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Yahoo buys social media site focused on shopping

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Yahoo has once again gotten the urge to go shopping — and this time the internet company has acquired a social shopping site.

Yahoo announced late on Friday that it had agreed to acquire Polyvore for an undisclosed price.

Founded in 2007 by three former Yahoo engineers, Polyvore made a name for itself as a type of digital corkboard for picking and sharing clothing ensembles. It was eventually overshadowed by Pinterest, which was founded three years later.

It also competes with Wanelo, another social curation site focused on fashion.

In contrast to Pinterest, Polyvore makes it so every item can be purchased from a retailer by clicking on a link in the description. Polyvore makes money by selling ads to 350 brands and retailers, which can sponsor collections or items on the site.

The acquisition gives Yahoo a foothold in mobile e-commerce, an area that has attracted investment from not just Pinterest, but also much bigger services like Facebook, Instagram and Google. Polyvore’s ads, which blend in with the other content on its app, also fit Yahoo’s strategy of moving more into so-called native advertising.

“Every time we’ve seen an engaged community, we’ve seen magical things happen,” said Simon Khalaf, Yahoo’s senior vice-president for publisher products, in an interview. “This is exactly what we see in Polyvore. Their content is actionable. We were very attracted to this model.”

Yahoo intends to include some of the fashion collections curated by Polyvore users in its digital fashion magazines. Polyvore, which will operate as a separate site and app, will use Yahoo’s Gemini platform to sell ads and might put some Yahoo content onto its service.

Jess Lee, chief executive of Polyvore, has known Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, for a long time. Lee was recruited by Google after she received her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Stanford University, and ended up working under Mayer during Mayer’s time at the search company.

In 2012, Mayer left to run Yahoo but stayed in close touch, mentoring Lee when she was asked to step into the chief executive position at Polyvore.

“Marissa has been a supporter,” Lee, who will remain at Polyvore, said in an interview. “And I owe a lot of my career to her.”

Lee said Polyvore decided to sell to Yahoo to expand its reach. “We felt that this was the best way to accelerate what we are trying to do,” she said.

Polyvore has raised a relatively small amount of venture capital — some $22.1 million (Dh81.1 million) — from firms like Benchmark and Matrix Partners. By contrast, Pinterest has raised more than $1 billion in private capital, and is valued at more than $11 billion.

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