Menlo Park startups

Online shopping? So Gen X. The founders and advisor of early-stage start-up Ropazi are placing their bets on Millennials adopting text messaging to buy things, initially children’s clothing.

“When I started looking ahead, I saw the Internet of things disrupting existing businesses and creating opportunities,” said Menlo Park resident Jennifer Gill Roberts (pictured right, above), whose initial career was with hardware companies before she turned to venture capital. She now heads Grit Labs, which partners with early-stage entrepreneurs to fund, design and build connected hardware products, along with assistance launching and scaling the business.

“Today’s parents and kids are so tech savvy,” she continued. “Just take a look at Menlo-Atherton [high school] during lunch hour. There are seven or eight meal delivery vehicles because the kids have ordered their lunch from their phone.”

Jennifer mentors at Stanford Venture Labs, which is part of the Business School but open to entrepreneurial-minded students from multiple academic disciplines. It was there she met husband and wife Nauman Qureshi and Sophia Salim, founders of Ropazi. “We clicked instantly,” she said, and the three now meet together one day a week.

“We didn’t set out to sell clothes over text messaging but rather to make lives for busy parents more convenient,” said Nauman. “We were always trying to chase convenience models. One day we tried order messaging.”

Added Sophia: “Message-based personal shopping is huge because it utilizes machine learning and pattern matching to learn exactly what a shopper likes, and makes the process as easy as possible for them. With Ropazi, every experience is personalized for the mom, because we know her preferences and are able to learn more with every purchase.”

One thing that sets Ropazi apart is the clothes it offers, which are primarily offline independent labels that have unique styles and designs. The brands ship directly to the moms. “However, we still remain the single point of contact for the moms,” said Sophia.

The founders are also keen on connecting with non-profit organizations. Through an introduction by Menlo Park City Council member Ray Mueller, they are talking to the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation about a partnership. They are also working with Baby2Baby on the idea of recycling used clothing.

Ropazi, which is backed by StartX, Stanford University’s startup accelerator, is learning from the initial 500 or so moms who are shopping with them while they are in beta mode. “Ropazi is a service for moms, by a mom,” said Sophia, a mother herself. “With all the conversations about women balancing work and kids, and women in tech, we think that it’s very important that a core person behind our product is a woman and a mother.”

The company name, by the way, is a combination of rock, paper, scissor.

Photo by Gina Hart (c) 2016 Gina Hart Photography

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