Joseph Einhorn started his first company in NYC when he was 16, which says a lot about his determination to be a game-changer in the tech world. He's since created the Fancy and is innovating e-commerce from the ground up.
The Fancy has key features that its competitors Pinterest and Amazon don't, including user-submitted inventory and image recognition for comparison between products. It doesn't hurt that Kanye West tweeted his admiration for the site last February, and that tons of celebrities are currently Fancying up a storm.
While a new product or app seems to hit the market hourly, Joseph is focused on the longevity, long-term impact, and immediate profitability of the Fancy. We sat down with him to talk about the importance of art, design, and sharing in a time where these three things seem to matter the most.
If it’s a quote, it’s for sale. If it’s a hot guy, he’s wearing something you can buy. If it’s a beautiful place, it’s a place you can book a trip to.
Where does the Fancy fit into the chronology of websites and start-ups that are out right now?
First there was Tumblr, where you see a cool image of something, and then you have a dead-end. Then there's Pinterest, which is similar, and then there's us, but we have a price tag. We've been laser-focused on stuff you can really buy and places you can actually visit or experience, but it's based on the social curation that users already know how to do from these other sites.
Think about us in the way you think of Amazon. They’ve done a lot of amazing things that other people haven’t done or aren’t able to do. The difference is that we believe searching is an old way to do commerce, and that our kind of discovery in the stream is the new way.
How do products or places get on the site?
Everything you see on the site is added by our users. We believe that visitors want a holistic, all-in-one site experience, but they want it curated by people who have great taste, so that’s what we offer. We have the best community, the best tastemakers, and a lot of great celebs, whether they make themselves public or not. We’re rolling out different languages from all over the world, which is really important, because half of our users are not in the U.S. We have about 9 now, but we’ll have over 100 in a few weeks.
That sounds like a huge endeavor.
These are the kind of things people write to us about; these are big challenges that matter. We just launched a slideshow feature to offer another viewing option. We also implemented image recognition so users can find items that look similar to other items. The big picture is that it’s interesting to find things with similar colors, but even more than that, we’re trying to build a unique catalog without duplication.
By doing this, we're asking, “What is the medium that people are ultimately going to be consuming this information in?” If we really know what things look like, their colors and their shapes (think of the Google Project Glass project), we can be a really rich data set. We’ve created a fun social commerce system, but we’re also really trying to take on challenges that will set us apart.
Are users on the Fancy still generating 22 times more content than Pinterest users?
Pinterest has done a great job of educating consumers on this kind of social curation paradigm. It’s showing up everywhere. The good news is that when consumers see our product, they know how to use it.
Our thing is that if it’s a quote, it’s for sale. If it’s a hot guy, he’s wearing something you can buy. If it’s a beautiful place, it’s a place you can book a trip to. In some ways, we’ve constrained our growth because we’re not super-broad self-expression. Ultimately, we’ve ended up with a community that knows we’re a shopping utility for consumers. For brands and merchants, it’s a really great way to access the interests and demand around your products.
The community reinforces what’s popular, and it works. The stuff that ends up in the featured section is always the best stuff.