Back in 2008 I wrote about Etsy and how I had seen it showcased at the Future of Web Apps Conference to a crowd of disbelieving geeks who viewed it as ‘just another Ebay’ and didn’t quite understand how it could have obtained its exponential growth just through word of mouth. At that point in November ’07 buyers had spent $4.3 million purchasing 300,000 items – by September 2013 these figures had risen to 5,558,230 products being sold with a value of $109.5 million – not a bad rate of growth in anyone’s books.
Etsy has grown to become one of the key platforms of the collaborative economy – a phrase which didn’t really exist just 5 years ago – and their 2 latest moves are indicative of their determination to help push the global collaborative economy along its way:
A Launchpad for Entrepreneurs
Few could have predicted 5 years ago that the site would be being used as a serious launchpad for entrepreneurs. The original concept of the site being only for individuals creating and selling handmade items has been increasingly challenged over time as many on makers on Etsy are converting from being just keen hobbyists making small amounts of cash while holding down full-time jobs, to creating full time businesses. It has now reached a point where Etsy recently changed its guidelines to allow sellers to apply for approval to sell items made in collaboration with manufacturers:
“On Etsy, a manufacturer is simply any outside business a seller uses to produce their items. A factory with 20 employees can be a manufacturer, but so can a two-person sewing workshop.”
Austerity may be biting but it’s the sharing economy and social platforms like Etsy which are enabling many to bite back.
Breaking down Cultural and Language Barriers
Back in the early 1990’s when websites began I was running a translation agency in London working with companies globally. I envisioned that if every company worldwide was to have a website which could be viewed globally then every website would have to be multilingual to capture each company’s new prospects… Common sense don’t you think? So I set up a multilingual website division to provide just that. Unfortunately the world wasn’t quite as forward thinking as I predicted…
So it was with a wry smile that I noticed Etsy’s announcement last week that it is introducing onsite translation tools that allow sellers to easily engage with potential customers. When either party sends a message in a language that is different to the recipient’s default setting, a new ‘Translate to’ hyperlink will appear enabling the correspondence to be translated into 9 languages including English, German, French, Dutch, Russian and Portuguese.
For someone like myself whose lifetime focus has been to break down language barriers and get the world working as one these are both seriously cool moves. It will be fascinating to watch how these impact upon Etsy’s global success.