Fancy hits 500,000 users with Pinterest-like social shopping service

Back in February, New York start-up ThingD rolled out a new social commerce platform for its Pinterest-like discovery site Fancy, letting brands and retailers sign up to be a seller on any item that’s been fancied on the site. It showed how an expression and curation site can turn discovery and demand into direct sales.
Well, Fancy is not Pinterest big by any means but it’s seen its user base double in the last two months to 500,000 users, who are fancying or curating more than half a million items a day. There are now more than a thousand merchants signing up to list their products against this emerging demand.  Fancy has enabled 500,000 deals and offers so far including deals up to $10,000 for a watch. The company is now launching on Android (s goog) smartphones and tablets Wednesday.
I thought this was an interesting idea because it was sort of a reverse Groupon (s grpn), where consumers can vote on what they like and can prompt retailers and brands to offer a deal or put something up for sale. It can also help designers and manufacturers looking to get noticed. Jake Frey, a design student, got a lot of interest on Fancy for his light switch that doubles as a key holder. The user interest led to a $250,000 angel investment to start production.
Fancy really shows where social commerce can go in the future. By building off a massive database of products and objects, something ThingD has been doing since 2009, Fancy is able to connect consumers with almost any product available. When users show interest in a product, it can send a strong signal that this is something people will want to buy. If Fancy can become a big enough destination with enough retailer support, it could be an alternative to existing shopping sites like Amazon (s amzn), which is a goal of founder Joe Einhorn. It’s already helping power the social commerce on the websites of Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent.
ThingD has raised $18 million from Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, General Catalyst, Allen & Co. and PPR, the owner of a number of high-end brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent brands. Board members include Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey, PPR Chairman Francois-Henri Pinault and Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook.
As I mentioned earlier, Fancy still has a lot of growing up to do to get more user traffic to ultimately lure in retailers and brands. But it’s demonstrating real progress with its model and in the process showing Pinterest how to make money through social discovery.