The story of Fab, the site that was once hailed an industry darling and has since crumbled, is a familiar one in the tech world. Fortune called the company a “black eye” in the portfolio of its investors (a rolodex of who’s who) who have poured in more than $330 million into the company since its founding in 2011.
Since then, the company has seen its sales skyrocket and subsequently die off. Just five months after launching, the site clocked one million users, an accolade any company would kill for. Natural human tendencies involving pride, ego and legacy set in. Fab’s Jason Goldberg went on the record and said the company has “IKEA-sized ambitions not Zappos-sized ones.” If given the chance in 2015, one would waver that Mr. Goldberg would do anything to trade places with Zappos, a company that was acquired by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) for a reported $1.2 billion.
Today, Fab stands at a crossroads. There have been talks about a potential acquisition for a measly $15 million by PCH, a global holdings company. The company’s latest move was entering the furniture industry through Hem, a new spin on manufacturing and selling furniture directly to consumers online.
I would argue that Fab’s biggest mistake had been its lack of character. Much like with people, those who do not know who they are often make uninspiring leaders and boring companions. They lack direction and are privy to following trends for the sole reason of doing so. As a customer, I had trouble pinning down exactly what Fab was. My mind is (more or less) compartmentalized. Monocle is a magazine. Mr. Porter is an online shop. Thrillist is a little bit of both. Fab on the other hand, had the identity of confused teenager.
Despite this harrowing mistake, dwelling on the past can only bring so much progress. The company’s latest foray into the furniture industry seems promising and aims to bring the company (a miniscule bit) closer Mr. Goldberg’s remarks about IKEA. Most of all, Hem seems to know exactly what it is, and does not try to be a million things at once. For a customer, knowing that is comforting.
Most of the press covering the company since its turnaround has been predictively negative. Networks covering tech news are hungry vultures, one day talking a company up and subsequently predicting its demise the next day. That is what they do and that is easy for them; they have no “skin in the game” as Nassim Nicholas Taleb would put it. If anything, a magazine might sell more copies or generate more hits by reporting negative stories. What has been missing from this overall discourse is the not-yet deserved kudos to the Fab team, who must be losing sleep every night over the eventual fate of their company.
Jason Goldberg, having failed once before with Jobster, is hungry for success, however one might define it. Despite unreal amounts of pressure (pressure has…