We all dream of the day when an advanced tool or technology from a science fiction book or film becomes a real product we can use. Many of the technologies we use every day now have their roots in a sci-fi classic, including the mobile phone (portable handheld communicators in Star Trek) and personalized digital advertising (eyeball-scanning billboards in Minority Report).
AC:Studio client Pronti AI’s solution has its roots in a classic film too. But instead of Star Trek or Blade Runner, Pronti evokes memories of the 1995 Alicia Silverstone classic Clueless. In a montage scene early in the film, Silverstone’s character Cher Horowitz uses a computerized wardrobe system with a touchscreen interface to find a matching outfit for the day.
While Hollywood magic was required to make that happen in 1995, today anyone can find the perfect outfit for any mood or event with the help of Pronti, an AI-powered assistant that uses the clothes you have to create the perfect fit. Mila Banerjee, Pronti AI’s founder, and CEO described the mobile application as a smart wardrobe assistant that does more than simply help users know what to wear. They are building a solution to provide users with a personalized shopping experience.
“Online shopping is an ocean of choice. Very often what happens is we just go back to the same places that we go to on a regular basis—but this is not actually what most people want. Pronti works by understanding what people already own and their context to help narrow that e-commerce ocean,” Banerjee said.
Like many startup origin stories, Pronti AI’s begins with Banerjee experiencing a problem in her own daily life. She said she often struggled to put together the right outfit for a meeting or event but hadn’t considered that it was a problem to solve. But during a mentoring session with a fellow young woman entrepreneur, Banerjee saw the potential for improving how people see and use the items in their closets.
During the session, the mentee asked Banerjee if it was okay if she put together her outfit for the next day while they spoke. She said at first, the request seemed peculiar, but she went along with it. As they spoke, her mentee went back and forth between options multiple times.
“It turned out that she spent an hour and a half every night putting her outfit together. Looking professional and confident was important to her, but the time it took was too long,” Banerjee said.
Banerjee began working on potential solutions and in 2022, the company launched its application for iOS and Android smartphones. The app has already amassed over one million downloads and the team has recently launched an updated version of the app that includes an end-to-end shopping experience along with other performance improvements.
This is a hyper-scalable solution for everyone as opposed to the few that can afford a personal shopper. A lot of times people think this is only for fashionistas, but our audience is not fashionistas—it’s normal everyday people,” Banerjee said.
In the same way Pronti AI provides guidance to people with fashion decisions, Banerjee said she knew she needed go-to-market guidance to help Pronti AI scale. She had previously mentored at the University of Waterloo’s Velocity program and was aware of the complimentary mentoring and programming options at the Accelerator Centre.
“The mentors are really great—especially Rob Farnham and Steve Fyke. Their data-driven method for testing marketing is fantastic,” Banerjee said.
Being on both sides of the mentoring table has given Banerjee a unique view into giving and receiving advice. She said anyone who thinks they're done learning or being mentored is missing out on new perspectives and insights.
“The world is changing so fast that it's impossible not to get another perspective that's going to help you. As a CEO, there's so much that I need to know to run a startup. Having the support of mentors with different experiences is critical.”
AC:Studio is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and is delivered in partnership with WEtech Alliance, Innovate Niagara, Conestoga College, SnapPea, Uvaro, Bereskin & Parr, PWC, and Gowling WLG.