Fab.com’s Daily Deals Brings Designer Wares Picked by Fast Company to the Masses

9/14/11Follow @jpruth

When Fast Company sought a way to showcase 76 products made in the United States, the magazine turned to New York’s Fab.com, a flash sales site for design. Fab created online pop-up shops unveiled today on its existing website to sell items featured in Fast Company‘s U.S. Design app, also debuting today, for the iPad. “It’s all about the theme of U.S. design and American-made products,” says Jason Goldberg, CEO and co-founder of Fab.

The relationship with Fast Company is just the latest major move for Fab. In July, Fab raised $8 million in a round led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from investors such as The Washington Post Company and Ashton Kutcher’s A Grade Investments.

Originally founded 14 months ago under the name Fabulis and with a wholly different game plan, Fab has been working to reposition itself as a place for consumers to buy well-made items with high visual appeal. Fab, which went live in June under its current moniker, offers its customers deals on furniture, décor, apparel, and accessories that are pleasing to the eye.

Fab offers discounts up to 70 percent off retail prices for the items it sells and handles order fulfillment, Goldberg says. The startup connected with designers who wanted new channels for selling their wares to consumers, but perhaps not at Walmart scale.

Goldberg says since the pivot, his company has signed up more than 600,000 members. He says Fab draws some of its spirit from companies such as Apple that emphasize the look and craftsmanship of their products. Fab alerts its clientele via e-mail to deals that change each day, comparable to fashion flash sales from ideeli and Gilt Groupe. “We deliver a daily bit of wow to people’s inboxes,” Goldberg says.

Fab’s online traffic is growing quickly, he says, with 1.8 million visitors in July, 2.5 million visitors in August, and more expected for September. Goldberg says Fab will release apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices later this month. The website offers a wide selection of items such as pink neckties with pigs in place of polka dots, vintage chairs upholstered with spotted leather from Paris, and hand-carved black walnut low tables from furniture designer John Houshmand. Goldberg says Fab is profitable but did not specify sales figures.

Fab’s staff chooses products that the average consumer may have a hard time discovering on their own. The website features eight new sales daily that each last for up to three days. Goldberg says in the future pop-up stores similar to the ones created for Fast Company will feature select designers for some 30 days.

Fab gives established and budding designers exposure to a broader audience, according to Goldberg. Though some of the items—such as Houshmand’s $15,900 black walnut table on sale for about $10,600—might strain wallets, Fab also offers products such as $3 purses. The key is the appeal and how well-made the product is, not just the price, says Goldberg. “Design can be approachable and affordable for everyone,” he says.

Jason Goldberg (l) and Bradford Shelhammer (r) pivoted their company to offer flash sales on products from designers.

A serial entrepreneur, Goldberg was CEO and founder of social news site Socialmedian, which was acquired in 2008 by professional social network Xing. He previously served as CEO of employment website Jobster, and was special assistant to the White House chief of staff during President Bill Clinton’s administration. Fab co-founder and chief creative officer Bradford Shelhammer is a designer by trade and a contributor to design publication Dwell.

The current momentum at Fab is a sea change for the company that began as a social network for the gay community. Goldberg says under its prior incarnation as Fabulis, the company grew to a staff of 10 in New York but struggled to attract users. Though he says Fabulis was praised for its user experience and technology, there was less demand for a niche social network. “We built a really good social network but couldn’t see it growing to be a huge business,” he says.

After evaluating their options, Goldberg and Shellhammer shut down Fabulis in March and shrank their team down to three. Refocused on a shared enthusiasm for design, the company pivoted to its current incarnation.

Now Fab has a total staff of 75, the bulk of which is in New York with operations in Deinze, Belgium and Pune, India. Goldberg says the company’s current staff came from retailers such as The Conran Shop, the MoMa Store, and Kidrobot to curate products offered through Fab.com. Goldberg says Fab may grow to some 85 employees by year’s end.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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