Necessity is often the mother of invention. But for Manish Chandra, who has built two community-focused online shopping sites, frustration helped too. Chandra and his wife were remodeling their Palo Alto home but found the process cumbersome.
“There was no easy way to discover new products that were not searchable under tags like ‘home decor’ or ‘fixtures’ nor was there an easy way to save the research that I had done so that my wife could use it, or vice versa,” he says. “The process didn’t support sharing or collaboration.”
At the time, Chandra, who has two degrees in computer science in addition to his Berkeley MBA, was vice president of marketing at data-management company Versant and had served a similar role at enterprise-software firm Versata. He’d also done software engineering at Sybase and Intel.
The remodel frustration pushed him in 2005 to create Kaboodle, a shopping community that allowed users to find, recommend, and share a range of products. Hearst acquired the company two years later. Chandra stayed on as CEO until 2011, then left to start Poshmark, the largest social marketplace for fashion, used by one in 50 American women.
“I launched Kaboodle with the idea of creating a social shopping space,” he says. “For the next few years we built an amazing community—the feel of the site was of a virtual magazine, curated by social media. But eventually I realized that women’s fashion was really the sweet spot, and I wanted to focus there.”
Poshmark is a mobile app that allows fashionistas to sell new and gently used items from their own closets and to shop others’ closets as well. Sellers create magazine-like “cover shots” for each piece, then ship the goods using a flat-rate label.
Poshmark gives people a platform to be entrepreneurs with their own fashion businesses. Over two million “Seller Stylists” curate millions of items on Poshmark daily.
“The best way to think of Poshmark is Instagram meets eBay,” Chandra says. The company takes commissions of up to 20 percent, depending on sale price.
How did Chandra make the transition from tech to fashion? The community he found at Haas was key.
“Collaborating with people from different backgrounds, from real estate to marketing to technology, really helped me get a sense of the many ways to handle business challenges—and when it’s appropriate to challenge the status quo,” he says.
For example, in year two, Chandra cut Poshmark’s marketing budget by 80 percent. “It was a huge risk,” he says. “Yet if we hadn’t, we might not have survived. Instead, the company ended up growing more than threefold over the next 18 months.”
Chandra says he’s most proud that Poshmark is driven by users’ common passion for fashion rather than a focus on money.
“Poshmark’s culture is one of trust and support, which is a merchandizing model not common in e-commerce,” he says. “Our users succeed by promoting other people’s items, which ends up benefiting everyone. When you lead with love rather than money, people come together.” —Kate Madden Yee
Founder and CEO, Poshmark
Redwood City, Calif.