Fancy: The startup that’s sticking it to Pinterest

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about Pinterest, but once I heard it was “invite only” I knew I wasn’t interested. Honestly, the only “invite only” service I’ve been excited about in recent memory was Google+, and then only because I thought it might actually give Facebook a run for its money. It obviously failed to do so and, as a result, I’ve pretty much made it a rule that I won’t be bothering with any other “invite only” services (and yes, I’m using quotation marks to imply sarcasm because in the case of nearly every startup that has tried it, the limit is just a hype tool and a gimmicky one at that) unless the service promises to detonate 2,000 pounds of C4 in Facebook’s server facility or post daily videos of Rick Santorum getting slapped with a variety of aquatic wildlife.

“If you aren’t interested then why write this article.” Shut up, self. No one asked you. Besides, I’m only writing the article in order to talk about another service that feels like Pinterest but has a very different and very interesting goal. That service is Fancy, which unfortunately does not own and so has been relegated to Regardless, the service is interesting, particularly to investors. Fancy allows users to “fancy” items (the site’s version of “like”) that, oddly enough, are actually for sale.

The basic idea is to highlight the social aspect of digital commerce. I’ve already been conditioned not to buy–or in most cases even look–at anything with less than a three-star rating on the average ecommerce site. Even three stars is a stretch for certain products and media. Computer components? Forget it, three-stars. I’m a four-star+ kind of guy. Books? I’ll dabble in three star so long as there’s a witty and prosaic review in the top ten reviews. I might jump down to two stars if some large contingent of fellow consumers found the review helpful. You can bet your sweet ass I’m not touching a one-star anything. Sorry, Michelin travel guide; you are now defunct.

Fancy makes those recommendations much more social by connecting profiles as with any other social network. The difference lies in the built-in commerce system, which allows for both integrated purchasing and selling. The selling is what really interests me. Merchants can basically log in to Fancy and bid to sell products to the consumers that fancy those products. This is social buying so totally different from even models like Groupon that it’s sure to be something to watch.

Granted, Fancy isn’t all good. For now the site is organized around high-end products, otherwise known as shit-I-can’t-afford. There are some things that slip through the iron curtain, like this flashy pair of bamboo sunglasses, but the site owners have said they want to market to the high-end crowd, which essentially means the site isn’t for me. Take this small sampling of products as an example. Burberry snowsuit for a baby? $350. Swiss watch with faux blackboard and chalk face? $1,750. A teak bath? Nearly $10k, and that’s if you live in London.

The site is also designed to function around products that can be bought and sold, not simply ideas, which I see as another serious limitation if the owners won’t broaden the scope. For now, a lot of Etsy products are in the mix, which I think is great. But the site has to be more than just an Etsy reskin.

If Fancy really can do what founder Joseph Einhorn says, he will have dreamt up the next frontier of shameless consumerism.

“Rather than go to Amazon or Google and searching for stuff I intend to buy, in the future in the commerce game, I think getting hotel destinations, finding cool products, or discovering fashion items will be done through the people I admire and trust. From a consumer perspective, I’m able to go to this website, where I’m finding out about the coolest stuff in the world, and instead of clicking, signing up, and giving my address and contact info to a million different websites, I am able to shop right inside, whether it’s on the website or the iPad, iPhone, or Android app, and go all the way through to checkout in an integrated experience.”

That’s one compelling pitch.


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