I had a short e-mail exchange recently with Rob Kalin, founder of Brooklyn-based Etsy, which may be the first true Web 2.0 company.
Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade goods. It also offers a host of ways for its customers to connect with Etsy and each other. For example, the site offers user profiles, forums, blogs, and a rating and feedback system for the site’s registered users, including crafters and artisans who sell their wares on the site.
Etsy was conceived by Kalin in early 2005. A painter, carpenter, and photographer, Kalin believed there was no viable marketplace to exhibit and sell his creations online. In his opinion, other e-commerce sites had become “too inundated with overstock electronics and broken appliances,” according to Etsy’s Web site.
As a result, he, along with Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik designed the site, wrote the code, assembled the servers, spliced the cables and launched Etsy in June 2005.
Today, Etsy has more than 1 million registered members, 185,000 of whom are individual artists selling more than 1.9 million of their handmade creations. In 2007, Etsy’s revenues were $26 million; this year, to date, they are $35 million.
While Kalin says he would recommend that any company create a Web 2.0 site with similar community-oriented features to his, he admits “technically, much of what we do is difficult,” adding that “on the Web, we are conducting our education in public, [so] there’s no downtime.”
Kalin also says that Etsy does not really engage in any digital marketing programs, opting instead for an internal advertising system called Showcase, “wherein our sellers purchase spots to reach buyers’ eyes,” he says.
When asked if he has any Web 2.0 tips, Kalin replies, “Avoid buzzwords. Web 2.0 is simply a name older folks give to newer technologies they either don’t fully grasp and seem novel to them.“Do honest, hard work, be open to your community, be a good listener. It’s no longer possible to censor or manipulate the discussions your customers have about your company. The Web is an inherently open platform, and I hope it stays that way.”
True words indeed.