Feature Friday: Etsy In Real Life

This week our portfolio company Etsy introduced Etsy Reader, a dongle for your phone or tablet that allows Etsy sellers to sell on Etsy in real life.


The natural reaction to this would be “Etsy knocked off Square” and to some degree that would be correct. But Etsy Reader is not just a card reader. There is quite a bit of software behind the scenes that connects the checkout experience to the seller’s shop on Etsy and all of the seller tools that Etsy provides. The better way to think about this is that Etsy Reader extends a seller’s Etsy Store to the real world of craft fairs, flea markets, and other in person experiences.

Etsy Reader is about coming full circle at Etsy. In the early days, back in 2005 and 2006 when we first invested, Etsy was built seller by seller, at craft fairs, with street teams manning Etsy booths and evangelizing a new way to find customers and meet other like minded people. Etsy sellers still sell a lot at craft fairs and other face to face environments. Now with Etsy Reader, the shop can be online or offline with everything tied together.

I am excited to see Etsy Reader come to market. It’s been a dream for a while now and props to Camilla and her team for getting it out the door. Well done.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Mobile POS syncing with online inventory and addressing both sales and shipments is no small feat.At first I wondered why you need a dongle. I know a bit about POS systems and this extends the storefront and solves problems along the way.At first blush–nicely done.

  2. gregorylent

    etsy is a great resource .. as is artsy …

  3. William Mougayar

    Extending the online to the micro local markets is a big deal. This would enable local pop-up sales to happen as well, no?It’s like omni channel enablement.

    1. awaldstein

      hmm…If the inventory is local at the point of sale and not picked and shipped from online, all the process does is sync the books.Tf the other way around, think of you as the sample storefront anywhere, this is a big deal. Especially when tied to local delivery services.Smacks of where this was trying to go:Shopping redefined…mobile popup stores http://awe.sm/eKoe6

      1. jason wright

        it could lead to ‘gallery’ stores with no stock. walk in, browse, handle, decide, swipe, walk out. delivery in the evening to the front door.

        1. awaldstein

          yup!!!That is exactly where urban retail is going. And what the attached link was trying to articulate even though that early implementation was funky at best.Logistics at a click is where the greatest challenges and upside of the next few years lay.

          1. bsoist

            why pay for square footage you don’t need, right?

        2. William Mougayar

          yes, that’s what i was getting to.

      2. William Mougayar

        From the Etsy blog, “35% of Etsy sellers sell at craft fairs.”. I think that’s who they are aiming this for, initially.

  4. jason wright

    so this can’t be done in a contactless NFC way?

    1. fredwilson

      i am sure it can and will in time

      1. jason wright

        Etsy Pay

        1. JimHirshfield


          1. jason wright

            Papple :-oChristian Bale is to play Steve Jobs in a biopic of the Apple founder.https://www.youtube.com/wat

          2. JimHirshfield

            Pacebook sounds nice.

    2. Cam MacRae

      My first thought too. Actually swiping a card already seems seriously weird to me.

      1. jason wright

        weird to me too. i still have to shove my card in a reader slot at my supermarket’s self service checkout. having to scan the barcode of each item i’m buying also seems weird.

  5. Tom Labus

    Farmers Markets need something like this

  6. David Semeria

    I really like the “full circle” process: RW -> Web -> RW.I think we’re going to see a lot more of this, and it dovetails very well with your software disrupting markets investment theme.

    1. fredwilson


  7. Robert Heiblim

    More of the reinvention of retail and shopping. How much has changed and it is just the start.

  8. pointsnfigures

    merging virtual and physical. good idea.

  9. Barry Nolan

    Why didn’t they use Square?

    1. fredwilson

      they have a product called Direct Checkout. it’s a big part of their revenue model and user experience. this allows them to extend Direct Checkout to the real world. using Square would mean giving Square all of the payment business. not a good move for a bunch of reasons.

      1. Barry Nolan

        Ah – I see. I was thinking it was because Square would try inject themselves into the buyer/seller relationship.

        1. fredwilson

          well that toothey tried to knock off Etsy a while back with thishttps://squareup.com/market

          1. Barry Nolan

            Square are doing ‘all the things.’ Monthly ‘new thing’ announcements

          2. Twain Twain

            Upstream, @liad:disqus mentioned several seller-side services that Etsy could now build out which would then be Etsy “knocking off Square” since those are exactly the services Square is rolling out.@JimHirshfield:disqus also asks a pertinent question “This also begs the question, is what Square does defensible? Likely not, IMHO.”Square Market doesn’t even have a search filter — unlike most decent online retail sites — to make the user experience better and get us to the products we’re interested in faster.It’s not like Etsy which has the search bar at the very top right next to the logo and that lets us filter by occasion (Christmas, Halloween, Gift Ideas).Jack Dorsey is supposed to be obsessive about design but he’s missed several tricks that Etsy team hasn’t, imo.

          3. Russell

            perhaps a bit of revenge then? Hopefully not, as that usually isn’t a profitable business to be in…

  10. Matt Kruza

    Definitley seems like a good idea. And definitely mainly a “rip-off” / extension of square. And that is a great thing. that is how real innovation happens. Kinda pisses me off that you don’t “own” that obviously it is heavily derived from square. You obviously mention that it is derived, but the tone is wrong. Actually your tone should have been how this is great, and this is how innovation should continue to occur. Who will now improve / “rip-off” etsy. Content is good.. narrative is way too “cheerleading” for your portfolio company

    1. awaldstein

      Disagree.Every build a Square Store? Ever try to sync a Square store to one built on Shopify or even Stripe?Just because its a dongle that can take a swipe is not the thing. The thing is that it is potentially a mobile POS.

      1. Matt Kruza

        This is an area of non-expertise for me.. but doesn’t square and even Intuit’s dongle work on being a mobile POS? Again happy to be corrected.

        1. awaldstein

          Hey–i’m not an expert but I’ve built stores for myself and clients on Shopify and Stripe, use Square all the time for one of my businesses and it is just a jungle and a mess.It ‘should’ be simple, it just ain’t.

          1. LE

            It ‘should’ be simple, it just ain’t.That type of stuff always fascinates me. How companies with boatloads of OPM (not the small corner store just staying alive, right?) don’t appear to have a clue about simplifying or testing their products.That’s what happens when a bunch of “smart” people get together that can’t think down to the level of the average user.I see examples of this all the time lack of attention to details and show stoppers.

      2. Matt Kruza

        http://about.intuit.com/abo… I think this shows they were working on it back in 2012? again.. maybe not the same but sure seems similar as mobile POS?

    2. fredwilson

      i think you may have missed the memo where i laid out that cheerleading our portfolio is native revenue model for AVC

      1. Matt Kruza

        not sure if you are serious or joking, but either way it is ok. I may be missing sarcasm, and if not big deal, as its very fair that it is your revenue model if it is. Just missed making the broader point about how innovation happens (particularly sequential innovation). Again, as your comment alludes that is not necessarily the point of AVC, but nonetheless the broader I felt needed to be made so hence I made.

        1. LE

          not necessarily the point of AVCReturn money to limited partners is the point if you boil it down.

    3. Drew Meyers

      Just because one company does something similar to another company doesn’t mean it’s a “rip-off”. Sure, there is probably some overlap, but pure “rip-off” is a strong word. Very seldom does only one person/company think about good ideas. Playing devils’ advocate – how do you know Etsy hasn’t had this exact idea inside their walls since before Square even existed, and just executing on it now?

      1. Matt Kruza

        To be fair (maybe I misstated), I said “rip off” / extension. I used “rip off”, where Fred use “knock off”. And I think you are basically arguing what I argued. That indeed there are almost no original ideas.. everything is derivative. That kind of was my point… focus on how this is not a “original idea”.. and that is great! It is innovation. Instead Fred took angle of “this is a big deal in a new direction”.. I simply said that was what I thought a misleading/ cheerleading tone.. but again its his blog he can have his pom poms 🙂

  11. dpiehler

    Interesting that with the release of Apple Pay and banks switching to the new “chip cards” that Etsy didn’t include those features or postpone their release. Square has already announced they will be selling new readers that accept chip cards next year.

