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Could ASAP54 Become a Google for Fashion Products?

With its image recognition software and a team of personal shoppers, a new startup called ASAP54 wants to put an end to searching in vain for products you love.
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We've all been there: You see a cool girl walking down the street and fall in love with her shoes or bag or scarf. You go home to try and find it online, but the most descriptive search term you can come up with is "brown leather crossbody bag small." Maybe you hit the jackpot. Often you don't.

ASAP54 is the latest fashion startup trying to solve the problem of discovery for products you may have a photo of but on which you don't have any concrete intel. Having raised $3 million in venture capital financing pre-launch, ASAP54 is opening up its app to the public on Friday.

This isn't founder Daniela Cecílio's first foray into fashion tech. Having studied fashion in her native Brazil and London, Cecílio worked in marketing and wholesale before becoming the COO of Farfetch, which her husband founded. She left in February of last year to pursue this latest venture.

"My idea was that everything you see, you should be able to find," she says.

Consumers aren't loyal to one website, Cecílio says, and while they use Google to find new products, there is no Google for fashion. Someone is going to emerge and own fashion discovery, and ASAP54 wants to be that someone.

The app wraps up discovery, social and e-commerce into one bundle, meaning it's competing with ShopStyle on search, Wanelo on social and sites like PS Dept on personal shopping.

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It's not a new concept. The Hunt operates on a similar premise, allowing people to start "hunts" for items they've seen in real life or around the web but can't identify; other users chime in if they've tracked down the product or a similar version of it.

But whereas The Hunt crowdsources answers to shoppers' questions, ASAP54 generates results based on image recognition technology or, when that fails, through a team of employees who go find the product (something also does). Currently ASAP54 has four team members dedicated to answering search inquiries, either using its product database or their own market knowledge (these are the kinds of true fashionistas with an encyclopedic capacity for remembering styles).

ASAP54 promising a response rate of 24 hours or less, which sounds aggressive, but Cecílio isn't worried about scaling to meet demand. The startup is working on partnerships with a few fashion colleges in London and the U.S. to build out its pool of personal shoppers, since they're teeming with students who already read blogs and magazines like it's their job.

Relative to The Hunt, ASAP54 promises to be much more of a professional service. But there's a social angle here, too. Everything you search enters a social feed such that you can shop other people's looks, Cecílio says. If you love someone's style, you can buy products just like theirs.

While this could be a gateway into getting celebrities on the platform just for the sake of boosting conversion rates -- we all know what would happen if Alexa Chung, for instance, were paid to put a few looks on the site -- Cecílio says she's not pushing a celebrity strategy.

Cecílio says that she foresees developing a user base that is largely female, with older women using it as a discovery tool and younger users searching for what other people are wearing.

ASAP54 is launching with retail partners in the U.S. and the UK and plans to expand internationally after that, starting with Brazil and the Middle East, then China and Japan. The idea is to eventually be global, and to make local brands available to ship internationally.