A Q&A with The Hunt co-founder and CEO Tim Weingarten. The San Francisco-based company was founded in early 2012 and just had its official public launch in late January.
SUB: Please describe The Hunt and your value proposition.
Weingarten: The Hunt is a community that tracks down products for you that match the look, style or items seen in any photo. While 350 million photos are shared online per day, approximately 95 percent lack any brand, store, product, or purchase information to buy the stuff that’s in the photo. This is quickly becoming shoppers’ number one pain point when it comes to actually purchasing the looks and outfits inspired by what your friends and followers are sharing online in photos.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Weingarten: The Hunt’s core demographics are teens, college students and twenty-somethings. Currently, 80 percent of its members are ages 17-to-34. One of the reasons The Hunt has found early success with this demographic is that it delivers affordable and approachable products with an average price of $75 per item.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Weingarten: We’re not aware of other websites or apps that are specifically built to match photos shared on social networks with products found on ecommerce sites. The closest examples would be other Q&A sites—Yahoo Answers or Quora—or style advice sites. At a higher level, there are lots of websites that are for curation and building collections of fashion items—ThisNext, Lyst, Svpply, Polyvore, etc., but while these may be used by a similar demographic, we believe they’re mainly complementary to us.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Weingarten: We started working on The Hunt concept in January 2012. It went from an idea, to a set of use cases and requirements, to wireframes and then mocks. From there, we started development. Thankfully, the site grew very quickly in terms of traffic and engagement so that by the time we officially launched in late January 2013, we had 60,000 active members and hundreds-of-thousands of monthly unique visitors.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for The Hunt? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Weingarten: It was more of a gradual development that was based on a number of ideas that were being discussed by a bunch of us. A big part of the inspiration for identifying this market pain point was recognizing that there were so many great products in photos people would share on Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest, and that there was no good way to turn that photo into a set of matching products. Common reactions by us and others we spoke to were comments like “I love that, where can I buy that?”
So, with that core idea in mind, the concept of a community that would do the matching was born. As people started testing an early version of the website, we realized that most shoppers cared about finding products that were similar to the look or trend in the photo and that they wanted their best options not just the exact match. We also quickly realized that multiple people could look at the same photo and have totally different budgets in mind, so we knew we needed to keep the idea of starting a hunt to be personal and flexible—rather than simply finding the exact match like an image recognition algorithm would attempt to do.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Weingarten: In talking with potential users of the product while we were building it in order to get feedback on the concept, we heard a number of them say something to the effect of “I’m always on the hunt for something,” and so it just seemed like a perfect name. Thankfully, we were able to acquire the URL for cheap.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Weingarten: Truly finding and understanding the core of the pain we’re solving for our demographic target and being adaptive and nimble enough to listen and build the appropriate product and value proposition to solve this market pain.
SUB: You just launched to the public. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Weingarten: We made the website available to the public very early in its development back in June 2012. The recent public launch was about us telling the industry for the first time about our team, product, value proposition and financing. We waited till now so that we would have enough scale to be credible. After CES and before New York Fashion Week was a good window for getting visibility.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding?
Weingarten: Yes, we’ve raised $2.2 million led by Javelin Venture Partners.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Weingarten: We generate revenue from driving traffic to ecommerce sites that converts into a purchase. Every ‘answer’ to a hunt on our website is a product from an ecommerce site and almost all ecommerce sites have affiliate programs to compensate referral sources.
SUB: What are your goals for The Hunt over the next year or so?
Weingarten: To build an amazing shopping experience for our members that is both fun and filled with delight when they discover amazing products and have their hunts answered successfully by fellow community members. We believe our community is our most valuable asset and our goal is to maintain the positivity, warmth, trust and authenticity of the community while also substantially growing it.
The Hunt – www.thehunt.com