    1. fredwilson

      they wanted to get this out. i think shipping on time is a routine that companies should adopt. it builds rhythm and confidence. the next version will support a lot of new stuff.

      1. LE

        it builds rhythm and confidence.Great point if you don’t ship something you are “out of sight … out of mind”.Even if someone doesn’t need the shipped product it makes the company appear to be “on top of things” and not “a sleep at the switch”. And “always up to something”.Related concept: “Spam your customers”. Set up regular communication to keep the name of your company in the forefront of customer’s minds (making sure it’s not annoying or “to much”). Sort of like a heart beat. How much? It all depends.I can’t tell you the number of companies (both web and traditional) that I deal with that I never hear from by either email or postal mail.

    2. Barry Nolan

      Plenty of time for that transition. And there is a tonne of mobile chip/pin readers from Europe/Asia they could white lable

  12. JimHirshfield

    You said ‘dongle’. I don’t think that’s generally accepted as PC… not that you should be PC. But some of your readers may wag their finger at you.

  13. JimHirshfield

    This also begs the question, is what Square does defensible? Likely not, IMHO.

    1. Ed Freyfogle

      It is a race. Merchants don’t change point of sale tech often. Here in Europe the likes of izettle are pushing very hard. Will be a big challenge for followers.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Traditionally, merchants didn’t change because of the cost and operational headaches associated with the hardware, software, dedicated phone lines, etc. Times have changed and the cost of switching is very very low. And headed in a direction where it will be lower (i.e. NFC or other mobile tech that does not involve proprietary hardware, “dongles”). Apple Pay is an example of this latest wave of POS options that will disrupt incumbents.

  14. LIAD

    I like this a lot. Interfacing with inventory management is the key to adoption and making sellers price elastic to payment processing chargesIf I was helping run Etsy, I’d like to see way more seller services. off top of my head:- accounting tools- payroll tools- tax return tools- working capital options- contents insurance- public liability insurance- accounting services- legal services- warehousing services – marketing services – branding serviceseffectively i’d build a etsy 3rd party service-app marketplace

  15. SD

    Smart – could it lead to other products (e.g.: buyers insurance)?

  16. falicon

    now I want this for shopify.

    1. awaldstein

      You are smoking my friend;)Shopify is good for only the simplest online retail that uses standard shipping apis.Beyond that–a nightmare in my opinion.Can’t customize checkout at all!. Liquid is really limited. Zero third app support of any value (sorry 1 good one.). Impossible to integrate wholesale and resale off of one catalog.If you sell tshirts direct, good. If anything else, not a good choice.

      1. falicon

        one of the startups I’m helping out is using Shopify with LeadDyno to run an affiliate model where product is mostly sold IRL…so in my mind, this sort of thing tied into shopify would *really* lower the current friction involved in actually ‘placing’ an order.But yes – as you mentioned elsewhere in comments – this sort of stuff is *way* more complex and kluggy than it should be…so I see a nugget of hope in this approach and I want it to expand quickly! 🙂

        1. awaldstein

          The one ap that works very well is Reversion for affiliates. NJ developer-good guy and terrific support.I have now extingushed anything positive to say honestly.

  17. Brandon Burns

    “So and so knocked off such and such” arguments are so tired. Like a website, a card reader is something every marketplace platform should have. Obviously, if a merchant sells something in person, its both easier for the merchant to have the sale data feed into their existing inventory tracking via the marketplace, and better for the marketplace to capture the sale and some profit.This is an obvious good move, if not a late one. More should jump on the bandwagon, and get over the fear of ripping someone else off.”Great artists steal.” – Picasso

    1. Rachael

      Square was negligent to their mission (and asleep at the wheel) for not getting design and utility patent protection on their reader.

