The Rise of the female-founded tech startup

Five percent of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women, and only 23% of people working in STEM roles in the UK are female.

The numbers become even murkier when it comes to startups and investment opportunities, as for every £1 of venture capital investment in the UK, all-female founder teams earn less than 1p, mixed-gender teams get 10p, and mixed-gender teams 10p according to a report by the British Business Bank.

It’s abundantly clear that there’s work to be done, but little by little female founders are emerging to redress the balance. Despite the slow progress of the technology industry as a whole, women are carving out a lucrative niche for themselves in the fashion technology industry.

Simone and Roxanne Oloman, sisters and founders of fashion retail app ‘Need It For Tonight’ (NIFT), understand these concerns all too well, and set out to combine convenience and sustainability into one accessible package. Against the odds, NIFT has climbed in popularity since their launch party at 20 Berkeley, with their ethos of promoting independent brands always front and centre.

“We want local shopping to thrive and flourish,” says Co-Founder and CEO Roxanne, who likens boutiques on NIFT to restaurants being featured on food delivery apps.

What inspired you and Roxanne to start NIFT?

SO: Roxanne, my co-founder (and sister!) had experienced a late delivery for an item she had planned to wear for an event later that evening. This sparked a conversation about just how flawed delivery is in London. I’m sure we can all relate to late (and long) delivery times, missed deliveries, inability to track orders, and environmentally unfriendly delivery options.

It dawned on us that, while London is the home of great on-demand delivery apps, there was no equivalent service that would allow people to access quality fashion in a short time frame.

What do you feel gave you the confidence to start your own app, particularly with the aforementioned balance of the VC market?

SO: Both Roxanne and I spent years working for award-winning VC backed tech startups and scaleups, so having that experience helped massively, and is definitely something I recommend. I came from a retail-tech background where I focussed on selling and consulting with leading retailers, whereas Roxanne has primarily worked in strategy and sales for Fintech scale ups.

Overall, I would say that experience in the tech startup world has proven invaluable as it gave us exposure to many aspects of running a business. Also, we became familiar with customer concerns and the gap in the market, as in my previous role I analysed customer data from retailers, including queries and complaints. Unsurprisingly, a significant portion of the data was surrounding delivery issues such as parcels not arriving, delivery status discrepancies, and tracking concerns. This allowed us to shape NIFT directly to these customer pain points.

How is NIFT beneficial to customers compared to apps already on the market?

SO: There currently are no options on the market for affordable, sustainably-oriented on-demand fashion, and we’re delighted to be the ones to offer it. Also, we understand the user experience of being disappointed with delivery options, so we’re committed to making our delivery service frictionless.

We also have a strong commitment to supporting bricks and mortar stores, helping them to keep up with digital marketplaces, and giving exposure to independent stores and brands. NIFT aims to create a space where traditional and modern shopping experiences can coalesce, and we aim to offer a platform that celebrates local shopping whilst meeting the needs of customers.

How does the app work?

SO: The app embodies the experience of food delivery apps, but for fashion. In the same way you can browse through a food delivery app where you can explore various restaurants and food options in your vicinity, we’ve replicated the convenience of this.

Simply enter your address, and a list of shops and brands in your radius become readily accessible. Once you’ve browsed and selected your desired item, await the quick acceptance of your order by the shop. Sit back, relax, and expect your order to arrive within 90 minutes. NIFT keeps you informed every step of the way, providing real-time updates on your order’s progress, including the ability to track your rider’s journey.

To add an extra layer of security and guarantee a successful delivery, you present the rider with a unique code upon their arrival. This is to ensure no more missed deliveries, nor environmentally unfriendly redeliveries.

What struggles did you face when creating your app?

SO: Mostly tech hurdles. Our initial plan was to launch earlier, but the intricacies of the technology involved (logistics, seamless integration into retailers’ e-commerce systems, and real-time delivery tracking) presented challenges. Juggling all of these elements demanded meticulous attention, but luckily, we were equipped with a fab tech team and valuable feedback from retailers.

The fashion industry is a large contributor to environmental waste. How do you think your platform might help to address some of the sustainability issues?

SO: Environmental consciousness is at the heart of our mission, as our goal is to inspire customers to make mindful purchases, even at the last minute. We all have fashion emergencies, but that shouldn’t mean we can’t make a purchase we truly adore and intend to re-wear.

Also, we’ve made a conscious effort to prioritise partnerships with like-minded brands that prioritise quality over fleeting trends and provide a platform for sustainable brands to flourish. By supporting local independent brands, we can contribute to the growth of our communities and reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods over long distances.

Finally, what’s next for NIFT?

We’re excited by the prospect of rolling out a rental option for certain items in the near future! Also, we’re looking to expand to other major UK cities and eventually globally. We have some great brands in the pipeline at the moment as well, so stay tuned for what’s next.