VIDA, an e-commerce startup that allows artists to upload their designs to print onto real-world materials – like fabric, leather, metal and more – which are then sold as one-off products, has expanded its community artists to more than 100,000 members since its launch a few years ago. The company is now participating in startup accelerator Y Combinator, following recent collaborations with big names including Cher, Steve Madden, Warner Bros. and others.
The idea for VIDA came from founder Umaimah Mendhro, originally from Pakistan, a Harvard Business School graduate who previously worked at Microsoft and the San Francisco-based West Market Accelerator.
Mendhro had once wanted to be an artist, having learned on her own to cut, draw, sew, sew, screen print, paint, etc. But she feared that she would not be able to make a living from art alone, which eventually led her to take another path.
With VIDA, Mendhro merges his interests in art and technology by providing a platform where artists can submit their designs, which then become garments through VIDA’s use of direct-to-fabric digital printing and, more recently, other methods of extending printing to harder materials. .
With the digital printing technique, the process of transferring a design to fabric is faster than traditional methods. This allows VIDA to print items on demand at scale, instead of keeping inventory. It is also now using 3D printing to design the molds for its jewelry collections, and plans to launch into other areas soon, such as 3D knitting and laser cutting.
Once printed, VIDA creates a brand page for its artists that they can promote as they see fit. Artists get 10 percent of the net sales of all their products sold on VIDA, because VIDA handles everything else associated with making and selling these items beyond design.
When it first launched, VIDA only had a few types of products available – silk tops and a few styles of scarves.
Today, the company has diversified into many areas: tops, bottoms, scarves, bags, scarves, household items like pillows and tapestries, pocket squares, bags, jewelry, etc. It has also expanded its community to over 100,000 artists and creatives from over 150 countries around the world. The site hosts over 2 million individual SKUs and adds about 5,000 more per day.
VIDA does not share customer or sales figures, but has worked with Cher this year in conjunction with HSN. He also worked with Warner Bros. on a collection of articles inspired by Wonder Woman, also for HSN.
While VIDA’s larger vision is to create a platform where any idea can become a product, Mendhro says it is reaching out to a new kind of consumer as well.
“We reject the standardized and mass-produced products that have dominated the retail industry. We want something unique, that tells a story, that has a part of us in it, and something that feels genuine and genuine, ”she says.
Despite the bespoke nature of the products, many are surprisingly affordable. For example, custom bags are in the $ 40 to $ 50 range – less than a new Nine West handbag or other mass market brand.
The company also appeals to the socially conscious buyer, as it gives back to those who make its products in the factories through initiatives such as its literacy programs and women’s empowerment programs in Pakistan, India and Turkey.
The team of just over a dozen are based in San Francisco and plan to raise additional funds after Y Combinator’s Demo Day to expand beyond fabrics and further grow the business.
The startup is backed by $ 5.5 million in funding from Google Ventures, Azure Capital and Slow Ventures. This is a continuation of the $ 1.3 million TechCrunch startup cycle previously reported in 2014, when VIDA was at an earlier stage.