Tim Weingarten is an entrepreneur who wears many hats – and wears them all well. As a former partner of Worldview Technology Partners – an early stage venture capital fund with over $1 billion under management – Tim was relied on for his formidable knowledge of internet growth technologies and opportunities. Tim is the co-founder of The Hunt, a social shopping website that has taken off in a very short period of time (I wrote about his rapidly growing startup here).
Now backed by some prominent celebrities and VCs, having raised more than $15 million for his new venture, Tim is looking to reinvent online shopping with The Hunt.
Members of the new online shopping platform absolutely love the product Tim and his team have created. The Hunt has established an online community of cooperative users like I’ve never seen before. To say the least, I think Tim’s startup is genius. As such, I wanted to pick his brain in my latest edition of 5 Questions.
My interview with The Hunt co-founder, Tim Weingarten:
Where did the inspiration for The Hunt come from? Was it one of those light bulb moments, or was it a process?
Tim: It was a light bulb moment of realizing that more and more of the items I wanted to buy and wear were triggered by seeing a photo on Instagram, Tumblr, etc and less and less by visiting a store or flipping through a magazine. It was really recognizing that when you see a photo and say to yourself “I love that, where can I get that?” it is a frustrating experience and not one solved by Google, algorithms or existing incumbent solutions.
A ton of our readers run online businesses of one form or another. With any online platform, the key is to build a loyal community – a tribe so to speak. For a website and app still in its infancy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such communal participation as I have with The Hunt. This is truly what impresses me about your company.
Tim: We agree – our most valuable asset is our community and in particular the vibrancy of the interaction among community members.
A visitor on your site can upload a photo of a dress – for example – that they want to buy, and then your community members help that person find the dress or one very similar to purchase. It’s incredible stuff. It empowers both retailers and consumers. And it’s all possible because of your community participation. You already get a million uniques per month with close to 2 million members of the community signed up, and 500,000 or so iOS app users, and you’ve barely been around for a year. What is it that has made The Hunt grow so rapidly and how have you been able to build such an active community?
Tim: The rapid growth has been driven by word of mouth – a lot of which you can see in tweets by users, by instagram posts, etc. The WoM is extremely passionate and you tend to see the same two words used repeatedly – ‘obsessed’ and ‘addicted’. We believe, based on conversations with our users, that because the problem we’re solving is so frustrating and because The Hunt delivers a strong value proposition in solving it, that this inspires people to want to share their positive experience.
I think the community is so active because we designed The Hunt to provide a utility (finding products inspired by photos) while designing the interaction among the community to be positive, genuine and authentic; and the reward system for solving hunts to be purely intrinsic (people solve hunts because it’s fun and feels good to help – not because they’re getting paid).
You were a venture capitalist for about ten years, and you’ve already raised nearly $20 million for The Hunt from the likes of Tyra Banks, Ashton Kutcher, Khosla Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners and more. Clearly you know your way around a boardroom. What one piece of advice would you give our readers looking to raise capital for their startup?
Tim: My advice is to pick a very specific market problem you want to solve and build a very narrow solution that you can ship as fast as possible and get some initial feedback from customers. That initial data and anecdotal feedback – along with the quality of your team – will drive your first institutional funding round.
[Tweet “initial data and anecdotal feedback – along with the quality of your team – will drive funding”]
The Hunt’s current user base is roughly 95% women – more specifically, younger women. Do you think The Hunt could evolve into a site with a much wider demographic? And if so, are you planning on implementing a strategy to bring in a wider audience of consumers?
Tim: We’re very happy with the cohort of users that represent the bulk of our community today. We believe that they are the early adopters who first experienced the problem we’re solving. We also believe the market size of this demographic is much larger than our user base today.
That being said, we believe our solution is also applicable to men, other age brackets and to additional verticals like home décor. We will work on personalization and other features to go after these additional markets in the future.
What was the toughest challenge to overcome in launching The Hunt and getting it to the stage it is at today?
Tim: Certainly raising the initial capital and hiring such an amazing team were incredibly challenging, but one key obstacle that is perhaps less obvious is that in the beginning no one believed that our community would solve each other’s hunts. We had to prove they would by not only growing our community, but ensuring the balance between hunt starters and hunt solvers was aligned.
Take a peak at Tim’s rapidly growing startup here.