How One Company Became The Etsy Of The Tech World

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ipad copyPhoto: Courtesy of Grand St.
When Amanda Peyton, Joe Lallouz, and Aaron Henshaw set out to develop a hardware project in 2012, they didn’t know it would become one of the coolest indie electronics shops on the web. But, in just a few short years, Grand St. has grown from a niche, flash-sale site for nifty gadgets to a cool online tech marketplace — so cool it caught the attention of Etsy, which acquired them.

While Etsy used to be associated mostly with scrabble tile jewelry and things made of yarn, over time the company has expanded to include makers and designers in a broader concept of handmade goods. From Grand St.’s early days, Peyton has seen the two as a natural match and has embraced the comparison some have made describing Grand St. as the “Etsy of Electronics.”

“We believe that the idea of ‘handmade’ and ‘craft’ are constantly evolving, and one of the core premises of Grand St. was the belief that craft electronics was no longer a contradiction," Peyton told LadyBits. “Etsy has always sold electronics within their marketplace, so we think it's a perfect fit.”

Technological creativity is emphasized in Grand St.’s products as well as its mission, allowing shoppers to do things like host a 1 Terabyte cloud storage center in their homes, turn their iPhones into the ultimate Swiss Army knife, or reinvent the lost art of Polaroid photography using snaps from your phone camera with the Impossible Instant Lab.

You can now browse Grand St. for an array of techie goodies that are all reviewed for the marketplace by the Grand St. team according to their creativity, reliability, user experience, design, and a mysterious “Delight Factor.” According to Peyton, “the Delight Factor is how a product makes you feel — as our lives become more tied to technology, how we feel about it becomes more and more important.”
Imac copyPhoto: Courtesy of Grand St.
The delight at Grand St. is not just limited to what is for sale. “We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make digital product and commerce experiences that delight consumers,” said Peyton. “The history of online commerce is incredibly short compared with the history of commerce as a whole — there's a lot of opportunity to experiment.”

Initially, when Grand St. launched, Peyton and her team were looking to solve an infrastructure problem many inventors and makers were running up against; they were lacking a place to sell their niche tech goods and grow their businesses beyond Kickstarter. Grand St. emerged as a place to showcase gadgets that mainstream electronics companies like Sony and Panasonic wouldn't bring to market, enabling makers to sell inventions at a range of stages: consumer-ready, pre-order (items that are promised to arrive within six months), and beta (old to selected users who get to provide feedback and contribute to the development process).

They began selling three to five items at a time via email newsletter for periods of up to 12 days, rotating new products into the mix with increasing frequency. Their first three products were the Sifteo interactive and touch sensitive multi-cube game system, the hackable Arduino Wise Clock, and the Cosmonaut stylus.

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Things moved at a rapid clip for Grand St. from there. The company secured $1.3 million in seed funding in April 2013, launched its Android app in June 2013, and opened its site to the public in July 2013. A permanent collection of gadgets was added to the site soon after, as well as a “greatest hits” of popular items from flash sales. By 2014, they cleared a million dollars in sales, proving once and for all that there was a demand for delightful tech products. In February 2014, they officially transitioned from being a ‘curated e-store’ to an ‘online marketplace, and in April, Etsy made its acquisition.

All eight members of the Grand St. team have now moved over to Etsy. For now, they plan to change very little about the site except adding some new features here and there. But, they will most certainly continue to delight.

This post was authored by Sooz Kim.

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