Every great company has a start.
The start-up phenomenon created some of beloved apps, devices, websites or solutions. Here is the chance for you to help in the creation of an innovative solution.
Mifitto wants to simplify online shoes shopping. They created a system thar accurately predicts what size of shoes you should buy.
A bright idea that can reduce returns to almost zero will make stores and buyers happier.
Mifitto wants to simplify your online shoes shopping. A bright idea that can reduce returns to almost zero will make stores and buyers happier. With us, the Chief Technology Officer of Mifitto GmbH, Dominik Lessel.
Immigrant Spirit: What is Mifitto’s history and what factors drive the company?
Dominik: It all started with an idea Thomas [Harmes] had. He used to work for a sports retailer, called SportScheck. Of course, if you go to a store to buy shoes, you can try them on and choose the ones you like. That is annoying, but in the end you will find shoes that you like.
If you are buying online, you have to guess.
If you generally wear a US size 10, in some brands you might have to buy a size 9, or 11. It depends. There is a standard, but it is not precisely followed by all brands.
This also saves time and effort: one good example is ski boots shopping. If you have to try 10 different boots to define the one that best fits your feet and your style, it will take a long time.
For the company offering online shopping, you might have to cover the return, and that costs a lot of money. Each return, in general, costs between 15 and 25 euros for the companies.
As a businessman, Thomas was worried about the costs. As a father of two, Thomas was bothered with the inconvenience of having to return and change shoes – over and over again.
Thomas started to think of a solution to this problem. It is actually very easy: we measure the shoe, in one side, and people measure their feet, on the other. We have already measured more than a hundred thousand shoes, to have an accurate basis for the European shoes market.
We are three founders of Mifitto, starting in November 2011. Thomas had the idea. He talked to Dominic Köhler, and I joined as the technology specialist. Right now we are looking for more tech guys to continue growing.
Immigrant Spirit: As you said, you are currently looking for a full stack developer, right?
Dominik: Right. Currently, I am the only fully dedicated tech guy in Mifitto. We have a wide range of activities, from shoes measurement, data compilation and management, all the way to the integration with customers and new projects, we have a high demand from a self-driven IT professional that would embrace our project and support us in this growing phase of Mifitto.
We have a great flexibility on the activities this new person could develop, depending on their profile. It could be more focused on infrastructure, front end, back end… we also have developments to be done in the foot scanner, which recreates digitally the foot and leg of users, etc.
Also, we have so many ideas that someone that joins us can embrace one of these projects and take care of it on their own. One example is programming the app for Android models. Also, if this person is more inclined to one activity, we can do that.
We do want someone that is able to perform different activities, but we of course understand personal preferences and can work with that.
Immigrant Spirit: What would be the ideal profile of a developer to work with Mifitto?
Dominik: We want people that believe in the company and would like to be part of it and help it to grow. Not people that just want money, but people that want to have fun while working with us. We want to grow and make more money together, so we can have even more fun!
Good developers are rare, and some of them do not want to commit to work for just one company. However, we offer a real relationship and support people develop their projects with Mifitto.
On one hand, it is really important to have people that understand our mission. On the other hand, we want people that can think on their own and that do not wait for a to-do list. We want people to work with us, because we are a team, but this self-drive is very important to be a part of a start-up company.
On the knowledge side, it is important that our new employee knows Node.js. On the front side, you can do a lot with Java Script. But with Node.js, you can do Java Script on the back end. If you have done Java Script for a few years, you can just do Java Script in the back end. That is the great thing about Node.
This concept of full stack developer didn’t exist a few years ago. In Europe, we are still a bit behind other markets, and that is why we are open for foreign professionals to do that.
Immigrant Spirit: What other caracteristics are you looking for in a candidate?
Dominik: To work in a start-up like Mifitto, it is very important to have an entrepreneurial spirit. A lot of motivation, drive for innovation and independence are also very important. We want someone that would really jump into it, and quickly becoming a part of the company.
Right now, I have to take care of all IT activities, and we want someone that is able to detect needs and work.
Even if someone doesn’t know everything but has the drive to learn and fulfill the needs, that is great. We have so many activities, if someone is interesting in further developing our 3D foot scanner, for example, or controlling the motor and camera, we are really open for that.
We also want people that like to do different things very often. Not necessarily every day, but we have new activities and projects at least every month, and this is a great motivator as well.
One important thing is that you are not going to have to solve problems created by other people. In some large companies, you spend a long time fixing mistakes by other people. Here, you can develop your own projects. You can use the technology you like, and develop projects you like.
Immigrant Spirit: What are the advantages of working for Mifitto?
Dominik: Here, we always have a thousand ideas in our heads. We have a wide range of things to do. With more people joining the company, we are seeing this growing even more.
