A former executive of the seemingly imploding e-commerce site Fab.com has decided to branch off into his own online shopping venture, giving him a chance, experts say, to succeed in an online shopping business model where Fab has failed.
Bradford Shellhammer is gearing up for the launch of Bezar, a fashion and home design site on which each product has a shelf life of only a couple days. In an interview with TechCrunch, Shellhammer says Bezar, which will start selling products in March, will feature designers’ products in art, jewelry, house and accessories, with product prices generally ranging from $50 to $100.
The executive took only two-and-a-half weeks to raise $2.25 million in venture capital, he said, with seed-stage venture capital fund Lerer Hippeau as lead investor. While investor confidence in Bezar is clearly strong, experts say the Fab label is branded to Shellhammer’s name, which may not prove too attractive to new backers of the site.
Fab started out as a gay dating site, eventually turning to e-commerce and again morphing into Fab co-founder Jason Goldberg’s latest project Hem; sources told reporters that Fab would be sold to PCH for anywhere between $15 million and $50 million – a far cry from the $1 billion valuation the company saw in 2013.
By the time of the acquisition, Fab had reduced its staff from 150 to just 20; all of Fab’s high-profile acquisitions have now been handed over to Hem.
With the future of Fab uncertain, Shellhammer is taking his e-commerce career solo, and said he remains confident Bezar will not follow in the footsteps of its failed cousin.
"For one,” Shellhammer said of why his site will succeed, “Bezar has one leader instead of two. That’s not meant to disrespect Jason, but at Fab we were always compromising between the two of us."
Bezar is a chance for Shellhammer to take the flash sale model of online shopping and show the market that it can succeed. Reports say the Bezar founder takes inspiration from firms like Whole Foods for promoting unique, authentic products from small, independent producers. Still, Shellhammer said, he knows it will be some time before Bezar can stand on its own two feet with confidence.
"When you’re building a retail brand, you have to earn trust over and over with each transaction,” he said. “It will take many years to build that trust, but this isn’t just a business to me. It’s my life."