There’s a big shift happening in ecommerce and it’s not being led by bricks-and-mortar retailers. Shopping as entertainment has arrived, spurred by the meteoric rise of Pinterest and executed by startups like Fab.com, One Kings Lane, BaubleBar, OpenSky, and Little Black Bag.
Throw another one into the mix today: Curio Road has launched to offer the Anthropologie and Etsy aesthetic in a curated “shopping-as-entertainment” environment. Started by former Bessemer Venture Partners analyst Michael Segal, the commerce site features a small selection of handpicked items each week.
The company has raised a $300,000 seed round from a long list of angel investors: Jason Finger of Seamless, Gary Vanerchuk, Josh Abramowitz of Deep Creek Capital, John Goldsmith, Fabrice Grinda, Jose Marin, and Josh Reznick.
Segal got a close look at the crazy adoption of Pinterest during his time at Bessemer and noticed something about the site’s most rabid users. They weren’t necessarily fans of “New York loft” aesthetic promoted by Fab.com. They had a folksier, more eclectic DIY taste a la Etsy and Anthropologie. In other words, they like putting a bird on it.
“We don’t think Fab or any site has a monopoly on the definition of cool,” Segal says.
On Etsy and in thousands of boutiques across the country, brands are somewhat undiscoverable amid the noise. Worse, many independent designers are aiming to land their goods in boutiques via wholesale deals rather than find unique ways to reach buyers online. “No place online has successfully become the boutique of the Web,” he says. Even Fab.com has become noisy, adding more and more skus as it scales revenue. This is the classic example of why this whole curation trend struggles with scale. At a certain size, is a selection of goods still curated?
At this point, Curio Road is almost too curated, with just six vendors selling 10 to 15 items each. That is by design, but will eventually expand as the site adds more designers, courtesy of Segal’s co-founder and Chief Merchandizing Officer Sonali Bloom. Bloom has worked in merchandizing and design at Abercrombie & Fitch and is a photographer, artist, and DIY-er.
Ultimately, the site is only as good as its merchandizing. In the same way that Fab.com co-founder Jason Goldberg has built a business around the taste and aesthetic of Bradford Shellhammer, Segal will be running an operation based on Bloom’s curated boutique.
Curio Road falls firmly in the “content and commerce” category that’s been increasingly popular (and successful) with ecommerce startups this year. Pinterest proved that product alone — essentially a well-curated catalogue — is enough to keep an audience rabidly engaged. Now a whole new class of startups is capitalizing on it.