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Etsy just poached one of Pandora's most important employees to lead its move into mobile

Etsy just poached one of Pandora's most important employees to lead its move into mobile


As its customers move onto phones and tablets, Etsy hires a big gun from Silicon Valley

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The online arts and crafts marketplace Etsy has built a massive e-commerce empire, yet it rarely comes up in conversations about the next wave of startups that are making it big. Perhaps that’s because the Brooklyn-based company, despite doing billions in sales, focuses on selling artisanal and handmade goods in a sustainable fashion, giving it a distinctly offline feel.

Today, however, the quiet giant is putting the Silicon Valley tech set on notice. It’s announcing the hire of Mike Grishaver as its head of product, a high-profile poach from Pandora, where Grishaver was a top executive. "You get a lot of the hype cycle here on the West Coast" he tells The Verge. "It's cool to be part of a company where the results speak for themselves."

"It's cool to be part of a company where the results speak for themselves."Unlike the flood of Silicon Valley companies rushing to go public without a fully formed business model, Etsy, founded in 2005, is on track to do more than $1.35 billion in sales this year, more than double what it did in 2012, and has been profitable since 2009. Chatter around the company’s IPO prospects have turned from "if" to "when," and yet it seems to be in no rush to tap the markets or raise new financing at a stratospheric valuation. "Part one of Etsy’s values is ‘keeping it real,’" says Grishaver, who also worked at LinkedIn during its early days. "They tend to have people who are pretty humble despite the growth."

At Pandora, Grishaver was focused on mobile, the area where Etsy is seeing its biggest growth. "When you think about the success of Pandora, it’s about the simplicity of the product in terms of user experience, and yet there is a ton of sophistication under the hood in terms of the technology that drives the recommendations." He helped the music service roll out features like its alarm clock, station recommendations, and push notifications. During his tenure the Pandora app was consistently one of the most downloaded music apps on both iOS and Android. "Hopefully I can apply that learning and those techniques to Etsy, in terms of developing some of those really impactful features on mobile."

Competing on mobile with the likes of eBay and AmazonCompeting on mobile is increasingly critical to Etsy’s long-term health. More than half its shopping activity now comes from smartphones and tablets, and that number keeps climbing. Grishaver’s mobile experience will be key to Etsy’s ability to compete with heavyweights like Amazon and eBay, as well as emerging players like Pinterest, the latter of which has become a popular service for small merchants to showcase handmade goods. In April of this year the company rolled out its first iOS app designed just for sellers, although so far the response to the changes has been decidedly mixed.

It’s obvious why a talented executive would want to work at a fast-growing company with billions in sales. But Grishaver says there is truth to the notion that Etsy is an attractive employer largely because of how anomalous it is in the tech world. The company is a certified "B Corp," for example, meaning it conforms to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, and ranks those priorities alongside profit margins and revenue. "I thought the Etsy mission was amazing," Grishaver explained. "I love the idea of having an impact on local communities and driving economic value for everyone involved." As long as it keeps putting off that IPO, the company can continue placing profits and principles on equal footing, a strategy that is attracting not just customers, but top talent as well.