Predicting Preppy: AI in Fashion | Cece Lee at Trendalytics

One of the biggest goals of artificial intelligence is to process human communication. But communication can change depending on the context. The way you talk to your family may be different than the way you talk at work. And if you work in pharmaceuticals, you’ll talk a lot differently than if you work in fashion.

And it’s the fashion industry that Cece Lee of Trendalytics hopes to crack. In this episode of UpTech Report, Cece dives into her efforts to predict fashion trends so that manufacturers know what to make and retailers know what to stock.

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Cece Lee is the CEO of Trendalytics, a subscription-based, product intelligence company that empowers decision making with data-driven insights. Over the past two years, Cece has overseen the doubling of business and personnel within the company while building repeatable, scalable processes to quadruple the efficiency of each member of her team.

Prior to making the jump to the fashion tech world, she worked at a variety of different companies, from Target to Jimmy Choo to Michael Kors, across buying and planning functions. Cece holds a B.A. in economics and government from Cornell University.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Cece Lee 0:00
You see immediately the effects of your decisions. And I think that’s actually been the most amazing part. But it is also time for me to put my money where my mouth is essentially. And if I think I can do it better, then now’s the time to do it.

Alexander Ferguson 0:19
In the first part of my conversation with CeCe Lee of Trendalytics, she talked about our efforts to use artificial intelligence to analyze trends and fashion. In the second part of our conversation, CeCe opens up about her experience as a new CEO of a startup in New York. And the humbling process of transitioning from an account manager to now being the head of a company, she offers some key perspectives on learning by doing and how being at the top can’t mean that you’re above anyone. Alright, I’m excited to continue our conversation and now hear how have you been innovating and growing as a leader? I mean, it started off, we’ve already talking, you’re a new time CEO of this company, and what a time to become then the CEO. Tell me, what’s the the journey that you’ve been on since the beginning of this organization into now? And what kind of hurdles have you over already overcome?

Cece Lee 1:10
So I’ve been at the company for over two years now, at this point, what month are we in? What is time, I guess, at this point, but it’s almost May, I guess, so yeah, about two and a half years, actually. And I started actually as the head of account management, so running the customer success organization. And then I moved to take over all of revenue, which is customer success, sales and marketing. And now obviously, I’m the CEO, newly appointed by the board. And I think really, it’s been such a it’s been a crazy journey, which is also why I love startups so much. Because I spent my entire career in retail. So I was a basically an end user doing everything from Merchandising, to financial planning, and was an excellent retail planter merchandiser that kind of saw the writing on the wall and wanted to leave the industry. And so I actually got pitched by Trend analytics and thought it was such an amazing thing and the way of the future. So I reached out to them when I wanted to do something new, and Karen, one of our founders, who must be nuts, because she took a chance on me with no experience doing the job that I was doing. But it’s all it’s really turned out for the better. I’ve learned so much in the past, you know, a couple years. And I think the most amazing thing about startups is the the amount that everyone wants to learn from and teach each other. And actually, I think how the network is amazing, like, people are just always reaching out to be like, Hey, I’d love to hear about what you do. And I’d love to tell you about what I do. And it’s such an amazing kind of culture and community. I’m sure in SF, it’s a little bit different. Because every you can’t throw a stone and not hit 85 Different co founders. But for New York, it’s still relatively it’s smaller, and it’s newer. And so I think the community has been amazing. I think as a leader, it’s so much about maturity and understanding, I think what you need at the time, what needs to be something that you spend a lot of time on. And you know, in startups, obviously, every single thing is, you don’t have time, for anything that isn’t going to add 10x Your value. And so it’s wearing a lot of hats. I think even in the last few weeks, I’ve had to renegotiate insurance policies in order to get contracts signed, understanding, I didn’t know anything about really a lot of the governance processes understanding like what is a board meeting versus what is not a board meeting, what are the things that they should care about building cash flow models, it’s, it’s actually been amazing. Also learning accounting. But that’s, I think the most important skill at a startup is just the doer ability, and the like, get it done kind of mentality. I think for big corporations that I’ve worked at, it’s very, like now I’ve done my job, I’m going to go home now and the business will continue to run. And now it’s if I don’t get up every day in the living room, and do my job, then the company could go under and these are all things that are you see immediately the effects of your decisions. And I think that’s actually been the most amazing part but it is also time for me to put my money where my mouth is essentially and if I think I can do it better than now’s the time to do it.

Alexander Ferguson 4:16
You very accurate statement as of now is the time just take action and make things happen. It’s not okay. Okay, I’m done. Things are good. Your your journey from you know, the retail and then larger corporate down to the startup and particularly when you’re the VP of revenue and growth and things were changing. What were some some learnings that happened that, okay, in order to get our first real growth and scaling up a client’s that as as from because when you were VP over about a year of that, how much of that growth were you able to see? And what would you attribute that growth to?

