AI is the latest buzzword, but we’re taking a look at how artificial intelligence is really affecting each industry. To learn how integrating AI tools into fashion design and e-commerce will affect the future of the industry, we spoke with Austin and Zach Hurst, serial entrepreneurs and investors who recently launched 99GENS in a private preview.
99GENS launched in private preview at the end of last month (August 30, 2023) with the goal of making premium print-on-demand fashion and merchandise accessible to everybody.
Founders Austin Hurst and Zach Hurst, commonly referred to as the “Tech Twins,” own the first-generation family office Hurst Capital LLLP which invests in a unique portfolio of patented technologies and consumer products. One of their earlier investments includes Glamhive, an online platform that provides virtual access to the industry’s best personal stylists—anytime, anywhere. It marked the Tech Twins’ first foray into the fashion world.
Prior to this, Austin and Zach became media sensations when the brothers announced their intent to acquire Hostess Brands and fell short, becoming the second leading contender back in 2013. Since then, their career in tech has been diverse.
Austin and Zach have developed and scaled the #5 largest “YouTube like” site, 1Dawg.com, to 6.4 million active connections in 4 months, making it one of the fastest-growing websites of its time. 1Dawg.com was the first ever web service to convert video on the fly and was the first user-generated video website to send video directly to mobile phones.
Austin and Zach also own their own advertising agency, DDg, and consult for brands. They have worked with 30+ Fortune 1000 customers and have 21+ years of experience in web design, graphic design, product design, and more.
In 2019 the twins were named as inventors on an issued patent for the generation and exchange of custom self-recorded multimedia, a technology that can enable celebrities to record personalized video greetings for fans in trade for royalty payments.
During the pandemic, the twins invented, built, and scaled eOn, a national consumer brand that delivered over 14 million travel-size disinfectants to 26,000 national retail stores.
Today, they are hyper-focused on the launch and success of 99GENS. Here’s what they had to say!
Q&A with the Tech Twins on 99GENS
Grit Daily: How did you come up with the idea for 99 Generations, and what market gap does this product address?
Tech Twins: At 99GENS, we developed a solution to solve a personal pain point, which involved automating the labor-intensive process of professionally preparing customer print files for dozens of print-on-demand products. We quickly realized our technology could also empower the masses who have traditionally been priced out of such opportunities.
99GENS now powers all of the graphic design and eCommerce publishing aspects of the legacy workflow, simplifying the process from proofing to publishing into just a few clicks. We believe we can significantly grow the cut-and-sew segment for the print-on-demand sector by significantly reducing the onboarding friction related to expensive and time-intensive legacy setup processes.
Grit Daily: AI is constantly in the news right now. How does your platform use AI, and what are the benefits for the user? What are the copyright, image, or other concerns related to the platform, and how do you address them?
Tech Twins: At 99GENS, we leverage AI in several ways. A key use is a proprietary super-resolution workflow which enables us to aid creators with upscaling low-resolution art inputs for high-quality fabric printing. Our creators abide by a strict content policy and take responsibility for what they publish, even while using image-generation tools.
We do not train or host any of our own AI image generators, but we do support 3rd parties who are navigating the copyright landscape as it continues to shake out. We’ve been experimenting with modern language models for things like custom product descriptions, auto-summarized customer reviews, customer service bots, etc.
Our users have found Outpainting tools like Adobe Photoshop’s Generative Fill useful when expanding their existing canvases for input to our service. We’ve also received positive artist feedback regarding the generation of AI variations from their original works, which enables for instant population of physical merchandise collections, including the leveraging of marketing scarcity mechanics.
Grit Daily: What makes this platform differ from other print-on-demand options in the marketplace?
Tech Twins: Other print-on-demand solutions are restricted to graphic design and eCommerce publishing professionals or customers willing to hire out that knowledge work. We’ve completely eliminated the need to possess the discipline or allocate a budget to hire consultants. 99GENS automation removes design lag by shrinking the standard production cycle, which also makes possible for the first time ever what we call Gametime Merch; live and/or ephemeral drops offering one-of-one products at scale, personalized for each individual customer.
Grit Daily: As investors with your office Hurst Capital, what do you look for when taking on a new project or company like this as an investment or your own focus?
Tech Twins: 99GENS is our full-time focus due to the extensive needs of the venture and our passionate belief in the impact it will have. When reviewing investments, we bet on the founder first, concept second. As long as there’s a clear need for the product or service, we generally have faith that customer market fit can be achieved; however, that typically requires the team has the resilience and drive to push through the early stage headwinds.
Grit Daily: How do you see the world of fashion evolving? Is this a way to elevate fast fashion with one-of-one designs?
Tech Twins: We certainly believe we will make it easier for anyone to experiment with Print-on-demand fashion design which could certainly include dressing up a fast fashion ensemble. We understand a lot of one-use, fast fashion goods end up in the landfill today strictly due to their quality. We are focused on curating products that customers will view as long-term assets versus disposable garments. With Print-on-demand, sizes are made to order, so we avoid out-of-stock scenarios and don’t have to warehouse a bunch of pieces we will never find a body for. We do believe this will increase new entrant participation, a growth driver for the whole industry.
Grit Daily: You just launched in preview. Can you share any details on the type of users you are working with or who the target consumer will be?
Tech Twins: I can say that we’ve been exposing the technology to a diverse range of users spanning independent artists to large corporations. Our ability to instantly add logos to premium SWAG, custom tour dates, venue names, edition numbers, etc., and on a per-customer basis with zero MOQs, has already made us uniquely attractive to a broad group of users. As we open up from preview, we’ll have more announcements about our partnerships and client base in the coming months.
Grit Daily: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tech Twins: The 99GENS Private Preview is currently invite-only, but we are slowly whitelisting accounts, so please register on our website.