The wisdom of online crowds has helped people make a lot of decisions, like what restaurant to try (visit Yelp's amateur reviews) or band to listen to (go to OurStage). Marissa Evans is bringing crowdsourcing to another daily dilemma: what to wear. Last year the 26-year-old Harvard Business School graduate quit her job at a digital marketing firm and began working full-time on Go Try It On, a New York-based website that allows users to post photos of themselves on the site and get fast feedback about their outfits from the masses. "I live alone now," says Evans. "I thought there should be a way to leverage technology to get this advice quickly."
Go Try It On, which debuted in March, attracts about 50,000 unique visitors per month. Users upload their photos, usually cropped at the neck or with the face blurred, and append a brief message about their intentions for the outfit. ("Company party with white theme," wrote Sasha H.) Others then vote it up or down and leave comments. Ideally, the user gets a near-instant verdict from unbiased observers. The site awards virtual "fashionista" badges to the most helpful advice-givers.
There are other sites, including StyleDiary and Fashism, that let people share photos of clothes, but they are more geared to the fashion-obsessed. Go Try It On's goal is to bring speedy help to a larger audience—"anyone who has to get dressed in the morning," says Evans. About 80 percent of the site's photos come from women.
Evans is funding her company with investments from friends and family. The challenge will be to attract enough users willing to offer advice on short notice. She says she's planning to release an iPhone application to bring the service into store dressing rooms. A staff of 10 monitor the site to keep it free of snarky comments and inappropriate photos. "I've been really proud of the quality," she says.
Joydeep Dey, who works in advertising for Google (GOOG) in New York, says he visits Go Try It On daily to vote on other people's outfits and uploads his own photo once every couple of weeks. He recently tried out a pair of red Tretorn rain boots that he thought looked "great." His peers on Go Try It On disagreed. The boots "went on eBay (EBAY) really quickly," Dey says.
The next challenge for Evans: Make money. She wants to sell ads, and hopes to take advantage of links to products inserted by some commenters. The plan is to persuade stores and designers to pay a commission when users follow those links and make a purchase. She also envisions sponsored events such as a "Macy's (M) go-try-on-a-little-black-dress" contest.
When this reporter tried the site to pick a tie, one response came back in 40 minutes before I left for work. By midday, 60 voters chimed in and voted for a solid-color tie over a floral alternative. Commenters didn't hold back; one called my look "old mannish."
Grew up near Boston; MBA from Harvard
"Anyone who has to get dressed in the morning"
Ads, sales commissions, corporate-sponsored events