Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Svpply Is a Social Shopping Site With a Funny Name, Good Buzz and a New Funding Round

One thing the first Web boom got right: Amazon, eBay and the other big e-commerce sites that made it really easy to buy stuff on the Internet.

But those sites are efficient places to get the things you know you want. They’re not good at finding cool stuff you didn’t know you wanted. The way that catalogs used to do, or that your friends still do.

This is the problem that Svpply is supposed to solve: It’s a social, online retail “discovery” site stocked with stuff you and your friends think are cool. Simple, right?

That’s the pitch, at least. And it’s been enough to get the year-old company a $550,000 seed-round investment led by Spark Capital and Founder Collective, along with high-profile angels like Ron Conway, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley and former Myspace co-President Jason Hirschhorn.

One reason the company gets a warm reception: It boasts Founder Collective’s Zach Klein as a co-founder. Klein, who helped start College Humor and later Vimeo, still has a day job as chief product officer at Boxee. But last spring he connected with Ben Pieratt, a Boston-based designer who started Svpply in late 2009.

If you take a look at Svpply (you pronounce it “Supply,” but the V is supposed to make it look Roman and/or cool), you’ll figure it out right away.

But in case you don’t click over: Using a browser-based “bookmarklet” (a la Instapaper), you tag images of stuff you own or like, along with a link that tells people where to buy it. And you look at images that your friends, or people you’d like to be your friends, have tagged, too. Apps for Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform are on the way.

When you do head over to Svpply, you’ll find that both the images and the stuff they depict are probably better-looking than you are. And while the company’s founders won’t come out and say it, that’s sort of intentional. Svpply is supposed to exude the same sort of digital cool, and attract the same kind of early adopters, that social Web hits like Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare did.

And like those networks, Svpply is based around the activity feed/stream concept–you can follow a few people or a lot of people. And if you don’t have anything cool to add yourself, that’s okay too.

The main thing is that everything there is supposed to be interesting and, well, cool. Anyone can set up shop at Svpply and show off their stuff, but if no one likes it, no one likes it. As Pieratt puts it: “People are very sensitive to being sold to.”

Of course, the reason people are funding Svpply is because it has such obvious potential for selling–by designers, by brands, by retailers, etc.

Which may be why it’s not the only start-up taking this approach. Poke around and you’ll see several sites doing something similar: Pinterest, Wanelo, etc.

One particularly notable competitor: Fancy, a project from ThingD, the semi-mysterious “Facebook of Stuff” that has super-high profile backers like Allen & Co. and is generating a lot of attention from Silicon Valley’s deal guys.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik