Summary:

Monoqi, the European competitor to design flash sales site Fab.com, launches this week. What makes it different? CEO Simon Fabich says it’s a “curated design platform” that sports a less commercial taste than its American rival.

monoqi screenshot

Here’s a question: when a heavily design-oriented e-commerce startup gets big, how long does it take for competitors to appear, claiming that they now offer a better spin on the same formula?

Judging by the launch this week of Berlin’s Monoqi, not long. It was only last June that Fab.com began offering flash sales of design goods. That company is already talking about becoming the next Amazon, and its service is well liked enough that it has already been cloned by the notorious Samwer brothers into Bamarang.

Now Monoqi is keen to claim the most-genuine-design-credentials crown, at least within Europe. Founded in November, the company offers a “curated design platform” powered by an international army of scouts, who pass their recommendations back to the shop managers for flash sales — with the company’s management getting the right to veto over what gets included.

At launch, the site will feature two designers’ sets per day — the first names on the agenda include Pia Wüstenberg, Boomwehmeyer, Komat and Shanghai Trio. New flash sales will be launched daily and each will stay live for 72 hours. Shipping depends on the designer’s professionalism – if they are sufficiently trusted, they can ship the goods themselves, otherwise Monoqi has its own warehouse for distribution.

The service is available as of Monday for people who signed up beforehand and got three friends to do likewise, although this link will get you the same access. A wider launch will follow around the middle of this week.

Monoqi CEO Simon Fabich told GigaOM last week that his company was conscious of the inevitable Fab.com and Bamarang comparisons, but it was “trying to be different” and – take that, clone artists – “difficult to copy.”

“The product selection is things we would love, and that would surprise people,” he said. Given that the interview took place in a disused bank vault, complete with safety deposit boxes and a warship’s worth of steel (it’s a Berlin thing), surprise and idiosyncrasy are certainly traits that can be associated with Monoqi.

For now, the company will ship anywhere in Europe. As for the future, that’s something Fabich and his colleagues are keeping under wraps.

But will growth change Monoqi’s highly personal touch?

“That depends on the company culture – it’s something you can create,” Fabich said, adding that whatever happens, Monoqi’s “core taste will live on.”

Fab.com grew really quickly – it gained 600,000 users in its first 12 weeks and is now talking about achieving serious scale. It will be interesting to see whether Monoqi can manage comparable growth, and whether it can hang on to that all-important design cred while doing so.

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