A blog on eCommerce, Social Commerce, Comparative Shopping Engines & Business

By Hendrik Laubscher

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Is fab.com really that fab?

Fab.com has been on my mind the last few weeks as I wanted to have an indepth look at the company after I wrote about the refocus in May 2013. I don’t know whether I got bitten by all the hype but the fab.com story is beginning to feel like never ending story. At the momment the fab’s story goes like this:

Raise funding – Unveil a new feature – do Press ->  lay-off staff  – do press on the future of the company and then restart the process.

Pre-face

Fab.com is a business that started as a gay social network. Went nowhere and then pivoted to a flash sales business. Many iterations later and $300 plus million raised fab.com is now in a critical phase of its lifecycle. Why? The fact that they have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors (like Andreessen Horowitz) and for all intensive purposes have not a lot to show for it. Thus it will make raising money in future more difficult. What happened to all the raised money?

Acquisitions

Fab.com has been in my own opinion way too aggressive regarding acquisitions. They have acquired competitors in Europe over concerns that a investment accelerator called Rocket Internet may hinder their growth in Europe.  The businesses they acquired:

January 2012 – FashionStake (US)
February 2012 – Casacanda (Germany)
June 2012 – Llustre (UK)
November 2012 – True Sparrow (India)
May 2013 – MassivKonzept  (Germany)

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The Fab.com refocus

Curated ecommerce is a hot topic. Call it a new wave of commerce businesses or just a new vertical that has gained a lot of momentum over the last 6 months. The Gilt Groupe started it after Vente-privee mastered flash sales.It is full priced online retail with a focus on apparel and white goods.

Just to be clear flash sales is not the same thing as curated commerce. Flash sales boils down to selling high value merchandise at deeply discounted  price. Flash sales is an industry that I keep an eye on as I believe it is a good measure of where apparel online retail is at.  Curated commerce is ecommerce with a editorial angle to it (beautiful images, content that is more related to the person buying the item) .

Flash sale businesses have steadily been pivoting to full price commerce as the flash sales businesses is in the decline in mature markets (Ventee-Privee and Markafoni being the exception to the general trend) . Flash sales also faced stern competition for attention and inbox space from daily deals (Groupon, LivingSocial). Ultimately companies who are succeeding in ecommerce are those who have built deep relationships with their customers based on being customer centric, logistics focused and ensuring that joy is created post transaction.

Enter the upstart

I have been following the journey of Fab.com pretty closely as I believe that they are part of a new wave of ecommerce businesses. Jason Goldberg is someone I deeply respect as he is transparent (his blog is a must read for any one in ecommerce) but they are like Amazon as they fret the little stuff. The business is unique and making lots of noise and have gone through a variety of pivots. Pivot has a serious misdirection in this case as Goldberg and co-founder Bradford Shellhammer have refocused their business 5 times. The 5th being the most ambitious I have seen from a startup (more on that later).

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