      1. LE

        Sometimes the tipping point of adoption comes as a result of a bunch of people copying you. That doesn’t mean they had that plan or that they weren’t negligent (I haven’t studied the issue extensively obviously) but not every idea thrives because of patent protection some ideas could also fail because of patent protection given a certain set of circumstances.Patent protection is like a vig. An idea can’t always spread like it needs to with a vig.

        1. Rachael

          Start a knock off commerce site site called Etzy and see how long it takes before you get a cease and desist letter.patents are wildly abused but hardware takes time and money to develop. Had square worked to get IP protection, we would have another great hardware company in the US.

          1. LE

            Assumption is they didn’t even think of it. Your parent comment was “negligent to their mission”. We don’t know that (and I was just presenting information to indicate why someone might not).If you check USPTO you can see that there is plenty of activity for “dongle” might have been something they ruled out for multiple reasons or perhaps licensed themselves in order to prevent any problems:http://patft.uspto.gov/neta

      2. Brandon Burns

        Is it even patentable? Square didn’t exactly invent credit card readers. They’ve been around since the birth of credit cards.

    2. LE

      and get over the fear of ripping someone else off.I think this is baked into the mentality of a new generation. That you have to do something original and creative in the, um “new world”. Otherwise you aren’t going to be singled out for glory. And that’s what apparently everyone wants. To make their mark on the world. Good luck with that. [1]The idea in business, because that is what Etsy is, is to make money. The idea for sellers on Etsy is to make money (in part anyway not saying some people do it for creative expressions or as a hobby). As such you do what you have to do. Regardless of originality or not.Has nothing to do with stealing or copying. [2] Just don’t go on Shark Tank.[1] Meanwhile wear the same hipster clothes that every other hipster in Brooklyn wears…[2] God knows I’ve seen quite a few people fall flat on their face because they seem to think that in order to make money they have to go big or not go at all. Be different and change the world or just work for someone else. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      1. Brandon Burns

        “I think this is baked into the mentality of a new generation.”Yeah? You haven’t seen this in earlier generations?I’m always super interested in what craziness is legitimately the baggage of only my generation versus what’s been human nature all along. I’ll add that topic to the long list of books I’m supposedly writing one day. Ha.

        1. LE

          Yeah? You haven’t seen this in earlier generations?It’s a matter of degree.I’ve been around for quite some time. I can tell you for sure the mentality is way different than it was back when I was the same age. Of course it existed but not to the extent that it does now.I mean you wouldn’t doubt that African Americans had it harder in the 30’s 50’s or 70’s then now, would you? Of course they did (I was there). That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems today as well.

  18. Michael Ferrari

    This exact concept was conceived and launched well over a year ago with a similar company to Etsy called Goodsmiths, and it’s called Goodsmiths Swipe. Goodsmiths is a marketplace strictly for handmade goods and the company is located in Des Moines, Iowa. Sadly I don’t recall Goodsmiths getting much press over it. Looking at the comments, I’d say the folks over at Goodsmiths were geniuses for being first to market. Immitaion is the sincerest form of flattery. Kudos to the Goodsmiths team. http://blog.goodsmiths.com/… and https://www.goodsmiths.com/….

  19. nilb

    I really like the dongle, but it gives a little bit of a cheap experience, IMHO. I think, it should look more like a retail pos (from the consumer POV), where the consumer can actually insert her PIN without moving the phone to the consumer to do this. (Especially true if you consider the changes the at suppose to happen to the credit card industry.(http://smallbiztrends.com/2…Probably a little more expansive to develop (especially if you want a touch screen on it, but will give better experience ).

  20. Ahsan Sohail

    Excellent move on the part of Etsy. Sellers on the platform have a strong allegiance to the Etsy brand, and will quickly adopt this card reader.As Fred mentioned, the real magic is in the software and how it will make sellers’ lives easier and their businesses more efficient.

  21. Cam MacRae

    Whoa! You actually have to swipe the card?! I can’t remember the last time I did that…(…Actually, it might have been in the US.)

  22. LukeG

    Unrelated, but Google’s blocking fredwilson.vc this morning. says it found malware.

  23. matthughes