Manish Chandra’s social commerce platform Poshmark might be the most popular clothing reseller you haven’t heard of.
But Poshmark is no longer quite so under the radar. It’s now the second-most-popular iPhone shopping app in the United States, and it has benefited from a growing consumer comfort with secondhand goods and cultural inflection points like Marie Kondo to build a user base of 40 million.
And that’s all been somewhat surprising to Chandra, who has building Poshmark since 2011.
“When you start to think of super-disruption — which is what resale is doing, beyond sort of social commerce — I think it’s caught everyone by surprise,” Chandra said Sunday evening in Las Vegas at Recode’s Code Commerce event. “To be honest, even though we built a resale-based platform and social commerce platform, the scale and the speed of it has even caught me a little bit by surprise.”
It’s a social shopping experience, in some ways similar to Pinterest or Instagram. But it’s a pretty unusual business.
Poshmark has raised $160 million but doesn’t actually sit on any inventory. Instead, it takes a 20 percent cut of each sale on its platform, which links buyers with an array of sellers — from a hipster offering up a boutique, barely-worn jacket or an influencer experimenting with her own fashion line.
It competes with eBay — but with an added social network component, as buyers can follow certain sellers or share items they find attractive.
Chandra’s insight is that this is what consumers want in online retail: a community.
“We believe this is a new approach to shopping — but really not so new. It’s really enabling an approach to shopping which is very human, which is very personal, that existed 50 years back,” Chandra said. “First came the big department store. Then came the big websites — and pretty much took away the human from the experience. We’re bringing back humans. That’s pretty simple. I think people are important.”
Some of Chandra’s recent success comes from his prescient predictions about our desire to buy and sell secondhand goods. But what Chandra could for sure not have predicted was the newfound craze around Marie Kondo, the self-help star of Netflix who encourages people to tidy up their personal lives (and closets).
“Marie Kondo has definitely been a great advocate of recycling,” he said, “and looking at your closet in a new way.”