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How entrepreneur Joseph Einhorn curates a global shopping network

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and OnStar. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

Some of the most insightful conversations come in the most casual settings. On The Ride we catch up with today's top personalities in technology and entertainment on their way to work, running errands, or checking out a new show. Along the way, we field questions sent live from The Verge readers via a tablet connected to the OnStar 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi® hotspot.

Entrepreneur Joseph Einhorn is a purveyor of taste. His e-commerce platform, Fancy, is home to some of the most unique and creatively informed products in the world. Curated by Einhorn and his global network of tastemakers and Fancy members, the site is the go-to source for highly considered shopping. On this episode of The Ride, Einhorn heads to the office with Broad City's Arturo Castro, and the two talk advice, inspiration, and keeping family first.

All right, Joe. Thanks so much for hanging out with us man.

Joseph Einhorn: Thank you, Arturo. I mean, I'm like your biggest fan, so this is very exciting for me.
Oh, man. So when I heard it was you I jumped on the opportunity to hang out with you for a little bit and talk to you about the cool stuff you guys are doing.

So let's tell my awesome driver here where we should head over to now.

JE: If we could go to my office and I'll direct you.

So tell me, man, how did Fancy come about? It's all coming from your brain. Why did you create it, and why do you think it's hitting so powerfully to your clients?

JE: Okay. Here's the story. Shopping in real life is a very interesting, unique, pleasurable experience that is completely different from what shopping online has been like. To be more precise, the main quality around transactions that have been happening, shopping that has been happening online have been more value-oriented. The idea is like group deals, discounts, comparison shopping. That's kind of the online shopping that we've been more accustomed to. We're more interested in a different quality, which is sort of the intangible, un-qualifiable quality of prestige, the idea that people don't get into our shopping experience looking for a specific sale or a specific coupon or discount. Ours is more like you're going into the coolest shop in the world, seeing incredible selection, and everything is sort of tailored to your interests, kind of agnostic from the way that companies normally want to market to you. 

So all we wanted to do with this product — with this company — is we wanted to recreate magic of going inside your favorite shop in real life. The idea is that you're not exactly sure what you're going to see, but it's going to be really fun, and this is something you can do with your friends and ultimately leave with something, and own something that would make you happy. So that was the philosophical piece to it.

And then on the actual genesis of the way that the app works, and the way that the product works, is first we just had a social network around shopping and the idea was you see these products like that Back to the Future car and then when you click on it, you would have to exit our experience and go to somebody else's site or whatever. What we learned from our customers, at that time they were just our users, was they wanted to be able to buy it all in one place, add everything to one shopping cart, buy all in one place. So we put that "buy" button on there and people really loved that, because all of a sudden we are in 40 languages, we ship anywhere in the world and you can see things — discover things — that you didn't know even existed. It's based on this algorithm that's learning about you, and constantly showing you more and more cool stuff. You're adding it all to one shopping cart, buying it all in one experience, and people really like that.

Then where we took it more recently is moving to more of a marketplace model. What that means is that now when you purchase something on Fancy, even though you buy it all in one place, there is a merchant on the other end of that transaction, not us. There is a brand, or a shop, that actually receives the order. So we actually have another app which is for people who sell on Fancy, and those folks see their orders and they manage their inventory, and then you'll actually receive the package.

So that's kind of all we want to do is make the coolest shop in the world online and we're trying to get closer and closer to that. And then we ended up with this really unique vibrant community that sort of, when content goes in, people "fancy" it, that's our version of "liking" or whatever and the really interesting stuff that appeals to the people who you might be following or the powerful users in our community ends up bubbling up and you have a really interesting selection there.

So we have a question coming in from one of the users. What motivates you and what you enjoy most about your work. What's the most satisfying part about running this company?

JE: Wow, I don't think anybody has ever asked me that before. I don't know if I've ever thought about that before, but so I told you before I have a couple children.

What are their names?

JE: My older son's name is Shia, and my younger son's name is Sydney. The time spent away from family, like spent away from my wife and kids, I tend to try to be as productive as possible. It's such an interesting time because my kids are really little, so you want to spend as much time with them as possible. So somehow there is this weird balance with these phones and these iPads and stuff.

So with these kind of things, like a shopping app, you know, how altruistic is it? Or is it alturistic?

I do have an altruistic angle to this company, which is important to me, which is that the foundation of our app. What makes our app really unique and what I think the reason why, hopefully you agree to it, is the selection, the merchandise that we feature and that we sell is really special and it's made by really interesting, really creative people. The idea that we have this platform that we created that gives exposure to really talented product designers across disciplines. So the idea that we could shine the light on some really original creative people is really important to me.

When a product goes into Fancy, and then all of a sudden all of these tastemakers and cool interesting people, when they "fancy" it, and then that ultimately exposes it to more of a following both on our platform and then potentially onto other platforms that they are sharing on. And then all of a sudden all kinds of interesting people around the world are sort of helping shine the light on this particular product or this particular design. It's a really exciting feeling.

