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Summary:

While many artisans have made good money by selling through Etsy, CEO Chad Dickerson said the next step is to help them grow and expand in whatever way they want to. And that means rethinking what Etsy is and its value proposition for its merchants.

etsy

Etsy is growing into what its CEO believes is an iconic Internet brand with its marketplace for handcrafted goods. And with 13 million registered users and 37 million unique visitors each month, it’s definitely on its way with a potential IPO in the works at some point.

But CEO Chad Dickerson told me in an interview the company sees a bigger vision beyond its marketplace, which currently has 800,000 active shops. While many artisans have made a good amount of money by selling through Etsy, Dickerson said the next step is to help them grow and expand in whatever way they want to. And that means rethinking what Etsy is and its value proposition for its sellers.

Esty as a way of doing business

“Etsy has been a platform to build business online in our marketplace but many sellers sell on different venues. I see us expanding to sell anywhere people want to be successful and extending our categories while keeping our handcrafted ethos,” Dickerson said. “That means thinking of Etsy as a way of doing business, not just Etsy.com.”

Dickerson doesn’t have a lot of firm details he wants to share at this point. But he said Etsy is going to expand in a number of ways. It could help merchants set up offline stores, building off Etsy’s experience starting at craft fairs. And it could offer important tools and services such as group health insurance for sellers. The larger idea seems to be to find what merchants need to grow into full independent creative businesses and look at ways to fill them.

CEO Chad Dickerson

One example of this is Etsy’s integration with Outright, which uses Etsy’s API to offer accounting services to Etsy sellers. Etsy is partnering with Outright for now but could look at acquiring other companies like it to help provide more merchant services, said Dickerson. The company has only made two acquisitions in its history including the mobile app Etsy Lovers last year, which became the basis for Etsy’s new iPhone and mobile web app. Dickerson said Etsy will be looking at more companies that tap its API for potential acquisition or partnership opportunities.

Partner for independent businesses

Will sellers naturally turn to Etsy if they move off the marketplace? Dickerson believes that many merchants will welcome the chance to have a provider help them through the growing process while they can focus on making products.

“It can be traumatic for a seller to move from one platform to another,” Dickerson said. “Etsy is a business platform and that’s what people are looking to us for. It’s short-sighted for us to think that Etsy as it exists today will be always be this way.”

Etsy has been quietly moving in this direction, not only with its API, which has gotten a lot more robust in the last eight months. It also staged its first small business summit in Berlin in September, providing merchants with a host of lessons on everything from branding, analytics and PR to sessions on how to “grow big while staying small.”

Etsy's first summit

In some ways, this sounds like what eBay is trying to pull off with its X.commerce platform as it tries to help retailers and merchants by building a one-stop commerce operating system. Dickerson said Etsy will be focused on much smaller sellers, a market he thinks eBay and PayPal won’t get to for a while. “People want to own their own businesses and grow but they don’t to be as big as Home Depot,” he said. “They want to have an integrated partner to build with.”

IPO Plans?

The inevitable question for Etsy is when, if ever, does it want to go public. The company has been profitable since December 2009 and took its last funding, a $20 million round in 2010. It continues to grow quickly and has 275 employees, about 200 of them in Brooklyn. The new iPhone app has increased page views and engagement and is up to 800,000 downloads since launching in mid-November.

Dickerson said the company could go definitely public but it’s not a priority. He used to be at online magazine Salon when it went public in 1999 and is not anxious to go that route. “Honestly, there’s no hurry. We’re excited about building out our vision and going public ain’t what it used to be,” he said. “I feel like there’s a lot more to build first.”

Handcrafted experience

Overall, Dickerson said that Etsy fills an expanding role in the economy which is going through upheaval as older institutions fade away. Even as manufacturing jobs wither, he said marketplaces like Etsy are helping people become their own manufacturers. And he said consumers are increasingly excited about Etsy not just for good prices but the ability to support and interact with artisans and sellers. Dickerson came over from Yahoo in 2008 after serving as director of advanced products. Following a few years as CTO at Etsy, he replaced founder Rob Kalin. One of things Dickerson prides himself on is helping bolster Etsy’s tech culture, making sure its engineering prowess matched its strengths in business and community. That’s an important asset for Etsy and shows that the company is prepared to do some of the heavy lifting in the background to pull off its wider vision.

“It’s not just handcrafted goods but it’s a handcrafted experience,” he said. “You can get a message from a real seller. That’s different than Walmart.” Etsy is also benefiting from the rise, he said, of mass customization and the increasing trend of people expressing themselves through what they find, discover and curate online.

The trick now is to continue to hold on to Etsy’s spirit while expanding the company’s mission. But increasingly, it seems, the definition of Etsy is already changing and it’s just a matter of the company keeping up. “I was talking to my 11-year-old nephew and he saw that Etsy was synonymous with setting up a business; it was second nature to him. As people think about building businesses, Etsy is what we want them to think about,” Dickerson said.

  1. Kassandra Mae Woo Thursday, February 2, 2012

    I sure hope this doesn’t mean that re-sellers will be allowed to sell, even though no one is doing anything about it now. I would hope that y’all step it up for not only my sake, but my community on Etsy.

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  2. I think this is an amazing opportunity for sellers and small business to grow. Some of the most daunting aspect such as shipping, taxes and shipping notifications have all been helped by aps or integrated partnerships with other programs. I think adding to this, especially with lofty goals such Group Health Insurance is a great step in the right direction for growth.

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  3. I think this is really excting. I have had an etsy shop since 2007. I also run an independent website and a small wholesale business with my work. To be recognized as a business, and not just an etsy business opens all kinds of possibilities. I look forward to hearing the details

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  4. I have to laugh at “our handcrafted ethos”.

    Resellers are allowed to stay, as long as they aren’t obvious abuot it. There is one known tea reseller who was discovered when his photos and descriptions matched a supplier identically. He re-opened after Etsy told him to change the photos and descriptions so it wasn’t obvious.

    That is the real “handcrafted ethos” of Etsy.

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  5. Anyone want to know the true ethos of Etsy can do a google search for “coralgate”. That will tell you all you need to know.

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  6. Etsy boots me for having a link to my website, referring to that as “repeated transgressions”. Well they can kiss my FancyPantsAndMore behind, and I am sure anyone reading this, knows what that looked like. Reading this, I am glad I no longer sell there. The whole business is ran by so-called adults acting like children and being on a power trip. They play games and they play favorites. This is not surprising in the least. “One stop commerce” sounds like resellers are going to be welcome. Which explains they never remove them.

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  7. I’m very interested. The Etsy platform has been perfect for me! I run things my way and enjoy a place where shoppers gather looking for unique handmade creations! It’s a win-win! I look forward to growing my business within the every expanding Etsy framework!! As one shop grows – so do we all grow and I LOVE that!!

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  8. I wonder how people like Temple St. Clair work into the “handmade ethos”. Google “Etsy Coralgate” to find out why you should be concerned anytime Etsy tries to pass itself off as handmade only.

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  9. I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

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  10. “The trick now is to continue to hold on to Etsy’s spirit while expanding the company’s mission.”

    ________

    The trick is for Etsy to hold on through coralgate, privacygate, rapecardgate, glasspipegate, treasurygate, and whatever other gates are going to be swinging open in the future.

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    1. I agree, Lorena. To think that it took CNN running a story on them for Etsy to finally remove those cards.

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