It is never boring.
One example is this inventory system I have developed. We detected the need to have something to manage the shoes we were measuring, and I dedicated to develop this. It was only a week after Google announced the Polymer project – which is really innovative.
In other companies, it probably wouldn’t be possible to try new and experimental things so much, and this is very important from the developers’ perspective.
There are always new things happening in this world, and we support bringing these ideas to the company.
Immigrant Spirit: What is the technology behind Mifitto?
Dominik: In the beginning, Dominic and I where developing the technical aspects behind our solution, and last year we presented this to our first client. We started measuring shoes by hand, moved by the passion of our idea.
Of course, this was not sustainable. We brainstormed and found several image solutions to measure shoes based on the insoles. Some shoes, like running shoes, can easily have their insoles removed, and a computer would compute the data based on the insoles.
However, this is not possible for all shoes – so we had to come up with a different solution.
We contacted the Fraunhofer Society, which is one of the most important research organizations in Germany, in order to mutually develop a solution to this problem. They are globally famous for developing the MP3 technology, but they go way beyond that.
They have more than 30,000 researchers divided into several research centers, and usually work with large and internationally known companies such as BMW, Audi, etc. They are used to measure the inner volume of engines and other industrial components, and they got really interested in our idea.
We were able to establish a collaboration with IIS – Integrated Circuits division – to work on a solution for measuring shoes in a streamlined way.
We developed a scanner that is able to measure up to 10,000 shoes per day, which you can see in the video below.
As the machine scans the shoes and feeds our system with data from 20 different points inside the shoe, we are able to have a precise digital image of the shoes. We are the only company in the world with this technology, and we are able to provide it to any shoes stores in the world.
The Fraunhofer Society is also one of our investors, as they truly believe in our idea.
Immigrant Spirit: How does your technology integrate with your customers online stores?
Dominik: Our business model is based on the usage from online shoppers – we integrate the measurement system in our clients’ websites, and they pay per time someone uses the system.
One advantage is that once we measure a determined shoe for a client, that information is retained in our system, which expedites the process for new clients.
On the users’ side, there are three ways people can get the precise measurement of their feet to match with the shoes they are interested in purchasing:
First, buyers can use our iOS app, available for iPhones, iPads and iPods. It is very simple: you just have to take a picture of your footprint, and the app will take care of the rest.
You can also send your footprint’s photo by email, and you will get a response with your data. Finally, it is also possible to measure it by hand, and the explanation for that is given on our website.
With the shoes’ data on one side and the footprint information on the other side, our size measurement will determine the best shoes for you. This tool is integrated into our clients’ websites.
Our first client was Otto, which is one of the largest retailers in Germany, with a wide presence in the market. The interest for this solution has been on the rise, and our system will soon be available in more websites. We currently have 40 clients in our pipeline, and that is exactly why we need new people. But I cannot disclosure that now, of course.
Immigrant Spirit: Of course. When thinking about start-ups in Germany, most people immediately think of Berlin. What are the advantages of being headquartered in Duisburg?
Dominik: First of all, it is cheap.
Beyond that, if not to say we are in the center of Europe, we are extremely central. You can reach 6 countries within a few hours of drive. Düsseldorf’s airport, which is only 20min away, connects the city to any part of the world.
People are also very open mind in this region, especially young people.
You can also find great life here, in different ways. There are music festivals, outdoor activities, cultural things… In Krefeld, for example, there is a big jazz scene, with great and world recognized artists playing there.
There are a number of parks and activities in Duisburg as well, which might be of interest. It is a very diverse area.
From the company’s perspective, it is also great to be in this state, due to the incentives and development here.
[Duisburg is located in the heart of the Rhein-Ruhr metropolitan region, which also englobes Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen, among other large cities. It is the pulsing heart of German economy, with more than 11 million inhabitants and easily connected to other major cities – one third of Europe’s population lives within one hour from here.]
Immigrant Spirit: Where would you like to see Mifitto in the future?
Dominik: Just like PayPal is a reference in safety for online shopping, we want Mifitto to be a reference in shoes’ size. We want to be recognized by that when people are shopping online.
We also want people to create their own profile and for the ones they love. When you are shopping a gift for your girlfriend, for example, this will guarantee the best size for you.
We are also making some studies in reverse engineering, using our current database of shoes sizes to determine the best new shoes for you.
Further down the road, we want to expand to other business areas: shoes are just the beginning. We want to expand our product portfolio: T-shirts, jackets, pants, etc.
Right now, we are expanding our team. We are not offering a lot of money: we are offering a lot of fun and freedom while working. And we want to continue growing to have even more fun in the future!
There are a lot of growth opportunities, and we are excited about what we have ahead of us!