Retail Startup Cosign Shines at NRF

While thousands of retail-related companies were vying for attention at the recent annual convention of the National Retail Federation in New York, a select few startups were able to shine. For the second year in a row, Microsoft for Startups entrepreneur in residence Tereza Nemessanyi hand picked a panel of the most promising, disruptive young companies to highlight in a three-day startup showcase held at the Microsoft flagship store in Manhattan. The event brought out some of the biggest and best from the retail world, looking for the latest and greatest in a cutthroat industry where every technological advance can be the difference between success and failure. One company making a big impression was New York-based Cosign, whose co-founders met on a Manhattan subway platform.

Three people sitting and working on their laptops

“She had on a fabulous outfit and so I tapped her on the shoulder and complimented her,” said Abiodun Johnson about his first encounter with the woman who would eventually become his business partner.

“He kept trying to have a conversation and I was like ‘okay where are you from because New Yorkers don’t talk to each other on the subway?” recounted Esosa Ighodaro as the co-founders chatted for an upcoming episode of Series A-The Podcast, produced by the Microsoft for Startups team.

After months of conversations they identified a common problem. How do you find and buy all the fabulous clothes they commonly shared or saw on social media? Cosign was born. The pair created an app that leverages AI and machine learning powered by Azure to identify and tag individual items in a social media post and connect them to merchants.

It’s about more than discovery. Cosign incentivizes sharing by paying a commission to the user who posts an item whenever someone buys it. So, if you post a picture of you in a new jacket and someone clicks on it and buys it, you get a few bucks back. “I saw it from the consumer’s point of view because I encountered the problem all the time,” she said. The company got a lot of attention and interest at the showcase, and was recently profiled on the Microsoft Transform blog.

“The have such a fabulous story, and what they’re doing with is amazing,” said Theresa Nemessanyi. “One of the reasons I selected them for the showcase is they are exactly the kind of solution the big retailers Microsoft works with is looking for. So it’s a win-win.”

Cosign 3

Cosign has enjoyed a tremendous reception since the first version of its app launched on iTunes and Android back in 2013. 41,000 users signed up for its initial Kickstarter campaign, and over 5,000 downloaded the app in its first two months with no marketing. As the engineer of the team, Johnson is glad to have Microsoft and Azure backing the company with its platform and support. “You try to look three to four years out, try to project how many users you’re going to have and make sure that architecture is built to scale. And having Microsoft behind us is a tremendous advantage and value,” he said. The company has recently expanded its core offerings into a full 360-degree suite of services for both consumers and retailers alike. It includes a far more robust mobile app for influencers, a publisher tool for bloggers and brands, and a complete white label solution for retailers.

Cosign 2

It’s a far cry from that first meeting at a subway station. And Ighodaro remains grateful her co-founder had that courage to strike up a conversation.

“There was just something about her,” Johnson said. “She stood out from the crowd.”

Cosign 4

Standing out from the crowd is something Cosign is clearly accomplishing. One click at a time. And Nemessanyi says that’s the goal for all of the companies she and the rest of the Microsoft for Startups team aspire to everyday.mash

“It’s thrilling. You’re only as good as the value you bring to people and they keep coming back. And that is something you created,” Ighodaro said.