Waterloo Region isn’t necessarily known for its fashion scene.

Especially in the tech industry, you are more likely to see someone wearing a startup-branded t-shirt instead of a brand name.

As a fashion lover, I was excited when I heard rumblings about a fashion app launching this past summer.

Pout is a fashion and beauty social network that lets users share photos and video of daily looks, and browse to find makeup, hair, and outfit ideas for any occasion.

To learn more, I sat down with Pout co-founder Riley Donelson, a systems design engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo who I first met in 2012 when he spent a co-op term at Communitech.

A Waterloo native, Donelson knew he wanted to dive into entrepreneurship when he graduated from school.

“I actually interviewed for a bunch of jobs, but nothing felt right,” he said. It wasn’t until he ran into Laura Smith, an old high school friend that he began to think  about starting his own company.

Donelson and Smith had been in the same circle of friends in high school. When Smith went to Western for her double degree in software engineering and honours business, they lost touch.

In 2013, they ran into each other during co-op terms in California when Smith was interning at Pinterest and Donelson was at Apple.

“[Smith] is an incredibly talented engineer, and I love working on design,” Donelson said. “We talked a lot about working on something together.”

The two finished their respective degrees and Smith returned to Waterloo.

“We ran back into each other, and agreed that now was the perfect time to start something. Laura had the idea for Pout. We basically built the app that she wished existed,” he said. “As founders we’re really complementary. Laura owns all the tech and I can focus on all the design.”

Donelson and Smith got to work quickly building a prototype. By September 2014, the two had launched their product with a small group of beta testers and moved into the Velocity Garage.

“I was nervous when we had our Velocity interview,” Donelson said. “Would tech guys get [a fashion company]?”

The answer was yes.

“The fashion and beauty industry is one of the largest in the world,” he said. “It was easy for them to understand and get excited about the numbers. What has surprised us is how supportive they’ve been in helping us.”

The support is one reason why Donelson and Smith are staying in Waterloo Region even though it may seem more logical for them to relocate to a fashion capital like L.A. or New York City.

“This is such a great place to start a business,” Donelson said. “Our company is run on the internet, so we can work anywhere in the world. And we choose here.”

The Pout team is staying here to take advantage of the resources, programming and mentorship that both Velocity and Communitech offer.

Pout is currently available on iTunes worldwide, with BlackBerry and Android versions launching in the spring of 2015. They have a growing fan base in Canada, Germany and the United States and expect to see further growth from their recently launched partnership with Rimmel London.

“We figured this was the time in our lives to try to do something. Being in Waterloo and watching other systems design grads like Eric Migicovsky [founder of Pebble] and Mike McCauley [co-founder of BufferBox] take the risk and build their companies here has made me want to try it […] I’m utterly obsessed with [running Pout] now.”


It’s hard to believe but this is my 25th Tech About Town column, and my last for 2014.  Where did the year go? If you aren’t evented out yet, I see and hear that….  Tonight, Wednesday Dec. 17, THEMUSEUM is hosting Kubrick Film Series: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The screening starts at 6 p.m. and is part of the Kubrick Film series. Head to 10 King St. W. to watch this classic flick… This Friday Dec. 19 visit the Centre in the Square to hear the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony perform a Yuletide Spectacular. In addition the event features the Grand Philharmonic choir and youth choir as well as the Carousel Dance Company… Do you have kids looking for something to do over the break? The Kitchener Public Library is hosting Hour of Code on Tuesday Dec. 30 at the Central Library (85 Queen St. N., Kitchener).

Photo: Riley Donelson with his newly launched app Pout.