Zulily Zips Out of Stealth and Raises $4.6M, Led by Maveron and Ex-Blue Nilers

12/17/09Follow @gthuang

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the product,” Cavens says. Consumers will be able to sign up for free; only members can see the sales. The advantage over shopping at an Amazon.com or other commerce site, Cavens says, boils down to “price, and discovery” of sale items.

Cavens says he had been talking with Vadon over the past six months about starting an “interesting and different business” around specialty retail and e-commerce. Having relatively young kids himself, he got excited about Zulily’s niche. And he says he’s not aware of other private-sale sites based in Seattle, nor are there many in Silicon Valley.

The startup is now up to five employees and has office space at Maveron. Cavens says he’s looking to hire for several open positions (such as buyer, Web developer, and operations and logistics admin) and hopes to expand the staff to a little more than 10 in the new year.

I also asked about lessons learned from his Blue Nile days. “It’s in my DNA to deliver a phenomenal customer experience,” Cavens says. “Retail is very much about execution. I learned that dealing with the thousand little details that make a business great. I’ve had that ingrained in me. It sounds plain and simple, but I think people get somewhat distracted from that.”

As for the name, “Zulily” doesn’t actually mean anything, Cavens says. “We spent a lot of time coming up with something with an interesting, fun element to it. It’s unique. It’s a hard process. It’s so defining for eternity after.” He says he “talked to a lot of moms and folks around” and got positive feedback.

It remains to be seen whether the current economic climate will end up helping or hurting Zulily’s chances, but for now its timing looks fairly strong. “We’re excited from a space standpoint and a market standpoint. We’re trying to pull together a very strong team,” Cavens says. “We’re trying to build a culture around delivering a top-notch experience, and having fun along the way.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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