Why a top VC and a former LinkedIn exec think hobbies are the future of commerce
Kirsten Green, the founder of Forerunner Ventures, knows how to predict retail trends. She’s bet on some of the biggest direct-to-consumer brands of our time, from Glossier to Away to Bonobos. And today, her firm is the lead investor in the Series A round for Curated, a startup that debuts today with $27.5 million in total funding. The platform has an innovative new approach to commerce.
Curated was co-founded by Eduardo Vivas, a former LinkedIn executive. The platform is designed for consumers who are about to embark on a new hobby or passion project but don’t know where to start. Instead of making products available on the site, Curated connects consumers with experts and enthusiasts in the field who can answer questions and steer a person toward the right product for them.
In its early testing and soft launch, Curated focused on sports like skiing or snowboarding, but Vivas says the model could apply to many other fields, helping customers, say, buy musical instruments or vintage cars.
“When you’re planning to spend more than $500 on a highly specialized product, you want to talk to an expert who really knows what they are talking about,” he says. “We’re trying to replicate the experience of talking to your friend who happens to be super enthusiastic about that hobby and really enjoys talking about it. We believe we’re giving our ‘experts’ a way to monetize their passions and talk about the thing they love doing most in life.”
When a customer lands on the Curated website, they can answer a few questions about what they are looking for. They are then connected to a real live person, who has expertise in that product area. Curated brings on these experts, who talk to customers via text or email. A third of their income comes from a fixed fee, another third comes from making a commission on products, and the last third comes in the form of tips from happy customers. Since the platform launched in 2017, it has a nearly 0% return rate, compared to the industry average of 30%.
For Green, Curated brings together many important trends in retail. It fosters real human connection, creating the kind of community that so many consumers are looking for. It is part of the gig economy, since it allows experts to work on their own time. And it is also an entirely digital platform. “I think consumers want to buy less but buy better,” she says. “Curated offers one way to do that. It allows you to buy items you’re really passionate about and get the best possible product with the help of experts.”