Everyone at my publisher commented on how well I was dressed. Several of the publicist crew noted how much more switched on and engaged I was. I felt insanely more confident in every talk I had to give and spent significantly longer out in the public rather than hiding in the staff green room — like I usually do.
Just a few years ago Kucsan co-founded Thread and set off to build a truly personal shopping experience that is already changing the way people buy clothes. With the help of professional stylists the company is reimagining the interaction from the ground up and users are loving it. They love how easy it is to get personal picks from their own stylist and learn about what fits them and why in a beautiful, distraction free environment. They are amazed at how simple it is to find all the brands they already know and like — as well as discover new ones they’ll end up loving. They enjoy keeping and organising all their favourite finds in one place as well as trying them on in the comfort of their homes without the commitment to purchase. All while staying in the loop and in full control of their deliveries. Thread and their stylist is helping them dress well, feel happier and be more confident about themselves every day.
Thread was founded in the summer of 2012 by Ben Kucsan, Ben Phillips and Kieran O’Neill. Shortly after its inception, the company was selected to take part in Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley startup accelerator program, which according to WIRED magazine is ”the most prestigious program for digital entrepreneurs”. After a successful summer in the US and closing investment from Y Combinator, Michael Birch, Tom Hulme, Errol Damelin, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Andrew Jennings, Guy Hipwell and Elizabeth Saltzman among many, the company moved back to London in the fall of 2012, where it continued to focus on its mission and started to carefully build out the team of talent required to fully realise its product vision.
Today, Thread has 45 employees in its London office and around the same amount in its warehouse responsible for operations. Less than 5 years after its founding Thread reached the milestone of a record breaking £1M monthly sales figure in January 2017.
Thread’s mission is to help people feel happier and more confident about themselves, by making it easy for them to dress well. Meaningful and important — because of the positive change it can bring to people all over the world.
However, it’s essential to keep in perspective that in the US alone, 10.5 million tons of clothing ends up in landfill every year. It’s part of Thread’s larger goal to drastically reduce this number worldwide by helping people make the right decision when buying new clothes as well as making it incredibly easy to recycle clothes they don’t wear anymore. The company is working on a program that will include a free return label with all of its shipped boxes. This initiative will inspire people to go trough their wardrobe regularly with the help of their stylist and recycle items they no longer wear. Thread will make sure they are recycled responsibly or given a chance to be worn again through the company’s nonprofit partners. Thread’s goal isn’t to make people buy more clothes. Its mission is to help people buy the right ones. Clothes they wear and love for a long time reduces the need to replace them as often.
Used correctly, values can be an enormously powerful way of codifying and reinforcing the behaviours and attitudes a company stands for. It needs to have a team which genuinely believes in them; people need to be hired, promoted and fired based on alignment to these principles; they need to be tangible and discussed regularly by the whole team. Used this way, they are a compass which give essential context for all current and future employees on how to succeed at the company. Thread has seven values: user experience obsessed, mind-blowing support, uncomfortably fast, candour, extreme clarity, relentless self-iteration and enjoying the journey together.
The way Thread succeeds is by having a customer experience that’s so good it leaves people stunned. There is no other strategy and without this, no other strategy works.
The way the company achieves this is by being obsessed with the experience customers have. It is relentlessly improving and refining the customer experience to surprise and delight its users. Every recommendation, every detail, every point of communication, every email and notification, every delivery and every return — every moment matters. Making the customer experience better is not the task of one department. It is everyone’s number one priority. Everyone in the company is aligned, thinking and talking about it every day.
At Thread customer queries are treated like emails from the CEO. The company’s goal is customer service so good, everybody who comes into contact with it leaves as an evangelist. Over-investing in the support experience and solving the root of the problem so it doesn’t occur again is the core of the strategy. Mind-blowing service is how to convert one-off customers into people who wouldn’t dream of shopping elsewhere, and who get all of their friends to do the same.
With an average response and resolve time of under 1 hour 50 minutes, Thread’s customer experience is rated five out of five stars as ”Excellent” on Trustpilot, one of the world’s largest independent online review communities.
During Y Combinator the company started setting weekly challenges that were ”uncomfortable” — they were doable, but would require focus and sustained effort.
The perfect balance of fast enough, but not so fast they would be unsustainable or harm the quality of the output. Speed is critical because it’s how you develop a reliably improving customer experience and keep team energy high. Even small improvements in speed have a dramatic impact as they are compounding: moving faster allows you to have more cycles in the same amount of time. Thread still uses the concept of weekly goals and through using iterative interrogative techniques the team examines and learns from the few occasions they aren’t hit.
Open and frank debate creates the best ideas and decisions. Candour is the bedrock of a high trust, high performance environment and culture. People need honest, direct feedback in order to learn and grow. Candour enables people to have high bandwidth communication, move quickly, focus on the right things, get high quality feedback and ultimately, avoid politics. Openness can sometimes be painful as it necessarily surfaces more disagreement and debate.
However, the goal of Thread is to create a high performance team — not to create a disagreement-free zone — and healthy, respectful debate is an acceptable price to pay for directness, candour and the open and honest work environment it fosters.
Thread’s high performance teams operate with an overwhelming sense of clarity. The company’s direction, team and individual goals are clear and well understood.
Everyone knows exactly what they need to get done, why, and how it will happen. Discussion and thinking is unambiguous. Communication between people and across the company is transparent, frequent, efficient and clear. People invest the time and go out of their way to be understood. Onus for clarity is on the communicator. There is no ambiguity over who is in charge of an area; every part of the company has a clear owner. Thread’s strategy is simple; Thread’s processes are simple; Thread’s product is simple.
One of the most valued things at Thread is improvement. This is both as a company and as individuals. In life, things are either improving or getting worse — nothing ever stands still. As a company and as individuals, Thread is relentlessly focused on improving. For the company this means constantly striving for better ways to do things, and to encourage the investment of time it takes. Teams regularly stop to reflect, to refine current methods of working together and to test out new ones. For individuals this means working on overcoming weaknesses and soaking up knowledge from every possible teacher.
People, and how they work together is the ultimate determinant of success, and Thread is determined to relentlessly improve on both of those fronts.
Thread’s goal has always been to create a place where people can come together and look forward to do their life’s work. When in a quiet moment people find themselves reflecting on their professional lives, the periods they’ll cherish the most are ones where they worked on audacious projects with people they liked and respected, in a positive, healthy and happy environment. At Thread people go out of their way to do their part in achieving this. They show kindness, support, positivity, fun and empathy with each other every day. They listen and pay attention to each other. They strive to jump in and help when needed, and approach challenges with infectious optimism. This attitude is a form of renewable energy.
2017Best Fashion Tech Startup Award
The Europas Awards
2017Best Use of Content Award
2016Best Innovation in Fashion Retail Award
2016Real-Time Innovator Award
British Fashion Council
2015Best Fashion Startup Nominee
The Europas Awards
2014Best E-Commerce Startup Nominee
The Europas Awards
2013Best Use of Technology Nominee
Smarta 100 Awards
While people often assign authorship of a product to one person, it’s important to bear the highly collaborative nature of design in mind. The work showcased is the result of teamwork and could have never happened without the extraordinary collaboration of diverse groups of people. Parts unreleased software shown.