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“Go put it live, even when it’s still an early prototype”: Interview with fits.me co-founder, Heikki Haldre

We just interviewed Heikki Haldre, the co-founder and CEO of fits.me (Update – December 2022: The startup seems to be no longer in business and we therefore deactivated the link).

After a busy week and his speech at the Drapers Fashion Summit in London, Heikki took some time to answer our interview questions. With his young company fits.me, which is based in Tallinn (Estonia), he solves a huge problem for online-shopping – the lack of a fitting room in internet shops. Not only are retailers struggling to convince customers to buy without ability to try clothes first, they get 1-in-4 clothes back, mostly due to wrong sizing. Because apparel goes quickly out of fashion, returns are the biggest cost for online retailers. Fits.me reduces returns, which reduces retailers’ costs, and provides a significant increase in sales for internet clothing retailers.

Please tell us something about the start of fits.me and the technology behind it?

“It’s impossible to create the robots, shape-shifting to thousands of shapes and sizes that define a human,” declared the scientists in the early days of Fits.me. Then they did it. It took the right team and smart scientists to create this technology, based on bio-robotics, which gives Fits.me the ability to show how clothes fit real people.

The co-founders’ backgrounds in apparel, technology, e-commerce, and most importantly – being stubborn and not to listening to naysayers – helped us through the early days. For any tech entrepreneur, when creating something never done before, it’s important not to listen to those who say how it cannot be done. It is also important to listen to these people carefully, as they provide the most valuable expertise on what problems need to be solved.

How did you finance the startup phase of fits.me?

Self-funding and smaller European Union research grants helped us to the point where we could prove that the idea worked. After this initial proof, it was fairly easy to get the angel and venture capital backing. Recession certainly helped to get the angels. During the times when the economy fluctuates, the risks to any investment are high, however potential returns from a tech startup are much higher compared to anything else. Hence, the tech startups with great ideas have it slightly easier looking for funding when the economy faces many unknowns.

What were the main stumbling blocks of your first year as an entrepreneur?

I’ve created and sold five companies prior to Fits.me, and I’ve also been to five universities. While both have been important, I would not trade for anything the experience of starting a company before. If there’s one piece of advice to give to other starting entrepreneurs, it’s tell your idea to everyone who cares to listen. Don’t be afraid of someone stealing it, after all great ideas only exist because of the great team, including yourself. Use their advice to build your idea to something much bigger than you’d been able to do by yourself. In Europe, apply for programmes like Springboard.com, certainly Seedcamp. The mentorship you’ll receive will make a big change to how your company evolves.

Looking back, what would you do differently in the startup stage?

Someone recently asked me what the mistakes were that we made with Fits.me. My answer – none. It’s true that Fits.me has changed its business model completely since our start, but this is not necessarily a mistake. It’s a learning curve, unless you remain too stubborn not to notice the need for a change. A potential threat to any idea is over-engineering. Go put it live, even when it’s still an early prototype – the things you learn from the users help to design the product quicker and better. Probably we could have saved precious months off making Fits.me if we had seen it like this from the beginning.

What makes fits.me unique, or better then other services out there?

A fitting room in a clothing shop is not only about getting the right size. Customers can see how different items look together (stylistic function), they can touch the fabric, etc. However, these functions are easy to quantify. The main reason (60%) customers return clothes bought online is because of the wrong size. Because of personal preferences of how tight the clothes should be, there is really no substitute to showing how clothes fit. This is the reason why size recommendation or size charts do not work. Fits.me’s Virtual Fitting Room focuses on letting people get the right size and does it well. Other technologies have focused more on stylistic function.

Where would you like to see your business in 3 years?

As technology evolves to replicate a real life shopping experience, the sales of clothes shift to internet. By the year 2018, 1-in-4 clothing shops face closing; it’s already happening with bookshops. The tech cooking in Fits.me’s labs, and partnerships with other technologies, will give customers amazing online shopping experience.

What would you do for a living, if you had not started a business?

Simple. I would have started another business.

What was your worst business idea yet?

Fits.me! Looking back at the time when it was in its first iteration, it was just horrible. It’s amazing how the idea has evolved over this time.

What are your thoughts on the startup scene within the European Union – do you think it will ever become competitive in relation to the US-scene?

Here’s an issue – Europe, in general, is not supportive of startups. You need rather thick skin to escape from the initial negativism, but this is not the real problem. The real problem is that in Europe most criticism simply states that your idea will never work. In the US they tell you why it will never work. It does not apply, of course, to all of Europe, or all the US. However, this difference perhaps can be overcome by encouraging entrepreneurship, and creating more incubator and mentorship programmes. However, because of the diversity of ideas here, and often better access to connect ideas across different cultures, industries, and experiences, the next great idea will be from Europe.

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Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr is the "Editor in Chief" of EU-Startups.com and started the blog in October 2010. He is excited about Europe's future, passionate about new business ideas and lives in Barcelona (Spain).


  1. Great interview about an awesome product,would love to understand a little more about convincing investors how you plan to bring the product to market

    Best of luck in the future!


  2. Hi Connor,
    thank you for your comment. It’s nice to hear that you liked the interview. Maybe I will ask Heikki about “convincing investors and how he plans to bring the product to market” on a second interview. Or maybe he is also going to write a comment…
    Best wishes!

  3. Thomas – thank you for the article. EU-startups is an exciting blog and I’m glad to have been part of it.

    Conor – The Wall Street Journal recently told me the secret of how to get covered by them – if you get to be successful, you’ll get covered by the Journal. The same applies to investors – I do not need to *convince* the investors how to bring the Virtual Fitting Room to the market. I’ll simply need to bring it to the market.

  4. Hi Heikki firstly congratulations on a great invention!

    Wanted to know from you whether you plan to actually sell the mannequins also or are you going to be there only in the virtual world. We’d love to have your invention in our store (even on an experimental basis) wherein we could provide you necessary data on sizing and shape constraints to enable you to improve upon your product. Like we say in India just like the size of the population the “size” of the person is also bewildering. In India the sizing of the population is so varied that anthropometric studies and statistics go crazy. As a result bespoke tailors like us are in great demand.


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