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“It can be used by dangerous people to create danger and by responsible people to accelerate positive change” with Alexandra Shadrow, and Tyler Gallagher

In sustainable fashion we have a saying: “clothes won’t change the world, the people who wear them will.” My position with AI is the same. AI won’t pose a danger to the world, the people who apply it will. If that’s not clear enough — no I do not think it is a danger, but […]

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In sustainable fashion we have a saying: “clothes won’t change the world, the people who wear them will.” My position with AI is the same. AI won’t pose a danger to the world, the people who apply it will. If that’s not clear enough — no I do not think it is a danger, but I think it can be used by dangerous people to create danger and by responsible people to accelerate positive change.

As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Shadrow. In the words of Christine Hunsicker, who sold her first company to Yahoo for $850 million, “Alex will eat through a wall.” As a third-generation sustainability entrepreneur, it is in Alex’s DNA to solve the fashion waste crisis. While in college at Boston University, Alex created a hobby-website called UNItiques to be a fun way for women on campus to share closets. After graduating, Alex made it her mission to spread “relovving” fashion beyond the campus and launched the app Relovv in the prestigious Techstars Venture Accelerator. Relovv uses data for a completely new approach to buying / selling clothing, by “matching” members to items in their size, style, and budget — think Bumble meets pre-lovved clothing. Alex has been recognized by the likes of Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine, and also appeared on TV show Project Runway Startup. In 2018 she was certified by Former Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?

The funny thing is, I never “decided” to pursue this career path. I was just a customer with a problem which I relentlessly never gave up on solving. Relovv is still a part of that solution.

In college was the first time I started to ask myself, “who made my clothes?” and “what are they made of?” The answers disturbed me from both an environmental and ethical standpoint, so I decided I was going to shop 100% pre-owned. The problem was, all the clothing marketplaces at the time never seemed to work. I would apply tons of filters to the selection, and still end up with hundreds of thousands of options. I’d also see the same sellers at the top of the feed every time. I set out to create a solution where I would be recommended the perfect selection (via AI), and where all sellers would have an equal playing field — where visibility was based on quality and accuracy rather than time spent on platform.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

Grit is the #1 thing that has gotten me through not one but now two marketplace businesses. I think there’s a real expectation that success happens quickly. The truth is, it doesn’t. Almost every company we idolize today was built over 10+ years. Success never happens over night. No one win makes or breaks the company. It’s a series of wins and being able to endure the marathon.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

We are in the process of releasing our innovative “dating-app” shopping interface, which really exemplifies all of the machine learning that happens behind the scenes. Members join Relovv with a quick Style Quiz which tells the algorithm all about them. They are then matched to items by size, style, brand, color, body-type, and more. As members swipe left and right, our algorithm learns more about what they like!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful to have some incredible advisors and mentors including Sean Kane (Co-Founder to Jessica Alba at the Honest Company), Matt Ziskie (Global Lead @ AirBNB), Lizzie Francis (former COO at GOAT), and more.

Right now, Kim Larsen (former Director of Data at Stitchfix) has been a true advisor and friend. Given his background at StitchFix he’s helping us create a product that can not only delight customers but make powerful predictions.

I also recognize Anna Barber (Managing Director at Techstars) as the single most influential advisor to date. Anna brings her experience of funding and coaching 100s of startups to each of her individual companies. She also keeps it insanely real. She’s made me cry. She tells you what you need to hear and as a result I’ve been able to go so much farther than I ever could without her guidance. For any startup looking for mentorship and funding, I highly recommend the Techstars Venture Accelerator.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

Better Insights into Data: Using machine learning and bayesian inferences we can find deeper insights into consumer behavior.

Hyper Personalization: We can personalize results to individuals rather than categorize groups or cohorts.

Time Saving — time is the most precious resource we have. If we save 1 hour of your time with Relovv, that’s 1 more hour you have to live your life.

Scalable: AI technology improves over time which means that as we collect more data our models become better and increases the barriers to entry for competitors.

Future Value: The data and insights that we collect from AI are much more valuable than simple contact information. Also the models themselves can become valuable in the future.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

Companies with deep pockets like Google, Facebook etc. have a lot more money, technology and user data and so they can create a moat around themselves that smaller companies cannot cross.

Privacy: The industry is collecting and analyzing people’s behavior and therefore is able to predict what they will do. This may lead to privacy issues.

Over-dependence on AI: AI technologies are working towards providing people will information even before they know they need it. This causes and over dependence on AI recommendations.

Ethics — will the people behind the data use it for good?

Psyche — if humans are misidentified by machines, how will it impact their psyche? For example if a woman is identified as plus size though she prefers regular sizes, will this impact her confidence?

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

In sustainable fashion we have a saying: “clothes won’t change the world, the people who wear them will.” My position with AI is the same. AI won’t pose a danger to the world, the people who apply it will. If that’s not clear enough — no I do not think it is a danger, but I think it can be used by dangerous people to create danger and by responsible people to accelerate positive change.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

Like all change, the greatest impact always occurs on a political level. Transparency laws about the ways companies use data must be imposed so that consumers have a true choice of whether or not to be patrons.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

Relovv’s north star is its mission to #ReduceReuseRelovv. I am proud to say the company brings tremendous goodness to the world. Each week hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are saved, and tens of thousands of pounds of clothing are kept from landfills. We use AI to match buyers to the right items. Accuracy in matches means less waste because the right buyer can then house each pre-owned item, diverting their spending from the production of new products and diverting the item from landfill.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?

Attract allies — there are not many women in tech, we know this. Have real conversations with co-workers about closing the gender gap, post on social media, and bring it up at networking events. By putting it out there that this is something that is important to you, you will attract people that feel the same and are allied with you.

Do your research — knowledge is power especially with male counterparts. For women in fashion AI, I highly recommend signing up to Retail Dive and reading their daily articles.

Show up — show up at events and put yourself out there on apps like Bumble Bizz or even on LinkedIn. Research people (ideally women) in data centered roles at companies you admire. Reach out to them for a phone call. Highly recommend using the Google Chrome Plugin “adapt prospector” to grab their emails. There’s no better way to thrive than to surround yourself with like minded women in the space.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

“In life, you only get what you ask for.” Relovv currently has 1,000 volunteer interns and affiliates who produce content and promote the brand. If we hadn’t created a program that asked people to volunteer we would have never grown on a low $1.00 CAC. I think people need to remember that asking costs no money, and the worst thing that can happen is no, in which case, nothing changes. There’s usually no harm in asking.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Not to pat myself on the back too early, but I have already started a movement to #ReduceReuseRelovv. I see this as a mind shift — if we can be aware enough to think about Reduce, Reuse, Relovv before we do anything the world will be a better place. For example, we may not get take out, or we may take a bike to work rather than our cars. Follow it on my Instagram @sustainabae.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@sustainabae

@relovv

relovv.com invite code AUTHORITY

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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