For ThredUP, Success Lies Outside the Early Adopters

Online children’s clothing swap website ThredUP has attracted a user base of people who, for the most part, live their lives well outside of the tech industry echo chamber. And according to CEO James Reinhart, that’s a big reason why his company has been so successful.
ThredUP is used primarily by moms who are too busy raising their kids to stay on top of the hottest new websites. “We’re not dealing with the early adopting consumer tech audience,” Reinhart told me in an interview last week. “This audience is much harder for a startup to penetrate, but in the end, they’re way more loyal.” You can watch a portion of our interview in the video embedded at the bottom of this post.
ThredUP was originally developed in 2009 as a clothing swap for men’s and women’s shirts. But Reinhart and his co-founders quickly realized that the site’s real potential was in the children’s clothing market– after all, kids grow, but clothing doesn’t. Shortly after the realization, ThredUP began redesigning its site, and the marketplace launched into its current iteration in April 2010.
In the 12 months since then, the company’s growth has been fast and furious. ThredUP recently processed its millionth swap, and is adding around 1,000 new members every day, Reinhart said. Earlier this month the company closed on $7 million in series B funding that it plans to put toward international growth, feature expansion, and developing mobile offerings. ThredUP now counts Netflix (s NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings and former eBay (s EBAY) CEO Brian Swette as advisers.
Since ThredUP charges a flat rate for each box of clothing– around $5 plus shipping and handling– the site’s appeal to thrifty consumers is pretty obvious. Reinhart tells me the site has become a big draw for the eco-conscious set as well. “Every year, more than 20 billion pounds of clothing ends up in landfills. And the fact is even 50 percent of the things you give to Goodwill end up either in the trash, or being sent overseas,” he said. “We give toys, clothes and books a second chance.”
Although the children’s hand-me-down market has not historically been known as the epicenter of innovation, consumers outside of the early-adopter crowd will embrace technology innovation if it provides an actual solution for a significant need. “If you build a real utility for which families get a real value, you can build something for the long term,” said Reinhart.
Watch Reinhart describe how ThredUP works and how the company has attracted its loyal user base in the video below: