Last week, Deanna Meador closed a $1.5 million seed round from 11 different investors in just 8 hours, setting a record for a startup round in Tennessee.
The historic investment was raised to scale her AI-focused startup Couture Technologies. The Nashville-based software venture looks to eliminate that pesky reality we’ve all faced when shopping online…the dreaded wrong size.
Before we get to the historic round, here’s a quick primer on the underlying technology behind Couture, a software solution that Meador started working on back in 2019.
“We did about 300 interviews with brand leaders across all levels of apparel companies. We did [customer discovery] in five different countries on two different continents…and we really wanted to understand what did people inside of apparel companies feel like were the biggest challenges,” Meador told Hypepotamus. “What we kept hearing over and over again was that reducing returns was one of their top three challenges to solve.”
Making sure consumers get the right size the first time, is of course key for retailers looking to reduce returns. To help eliminate fit issues, Couture rolled out its white label virtual try-on software for brands. The technology allows shoppers to see exactly how clothing will fit and where on the body a specific item will be tighter or looser.
Couture Technologies aims to help workwear/uniform companies and direct-to-consumer fashion brands. And the software startup’s technology is already helping ecommerce brands. You can try it right now on the website for Hemp and Hope, a female-founded sustainable clothing and lifestyle brand out of the UK.
Behind The Seed Round
Meador said closing the round in just 8 hours was a bit of a shock even for her. She initially set out to close the seed round in 24 hours to mark International Women’s Day on March 8th.
To hit that funding goal in a third of the allotted time, Meador got checks from 11 Tennessee-based investors. Four of those investors are brand new to the startup’s cap table.
Bootstrapped early on, Couture Technologies received a grant from the National Science Foundation to get off the ground. The team took on its first round of institutional funding in July of 2021.
This new round of funding will help the team add to headcount in three key areas: 3D garment design, engineering, and customer support. Those new hires will join the 26 team members already working for the company. Couture Technologies’ team is currently concentrated in Nashville, Miami, and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Nashville Tech Style
The reality is that female-led, venture-backed startups are hard to find. Less than 2% of all venture capital funding is funneled into female entrepreneurs.
Meador is in that 2%…but she is looking to change the narrative.
“You have to shine a light on data like that, but then once you know the data, you have to do something about it,” she told Hypepotamus. “We want to be part of moving forward the dialogue. Women run investable companies and there is funding [for them] here in the South.”
Meador is no stranger to the Southeast startup community. As a serial entrepreneur who moved to Tennessee when she was in high school, Meador founded her first company in the retail space back in 2006. While running Couture Technologies today, she is also the Director of Entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt University and a Founding member of the team that launched the Wond’ry, an innovation and entrepreneurship hub on campus.