It's always really funny to meet with people in real life, I've been doing more of that. Both meeting people who create this merchandise whether being big company or a small person, and then also meeting the people in the community who are sort of you know starting these little fires, starting these trends. It's so interesting because it's sort of democratized. I guess this is something  — I know, I didn't make this up — the internet has been doing this, like democratizing anything.

Wait you did not invent democracy?

JE: I didn't invent democracy. But we'll try to like jump on that, that's a really good trend also, democracy.

I love it, I think it's going to be big one day.

JE: So not only is democracy amazing, but also related to democracy is meritocracy and the idea that the person who creates something really unique can advance and excel in their field based on. Not like you know, some of the sentential kind of stuff that goes on in the world but just based on, "Hey, people like what I made and they want to expose it to their friends and family and they want to share with people," and that ultimately relates to people buying it, which goes back to supporting the business.

That's really exciting. So, I want to get to the real meaty part. Some real controversial questions right now about Joseph Einhorn. This is coming in from Verge users, so please don't take it personally.

JE: I knew this was probably coming.

What's the deal with you having two chihuahuas, tell me about these two chihuahuas and why have you taken them from their native Mexico and appropriated these two chihuahuas? What's the deal, you can't have just one chihuahua?

JE: Okay, so we have two chihuahuas that are husband and wife. So, the idea with the chihuahuas was that my wife and I got married and we were going to go on a honeymoon, but there was some type of a weather event that happened like a hurricane or something, so we got refunded from the hotel and instead we got this chihuahua. We felt bad sometimes that he seemed like he might be a little but lonely. So, what we did is we got him a wife. That's why we have two chihuahuas. I still haven't figured out — but I suspect that this is somehow related to Wikipedia or Google — I haven't figured out how...

People know about the chihuahuas?

JE: Right, how this has become such an important thing for people, but we do love all animals. Especially those chihuahuas.

Let me wrap it up with a question about you as a person. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

JE: I love to spend every free moment with my family and my kids, and my chihuahuas as well. We live in Brooklyn where there are many — as you know, as you being my neighbor — there are many lovely parks and activities to do with the children. So, as a dad I find myself getting into all kinds of athletics with the kids, Prospect Park is a big one for us. We've been getting into these drones, and I know there's a big crew of people who play with their drones at Prospect Park. Also, even just supporting my wife because she's an entrepreneur herself. She makes a handmade children's clothing line.

So, my interest outside of work is just family. Whatever is going on in other people in my home's purview. Things move so quickly, by the time I get home it'll be dark out and so much stuff will have happened in these other peoples lives that interests me so much more than what goes on in my little life.

So, for the people joining us, what are three pieces of advice that you'd give people that want to start up their own business, for entrepreneurs? What would you tell them?

JE: All right, the best piece of advice, and I'm lifting this, I'm stealing this from one of my idols, Mark Zuckerberg, he made this app called Facebook I don't know if you're on there?

Yes, yes. I've heard.

JE: So anyway, he always says, "Never give up." I'll tell you, there's so many ups and downs with this thing, with any business. Whether it's my wife doing handmade children's clothing. Whether it's you, one day you're going to have many shows and movies and productions, stuff like that. Or, it's myself with my app. It's really important to not give up because everyone always kind of gives up and when things get hard and when you don't give up and you start to sort of navigate and iterate through that you start to figure out what's even really possible. So, number one is never give up.

The second thing is, and this is really important. Especially, for you — were you asking me the advice for yourself? For you in particular?

Yeah, for me in particular.

JE: Remember that no one really knows anything about anything and don't listen to people's advice too much. I think it's really important to be self-aware and to be able to take criticism and take feedback. Which I'm not tell you like, "Hey, if anybody doesn't like your stuff then just screw them." I don't mean it like that, but I do think that what happens when you try to do your own project sometimes is that a lot of people around you may try to give you advice and suggest how you should go about following your dream and doing your project. Try not to listen to folks too much, because if you end up listening to too much you end up doing something for their dreams, or their project, or you might not even get to fully realize your dream.

I'm trying to think of a third one. In my head I stick to: don't listen to anybody and never give up. The third one would probably be... Okay so this is very specific to me, I know people who are able to diversify and be involved in many cool different projects at once. In my case I have not been able to figure that out. I tend to get really narrow and really focused on one thing. So, I've been working on this company for more years than I care to remember, right? Definitely in terms of, if you are going to do this thing, whatever it's going to be, and you're not going to listen to anybody too much, and you're not going to give up, I think it's important to really stay laser focused. First to kind of know what the goals really are, and then stay laser focused to make sure that you can achieve some approximation of what those are.

If we had to make three it would be stay focused, don't listen too much to the external people pulling in different directions, and then most importantly never give up.

Well thanks for joining us man. It's been really cool getting to know you. Please send my best to your family. I want to meet your chihuahuas.

JE: Got you. Thank you for all the inspiration. Congrats on all your success.

Thank you ciao.

JE: Thank you for the drive sir.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and OnStar. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

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