Founded in 2001 by Michael Bruno, 1stdibs is a chintz-free online marketplace intended to appeal to collectors and design professionals along with general consumers of luxury. The site offers a curated selection of hard-to-find or high-end items, from antiques and fine art to vintage fashion and rare watches. The site’s 1,800 worldwide dealers sell a total of 9,000 items per month, with 2012 gross volume reaching $650 million. With sales expected to approach $1 billion in 2013 and more investment than almost anyone else, we sat down to chat with Adam Karp, 1stdibs’ CMO, to learn more about what’s going on:
The High Low: You have over $100 million in funding. That’s a lot of funding! Can you tell us about some of the site’s future plans?
Adam Karp: The level of funding is a reflection of our unique market opportunity as the largest online luxury marketplace. We are fortunate to have marquis venture capital investors (Benchmark, Spark Capital, and Index Ventures) who have previously backed companies such as Opentable, Twitter, Etsy, and are big believers in the unique advantages 1stdibs enjoys. Already the funding has helped us expand internationally, increase brand recognition among consumers, and attract a stellar team of executives. We have a lot of future plans about which we are excited and which will build upon the recent redesign of our site, which makes it easier for users to navigate and find exactly what they are looking for. Stay tuned for more!
AK: It’s actually more varied than most people expect. Although it’s true that we do attract an impressive number of affluent consumers, top interior designers, and a notable number of celebrities, there’s no “typical” 1stdibs consumer just as there’s no typical 1stdibs item. While we have a strong base in the U.S., and unsurprisingly visitors from New York and Los Angeles lead the list of our most popular cities, our international appeal continues to grow. We’ve experienced a surge in traffic from countries like Italy and Australia, and thanks to our acquisition last year of Online Galleries, the UK. Our “sellers” are represented by our dealer base of 1,800 of the most prestigious dealers in nine countries. The dealers do buy and sell among themselves, but their core focus is on serving the end consumer.
HL: How do you establish product authenticity?
AK: Whether it’s antiques, jewelry, fine art, vintage couture, or even luxury properties, we demand that 1stdibs dealers adhere to the highest standards, from product quality to ethical business practices. The dealers on the site are all professionals who have been in business for many years with excellent reputations among their peers, the interior design trade, and collectors.
HL: In a similar vein, how do you find your dealers? Or how do they find you?
AK: Since shortly after 1stdibs was founded by our chairman Michael Bruno, who was inspired by the vision to bring the Paris flea market online to American consumers, we’ve always benefited from a tremendous amount of word of mouth interest spurred in large part by dealers, designers, and affluent consumers talking to each other about 1stdibs. There’s actually a long waiting list of dealer applicants that we review regularly. Just as we live up to our tagline by offering the most beautiful things on earth, we are similarly discerning when it comes to extending invitations to join our network of dealers.
HL: Is there anyone else out there doing what you’re doing? Anyone you consider competition?
AK: We truly don’t have any real competitors in this space. I know that may be a line companies often use – but in this case, it’s quite true. In terms of our competition, it’s really the old fashioned way of doing things in luxury retail and design, e.g. from the old Rolodex on the desk to the spiral notebook, which is giving way to more effective digital solutions. Unlike Gilt and their competitors, we are not a flash sale site, aimed to help retailers unload extra merchandise. Instead, we are a global marketplace for unique luxury goods. It’s a different business model, which sets us apart in the luxury e-commerce world.