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Monday, March 24, 2008

On Joining Polyvore

Ex-Google employee Jess Lee at her blog wrote about why she left Google to join Polyvore. When she first saw the site, she instantly fell in love, she says. After a quick sign-up, Polyvore allows you to create free-style collages out of everything and publish them for others to see (visitors can then click on items within the collage and sometimes buy them, which is how the site makes money). Jess writes:

It was like a combination of online Photoshop and Flickr, but for art instead of photos. I was fascinated by all the cool things people were creating using Polyvore – fashion, interior design, artistic self-expression, caricatures, logos, postcards, etc. I started making my own sets and was surprised by how quickly they got comments and “Likes” from the user community.

Jess says she got so excited about the site she sent a long email with comments and suggestions to the site’s co-founder Pasha Sadri. And even though Pasha worked at Google before (and Yahoo as well), the two never met. Jess continues:

After a few email exchanges, he asked me if I wanted to join Polyvore. I’ve always wanted to work at a startup and felt like Polyvore was a good fit – great team, great product, just the right size (3 people at the time), healthy growth, etc. It also happened to fall at the intersection of many of my personal interests (tech, art, shopping, fashion, user-generated content). Although I was pretty happy working on Google Maps, I felt like I wasn’t learning as much new stuff anymore, and I knew that a startup would have a really steep learning curve.

To find out more about the site I inquired with Polyvore, which is incidentally sharing office space with the ex-Google employees working at Friendfeed (see photo below).

Here’s what Polyvore’s Sarah Cooper replies:

Pasha ... came up with the idea for Polyvore about a year and a half ago. His inspiration for the application came from the observation that there is an enormous amount of content on the web today that isn’t being used in any kind of creative way. It also came from his desire as an engineer to build an application that was cool, useful and had broad appeal (he actually has a knack for doing this, as he also developed Yahoo! Trip Planner and Yahoo! Pipes while working at Yahoo!). Together with Guangwei Yuan and Jianing Hu, two other ex-Yahoo! engineers, he founded Polyvore.

The name “Polyvore” is actually something that Pasha came up with many years ago – and since they had built a tool that could sort of “consume” anything, it seemed to fit. (Users can bring any image on the web into Polyvore with our Clipper tool) The founders’ initial thought for was that it would be a place to just prototype this idea – but their prototype became so popular that they decided to stick with it. Over the past year, Polyvore has grown tremendously, now having over 160,000 members all over the world.

Sarah says what makes the site popular – even though she notes there was little promotion or marketing – is that it’s easy to use yet addictive. According to the site’s stats she shared, Polyvore has 30 million monthly page views, and an average visit session time of over 8 minutes. Users – which at Polyvore are around 70% female – so far have create over a million collage sets.

[First image from Veej’s set. Second image by Polyvore with permission.]


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