start-ups, technology, venture capital

Brand Is More Than Pixels

The best fashion sites have style. They feel luxurious. They offer outstanding service. These are foundational elements. They make the goods being sold that much more alluring. They grant  shoppers an experience to go along with their items. Within our portfolio, this has worked particularly well at Fab.com, One Kings Lane and Birchbox. All three have paired value with style & service to create new luxury in online commerce.

However, these elements remain absent from a huge part of online commerce: marketplaces. Take a look at women’s clothing on eBay. The UI is nearly the same as it was over a decade ago. It doesn’t feel luxurious. It feels disjointed. Yet, despite the experience, this is a massive category globally. There is readily available supply from boutiques, designers and fashionistas. There is huge demand from shoppers. Marketplace shopping is ready to be transformed. At First Round Capital, we think Threadflip will lead the way.

Threadflip is a marketplace for women’s clothing and accessories. The items for sale may come from small boutiques, vintage stores or another shopper’s closet. The concept behind Threadflip isn’t new but the execution is. Co-Founders Manik Singh and Jeff Shiau set out to build an experience that made shopping online as fun and as social as heading to a clothing swap or second hand store but as seamless as a trip to Nordstrom. They began with great design and a site crafted with style. They added social elements so you can see who you are buying from, so you can follow both the purchases and sales of stylish people, and they introduced a feed to give a sense of vitality to the site. But what really impressed me was what they did next.

Shopping is an end to end experience. While a great UI can set the tone for a site, it’s not enough to build a brand. Brand is more than just pixels. This is one of the areas where the Threadflip team paid great attention to detail. For example, they’ve designed custom packaging for everything sold on the site. When an item is sold or “flipped” the seller can use the custom designed box, labels and packaging to remove much of the hassle from shipping (or go a step further and check out the White Glove Service). The buyer receives their package in a Threadflip branded box rather than a FedEx envelope. Importantly, the experience is consistent for the buyer. This little touch makes the Threadflip easier for sellers and builds trust & delight for buyers. The team has more of these touches coming in the next few months, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

First Round is thrilled to welcome Threadflip to our community of Founders and to be working with Baseline Ventures, Andreesen Horowitz Seed Fund, Forerunner Ventures, Greylock Discovery and Slow Ventures to help Manik & Jeff build a great company.

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2 thoughts on “Brand Is More Than Pixels

  1. Kent, I agree that online marketplaces & e-commerce sites are ready for some dramatic changes. However, the current sites like TF seem to only be a change in design UI and don’t seem to be thinking about changing the core of e-commerce in general. Quaint boutique sites are not revolutionary and that is exactly what it’s going to take to make those dramatic changes happen in e-commerce. I believe TF, 99Dresses, Shoptiques & others are only scratching the surface of a bigger issue by offering social shopping experiences. Social is only a small part of the overall shopping graph. Blippy learned that lesson a few years back when shoppers did not want to share their purchases. Shoppers are self-interested…not collectively interested. If you remember that, you can build a much better UX than previously imagined. All this is not to say that TF won’t be successful. I hope they are. Keep working hard and good luck with everything.

  2. Pingback: Threadflip and EchoUser in the news! « The EchoUser Experience | Thoughts and stories from our work and otherwise. Enjoy.

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