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Rank & Style Founders on How Math Finds the Best Products

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In a new series, we sit down with some of the many women who are killing it in the fashion-tech industry and find out how they're kicking ass in their careers. This is Ladies Who Launch.

Rank & Style founders, from left to right, Sonal Gupta, Pooja Badlani, and Sarika Doshi.

There are an infinite amount of fashion and beauty products listed on the web, and the number of user reviews is frankly overwhelming. One website aims to bring an end to all the confusion.

Three New York City women, Sarika Doshi, Pooja Badlani, and Sonal Gupta, launched Rank & Style earlier in April with the mission to simplify the search for products. The site features top-ten lists of everything from brown ankle boots to faux leather jeans. To do so, they use an algorithm that determines the best products based on user reviews, bestseller lists and editorial recommendations. Users can browse through their lists (they release four a week), and are directed to the product's site for purchasing.

Sarika, 35, met Pooja, 34, when they attended Columbia University. Sarika later met Sonal, 36, when they were both working as attorneys in London and the three began to work on the website for a while before launching this year.

We spoke with the ladies behind Rank & Style to learn how they thought up the site, and some of the challenges they face.

Can you tell us about Rank & Style and why you decided to create it?
Sarika: "We're trying to revolutionize how consumers discover fashion and beauty products. We publish and rank the best products from sunscreen to skinny jeans, and really anything that is on the market."

What makes R&S different from other beauty blogs and informational sites?
Sarika: "Our lists aren't just ranked by opinions or voice. We use an algorithm which searches and indexes all publicly available data women are interested in and that are relevant to research. We are completely unbiased; we don't have editorial teams, we don't try any of the products, and we have no advertising relationship with the items we rank. Our site saves people time and adds transparency in a world of overwhelming content and noise."

Can you explain the algorithm?
Pooja: "We've built technology that aggregates data from a variety of sources. We look at anything from best-selling lists at department stores and e-commerce sites, to what's trending on social media, to what editors love and publish in their magazine. We are sort of halfway between BuzzFeed and a trendier version of Consumer Reports."

Is there anything in the algorithm that is weighted more heavily?
Pooja: "Yes, user reviews and editors' picks have more value than, let's say, what people are saying on social media. Everything is taken into account but some things have more focus. If you type 'best sunscreen' into Google, you will get content but I don't know if it's structured or if there is ability to see what's truly the best in everyone's opinion."

What are some product lists that have done well?
Pooja: "It varies. From our lists we've done, the curling wands have done really well, and also natural beauty lists like serums and deodorants. Also, staples like black leggings, faux leather, denim, and nail polish."
Sonal: "It also depends on season. Faux fur vests are doing really well right now."

Do you guys ever refresh the information on a list?
Sarika: "Yes, we republish rankings. For markets where there are new products constantly entering and exiting, they will always get updated, so things like mascara or shampoo. But seasonal items, like white jeans, let's say, won't get coverage till next May."

Do you find you're in a competitive landscape, with so many beauty blogs out there?
Sonal: "There's so much information out there but we're giving it in a really novel way. We're providing users with information that already exists, and giving it to them in rankings."

What are some challenges you face?
Sarika: "When you run a start up, you have so much ambition, which is great because it drives you but it can also be challenging because you need to be patient. We are trying to manage our own personal expectations. We are always trying to prioritize what we want to do, because we have so many ideas buzzing."
Sonal: "Since being objective is our number one priority, we have to turn down brands when they ask us to feature them. Whatever the data says goes, so we can't promote products. Instead, we have to figure out creative ways to partner with brands, to spread the word, and to be able to bring in revenue."

How do you turn a profit?
Sarika: "We run on an affiliate model, and receive commissions, from the retailers we drive to. We also syndicate to platforms like SoulCycle, Lucky Magazine, and Pure Barre. We work with brands but only after they've been ranked on our site."

So how is it going so far? Are you happy with the visitor numbers and turnout?
Pooja: "Yes! We've been growing steadily since we launched in April. We've done blogger campaigns and our gift lists are doing really well. We're really excited and happy where we've reached."
Sonal: "We're getting approached by brands and press—it feels like people are coming to us."

Do you think it's a hard industry to tap into?
Sarika: "People have an insatiable appetite for fashion and beauty. It's fun and it doesn't feel like a chore, and there's a lot of room. There definitely is a lot of noise in the field so the challenge is to let people know what we are doing and get the word out. But I feel like we've gotten a lot of good return rates."
· Rank and Style [Official Site]
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