Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Fancy Shows Pinterest How It Might Make Money — Selling Stuff

If you ran a Web site that featured lots and lots of images that users uploaded, and you didn’t want to clutter it with ads, how would you make money?

Joe Einhorn thinks he knows: He’s turning his Fancy, a catalog of good-looking things that people find on the Web, into a “social commerce” site.

The idea is that merchants can find a picture of a product someone has pasted up, and then either offer to sell that product, or something else related to it, and Fancy will take a cut.

Fancy is rolling out its commerce engine today, and if it works, who knows — perhaps it will be relevant to other big image sites you may have heard an awful lot about recently. (Cough.)

You can’t call this a pivot, because Einhorn has always talked about taking on Amazon and eBay, etc., with a new model for selling stuff. That’s why French fashion conglomerate PPR — the people who bring you brands like Gucci and Alexander McQueen —  put $10 million into his start-up last fall. It’s just that Einhorn hadn’t done much actual selling yet.

It’s important to note that this isn’t just a simple affiliate model. Einhorn has created a bidding system akin to Google’s AdWords, where anyone can sell anything against a particular image. Just like Amazon can bid to have a Kindle ad show up when you search for iPad.

So if you saw this picture of a Sarrieri bodysuit, (like I said, Fancy tends to emphasize good-looking things), you could sell that, if you want. Or some Fruit of the Loom. Or whatever.

All of which sounds great, assuming it works. Einhorn’s other challenge is to get more people using the site. He says he has just a fraction of Pinterest’s 11 million users, but says his users spend much more time, and post many more images, etc., than his rivals.

Sooner or later, though, he’s going to need to move beyond the “engagement” pitch. Perhaps this endorsement from Kanye West will help:


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google