students with the resources to develop their ideas into something that is truly impactful. The mentorship from Gray Graffam has been critical in the development of our company. Interacting with the other students at The Hub has also been extremely rewarding. It is crucial for entrepreneurs out there to explore their limitless ability to innovate and create!

Written by Lily Li

Are you “Flipd Off”?

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Flipd Video

I first heard about Flipd through their presentation at The Hub’s “In Celebration of Entrepreneurship.” I was immediately intrigued. Fortunately, I was able to get some more information from the Flipd team regarding their creation.

Flipd will help me be more productive and keep me focused? Tell me more!

Flipd is a mobile application that removes cellphone distractions by allowing you to select a time you want to be “Flipd Off”. Your phone will be blocked and any distractions will be removed. You can even set up an automated response text message that will let others know you’re busy. Meanwhile, emergency contacts and white-listed applications – such as your Calculator – will still be accessible.

What pushed you to start this project?

People being distracted by their phone is a big problem that’s affecting people all over the world. According to a recent study, one in five people said they are addicted to their smartphones, while 64 per cent said they check their phone on an average of around 150 times a day! Flipd aims to solve this problem and help people lower their phone usage.

What would you say to entrepreneurs who are on-the-fence about their idea?

Just go for it! It is a very rewarding experience and there is a lot of support at The Hub that will help you get started. They have everything from excellent workshops to develop your business strategy to events like the Dragons’ Den that has provided us with the funding we needed to expand our business. I believe that entrepreneurs aim to solve a problem and as a result they improve the quality of life of people. So what have you got to lose?

If you are interested in using Flipd, it is currently available for Android! The iOS version is coming very soon. Check us out at http://flipdapp.co, we would greatly appreciate any feedback that you have!

Written by Lily Li

Sharks and Dragons

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Avoid the sharks. Embrace the dragons!

In November, 51 students competed in UTSC Dragons’ Den 2015 at The Hub. From that process,  18 new entrepreneurs have received funding to join The Hub, crafting 9 new projects:

  • Willow by Nova & Sentio
  • Frrand
  • Flipd
  • Connect 4.0
  • VIS
  • Discover
  • Envoi
  • Minds Matter Magazine
  • Stacksity

You will be reading more about each through this blog in the coming months, but for a brief description of them please visit: Initiatives.