The secret to custom commerce? Call it "remixing"

By Erin Griffith , written on June 5, 2013

From The News Desk

New York startup Makeably has all the trappings of a media darling -- it operates in center of a Venn Diagram with intersecting circles labeled "maker movement," "ex-Googler," "ecommerce 2.0" and "personalization." We tech bloggers tend to have pretty predictable taste; all those things combined make for a tantalizing subject.

VCs, however, didn't see it that way at first. Makeably, which runs a marketplace for custom items from jewelry to art to clothing to furniture, had to fight for every dollar it raised in its $650,000 seed round, said co-founder Anastasia Leng. While some investors "got it" right away, others don't believe the maker movement is a real thing. Those that fell in-between needed proof that custom commerce could scale. Makeably tweaked and tested until it produced something that proved it could. The changes worked.

"When I went back to California a few weeks ago and showed (new) data to investors … it was like being in a different meeting," Leng says. "Before, the conversation we were having was like, 'Sure this sounds nice, but I'm not really convinced that people want to buy this way.' And now it's, 'Lets talk about how this is a billion dollar business.'"

The company's seed round was led by Great Oaks with participation from 500 Startups and angel investors Steve Olechowski of Feedburner, Christian Oestlien of Google, Max Alexander and Anna Bateson of TalkTalk and YouTube, Obi Felten of Google, Sebastian Tonkin of Boingo and Rahul Bafna of Flurry.

For now, Makeably is a $100,000 company. That's the revenue the company is on track to hit by mid-summer. Last week, the company saw its largest sale yet for $30,000.

Version two of Makeably solves the scaling issues of customization with the concept of "remixing." Most sales are not one-off ideas that a buyer invented. They're slightly personalized versions of things that have already been made.

Now, Makebly's community of 500 makers (and growing) don't just post their portfolios of past items. They describe their skills, what they're capable of, and what materials they work with. They post images of things they've made in the past and offer options for variations they're able to do. Makeably has dubbed this "remixing."

Since the introduction of this remixing concept three weeks ago, Makeably knew it was onto something. Users don't have to come knowing exactly what sort of custom item they want --only 10 percent of shoppers display "power creative" behavior like this.

For the rest of us who have a vague idea of what we want but need a little guidance, Makebly's sellers offer options and parameters. Since introducing remixing tools, the time to close a transaction has descreased by two thirds and the bounce rate has dropped by half. The back-and-forth messages between buyers and sellers before a commitment and payment is made has decreased from an average of two to three messages on each side to one message and a confirmation from the maker.

Makers have endless places to sell their ready made stuff online -- Ebay, Etsy, Fab and Amazon, for starters. On Makeably, they can say "here is my style and aesthetic and the tools and materials that I love working with," Leng says. "What we thought was missing was one place that treated them as more then the sum of their products."

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