Cece Lee 4:55
Well, so there’s been a lot of I think, changes in the organization and we obviously had to make some tough decisions, cutting the sales team that we had originally. And I just had to kind of step in as an IC. And so it’s been a really amazing Crash Course into SAS selling. And I think what I’ve learned truly, is it isn’t as mythical and hard as people will have you believe it really comes down to like, be a human and think about people as a human, where if you would not like this person to call you in the middle of dinner with the proverbial telemarketing, don’t do that to other people. And so these are things that I feel like I’ve learned, but you also have to really believe in what you’re doing. So I truly believe that what we’re doing is going to help retailers revolutionize the way that they do their business. And so it’s easy for me to convince other people of that, because I believe it. And I think kind of the, that was the I think the biggest learning is putting structure around it. So understanding like, what is the funnel? Where’s the leak in your funnel? Like? How do you get people to do pricing negotiations? Like how do you track that in Salesforce? These are all things that, you know, for a real SAS seller, they’re probably like, well, of course, you have to do discovery. But for me, I had to kind of learn it the hard way where I was doing it naturally. But there’s a real process, and there’s a science behind it. But once you kind of get the gist of what works for you and what flows naturally, it becomes a lot easier. And really what I’ve learned is if you if you really believe in it, and it’s there is product market fit, then it will come. Which by the way not to discount the hours of outreach and hard work and all of the fostering and the crappy demos you have to do and all of that kind of stuff, but you know it even bad products with good ideas, find ways to make it. And if you have a good product and good ideas, then how much more can you do?

Alexander Ferguson 6:45
Indeed, if do you have any particular tactics that you’ve utilized over the past year so that through the learning, you’ve figured it out, you’re like, actually this this one worked really well. Any ones that you can think of that pop in your mind that you would recommend if someone else was to be doing this journey of trying to figure it out, either a startup or co founder someone’s put into this position? They’re like, how the heck am I? What could I do like an actual tactic I can apply for to help growth?

Cece Lee 7:11
Oh, man, I think it honestly is nothing is beneath you. And no meeting is a bad meeting. I think that’s kind of the two things that I’ve really taken away where even if it’s a terrible meeting, and they’re not the right fit for you, you still got practice giving your demo and navigating really crappy conversations. But I think I will say, you know, have a focus, because I do think, you know, the company itself has suffered from a lack of focus at times, and even in the time that I’ve been here has, you know, had that issue. And it’s if you have a singular focus, and that’s all everybody is marching towards. That is the best way to succeed. Not a guarantee, because who knows. But I think it’s have a focus march towards it. And if what you’re doing on a daily basis is not getting you towards that focus, then reevaluate while you’re doing it.

Alexander Ferguson 8:03
That’s a wonderful point to bring it just keep the focus and reevaluate as needed. So you make sure you’re in the right direction,

Cece Lee 8:10
and nothing is beneath you. That’s actually the other thing. Nothing is beneath you. If you need to go make coffee for somebody go do it. Like if you’re the one buying the snacks for the office, humility, nothing is beneath you

Alexander Ferguson 8:21
should really love it. What books or audiobooks or podcasts have you been listening to reading to that has been helped feeding your innovation and ideas, any in the past this year, or last few months?

Cece Lee 8:34
What’s funny is I think the answer is I’m supposed to have like 1000 podcasts that I listened to on a daily basis and get up at 4am to work out every day and whatever. That’s not the case for me. I will say actually, the most helpful thing for me has been being finding good mentors, and being part of a community. So I’m part of this group called Modern sales pros, which plug them if I can, they’re amazing. And just reading through, people just throw out it’s all sales professionals. And there’s also a sister version called Modern Customer Success pros, that people just throw out questions of like, hey, if I’m doing this, what do you guys recommend? Like these two tools? What do you guys think and just meeting people has been the number one most important thing I think, because everyone has a story to tell. And everyone’s interested in talking to you about it, which I think is amazing. To be truthful, the only podcast that I’ve been listening to are crime junkie, I’ve listened to a lot of like true crime podcasts. And that’s it, but it doesn’t really help my career. The other thing is actually media blogs, I read a lot of medium blogs. The secret is incognito tabs if you hit your limit there, but that’s actually been the number one most helpful thing and just talking to mentors and, you know, my, the investor community and just relationships that I’ve made through just being visible I think has been tremendous. Honestly, everyone is so useful and so willing to lend time and I think that’s been the best thing about this whole journey that I’m on

Alexander Ferguson 10:00
I’m gonna leave you with one last question here. What kind of tech innovations do you predict we will see in the in the near future next year, so and the long term like 510 years?

Cece Lee 10:14
This is it’s a silly answer, because everyone’s gonna say it. But essentially the things that allow you to take a shortcut, I think, obviously, that’s like life hacking, growth, hacking, whatever, all the hackings. But I think the biggest barrier to entry is that people feel weird doing things totally virtually, or on the phone or through an app. But clearly, because everyone’s been forced to do it for the last at least month, that barrier to entry is a lot lower, like my dad, for example, teaches at Notre Dame, and he’s been doing all of his classes virtually. And even he’s figured out how to do a virtual background. So he has like the golden dome in his background, and he’s like teaching his class in front of a picture of the golden dome, and he’s the type of person who never would have been like, yes, the Zoom lecture will totally be fine. And he’s been forced to adapt to that as well. And I think, you know, the people who mentally were resistant to some of these kind of shortcuts will no longer have it, right. Because you everyone’s gotten forced to get used to it even, you know, Zoom ketchups with your friends, no matter what age you are, is something that people are all doing now. So I think you’re gonna see a proliferation of things that allow people to do more things from home, because I bet you a lot more people realize that they kind of like being at home. You know, obviously, you’re going to run out on Memorial Day, once we are able to, like hug every person that you see, but at the same time, there will be a lot less barriers to staying home if you want to.

Alexander Ferguson 11:39
And that will change our whole outlook of the way we live our lives.

Cece Lee 11:43
Yeah, maybe I mean, I’m a it’s funny because I’m an extroverted introvert where I’d much rather stay at home and cross stitch on a Saturday night anyway. So it’s been a great excuse for me to like, I still get to see people on Zoom and I get to lay on the couch and cross stitch with my dog. So like, these are all positives. I think for me,

Alexander Ferguson 11:59
that concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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