Picture the cash-grab hustle of eBay with the stylish sensibilities of Tumblr’s fashion community and you have The Cools, the latest entrant to the social shopping fray, which offers users a chance to express themselves–and the ability to sell their stuff.
The site launched yesterday, with $2.5 million in funding from private investors including MTV founder Bob Pittman and a roster of big-name advisors, including LVMH heir Antoine Arnault, Fiat heir Lapo Elkann, and Fab.com COO Beth Ferreira (as far as we know, not an heiress).
As you might expect from the presence of those names, browsing the site today reveals a lot of vintage and a lot of painfully fashion-forward clothing.
Asked about the site’s genesis, creator Olivier van Themsche pointed to his Parisian friends in the fashion industry, who, three years or so ago, always seemed to be buying and selling interesting items on eBay: ”I was surprised, because the most stylish people I knew were using eBay, which for was me not the sexiest platform out there. On top of that, eBay was not really convenient for fashion,” he told Betabeat.
Combine the concept of a more stylish alternative with that of social media and style blogs, and he had this idea for site that “allows people to express themselves and to mix product and content,” he said.
Upon signing up, users customize their feed by answering a series of questions, then by following profiles of bloggers, sellers, stores, artists, and so forth. “You will be interested and naturally attracted by different types of profiles, so if we do a good job, we should push you towards the type of profiles, whether they’re creators, whether they’re sellers, or whether they’re just users, that could be interesting for you. And then you make your choice,” Mr. von Themsche told us.
Then, on the profile side of things, you can either treat it as a kind of Tumblr-like style blog or take it a step further and list items for sale.
It’s the sale aspect where The Cools makes its money. The site takes a 12 percent commission on any sales, but there’s no charge for users to create a profile and list items for sale. So your average user could turn to the site to unload that bag that doesn’t quite suit her closet any more, but small designers and artists can also deploy it as a kind of quick-and-dirty ecommerce offering.
Mr. von Themsche believes that’s what distinguishes the site from platforms like Pinterest, The Fancy, and Svpply: ”You take a product that is anywhere on the web and you can create a discussion about the product, but you don’t have in that discussion the owner of the product.”