Gregg Morton holds dual degrees in finance and business economics from the University of Kentucky's Gatton College of Business and Economics. His entrepreneurial instincts were energized long before college and even before graduation from high school with the founding of his first company at age 15. Today, Morton is cofounder of WeStyle, an iOS app that provides instant fashion advice, inspiration and options.
Tom Martin: You formed your first company at age 15? Tell us about that.
Gregg Morton: My co-founder in our current venture, WeStyle, Giovanni DeVita, and I have been in business together since age 15. All the other kids were working traditional fast-food restaurant jobs, and that just wasn't interesting to us. I took an interest in computers and software at a really early age. So, I thought it was a good opportunity to kinda capitalize on some of the skill sets that I already had. So, we started MoVita.
Martin: What exactly did MoVita do or sell?
Morton: We built custom computer systems and networking solutions. It started as a gaming computer company. Back in the day it was really tough to get a relatively affordable custom gaming computer. We wanted to fill that market. Once we started getting into it, we saw that there was a lot of opportunity outside of just the gaming market, and we expanded from there.
Martin: You launched WeStyle in January?
Morton: That's correct.
Martin: And this came after a time in New York City. Many Kentuckians who've left Kentucky and gone to New York, Washington, L.A. or wherever often come back. How did that happen for you?
Morton: I made my way back to Lexington because I went to school here and I was plugged in to the Gatton School. The Kentucky Innovation Network really has helped WeStyle grow and become what it is today. New York is a massive place. And to launch a startup, you get lost in the noise. It's expensive. And Lexington, you know, is really a good place to call home for us.
Martin: What did you bring back with you?
Morton: While I was in New York I worked at Citigroup. I was in investment banking. I was a business unit manager for equity capital markets and made a lot of great connections in terms of investors. It's a very important part of being in New York, the network that you build.
Martin: OK. Let's talk about this app, WeStyle. What inspired WeStyle?
Morton: WeStyle actually was born out of an app that Giovanni and myself launched back in 2013 called Fitting Room. Fitting Room allowed you to take a picture of your outfit, send it out to a community, and that community could vote on it, yes or no. So, "does this look good on me or not?" Obviously, very simple functionality, very basic. We saw that there was a ton of interest in something like this. Investors loved it. We have four investors today, and we basically took Fitting Room to the next level with WeStyle. WeStyle is a fully functioning social style network. It looks like Instagram. But there are a lot of features that are specific to fashion. You have the ability to tag your clothes that you're actually wearing in the post. You can post out and ask which of four outfits look the best. So, if you have four outfits that you're gonna wear to an interview and you're not sure which one you want to wear, you can pull the community in. They can vote across those four images.
Martin: If I understand correctly, you're taking advantage of some advances in image processing sensor technology?
Morton: Yeah. This is a way that WeStyle can kind of start to make its way into the retail space — brick and mortar, specifically. One of the key things that retailers and brands are looking to do is maximize their brick and mortar operations because everybody is starting to purchase online. But one of the main things that people miss with online retail is the ability to try it on, to feel it, and that's never gonna go away. We're looking to bridge the online shopping experience with the in-store shopping experience and bring a lot of the customization, the targeting, the deals, and the social aspect of shopping online into the store. We're partnering with some companies that are bringing those technologies into stores to make that possible. We want to be the social component of that. So, you can think of it as: you're in the fitting room, you're trying something on, you don't have your friends with you, and you want that instant feedback. WeStyle will be there for you to be able to get that instant feedback from the community, influence your purchasing decision, potentially partner with the brand of the retailer to provide you a discount for utilizing the service. So, that's the direction.
Martin: What are some features beyond what you just talked about?
Morton: Let's say that you have two shirts in different colors. You're trying to figure out which one looks best with a dark pair of jeans. With WeStyle, you would take two pictures with each of the shirts. You would post out. The community would vote A or B on that. In about 10 to 15 minutes, you can anticipate 30 to 40 votes. The community is very active. So, you will get instant feedback, and it does really help when you're trying to make that decision. And we have a feature in the comments where, let's say that someone wants to tell you, "Hey, you should wear a green shirt with that outfit." The issue with that is, what green shirt? So, we've taken it a step further, and instead of it just being a text comment, we tap into a catalog of over a million products across 300 brands, and the user providing the suggestion can choose out of that product catalog and show you exactly what you should pair with it. From there, you can tap on the item. That will take you out to the shop to purchase it. And so, there's a very direct path to conversion. You see it, you like it, you can buy it.
Martin: What is your main source of revenue?
Morton: Well, right now, we are pre-revenue. You know, we're making a few dollars off the pay-per-click stuff with the products that I'm talking about, but it is going to be about the data modeling, understanding demographics, fashion trends and how that all plays. We see the data that we're collecting as the most valuable piece of this and very valuable to brands and retailers that are looking to build out their marketing strategies. And ultimately, I think that's the real value.
Martin: Is it just the two of you right now?
Morton: No. We actually have a team of eight. We're not all based in Lexington. We all work remote. Erik Zamudio, who if we get into the video, he actually spearheaded that. We have a communications director, Kylie Kagen. Giovanni DeVita, he's actually in Charlotte, my co-founder. And then my development team is offshore in Romania. I've got three guys out there doing the development.
Martin: Where can the video be seen?
Morton: If you go to Westyleapp.com, right under the download links for the app you will see #MyStyleStory. Click that. It will take you to Vimeo. That's where we're hosting it. It's about a four-minute video.
Martin: Can the WeStyle app be found in the App store?
Morton: That's right. It's for iOS. It's for iPhone right now. We do have an Android version in the works. I would expect that the second half of this year.