High-end design, fashion and travel-focused Pinterest rival The Fancy is rolling out several new features today, including a new slideshow option, the addition of four more languages, and a new visual search engine that allows users to search for items with similar colors.
The latter addition, which brings to mind the “search by color” feature over on crafty community Etsy or the new color search option on Fab.com, is powered by image recognition technology built by The Fancy itself.
Although some may not be aware, The Fancy was actually born out of CEO Joe Einhorn’s efforts to build an Internet of Things-type company, thingd. The project aimed to crawl the web, identifying images based on text, shape, size and color. By late 2010, thingd had hundreds of millions of items in its database, and was adding more than 2 million objects each week.
With the visual search, The Fancy’s team is able to build on top of their previous knowledge and skill set.
“This is complex, image recognition technology which we built ourselves, and goes back to our roots focusing on the internet of things,” explains Einhorn of the new visual search engine. “During our beta testing we’ve found it a big hit among our users focused on clothing and design.” He also notes that some other shopping sites let you search by keywords (like “blue,” for example) for discovery of similarly colored items, but don’t perform true object recognition to make the matches.
While the focus for the new search option seems to be aimed at improving the shopping experience on the site, the overall goal with visual search’s introduction sounds a lot like what thingd was up to in the past.
“We are trying to create a canonical catalog of things,” says Einhorn. “Each item on Fancy represents an item in the real world. We have various techniques to handle clustering and de-duplication, but, to date, those techniques have involved meta data around the items, not the images themselves…Soon we will be using image matching to help our de-duplication and clustering efforts.”
As for the additional languages, it was a matter of addressing the company’s need to better serve the high fashion community, Einhorn explains. Fancy’s lead investor in its $10 million round came from outside the Valley: PPR, the $25 billion French firm run by Francois Henri-Pinault which owns some of the biggest fashion brands in the world, including Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. Today, The Fancy has social commerce integrations installed on the websites for Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and others. And its user base is global, making additions like French, Italian, Japanese and Chinese, logical next steps.
The company also recently arrived on Android and has now passed half a million members. Since the launch of its commerce platform, which lets merchants post deals directly on The Fancy’s website, over a thousand merchants have signed up and have listed over 500,000 deals. Some are for products as inexpensive as a $5 salt shaker, while others are for pricier items, like a $10,000 watch.
One designer, Jake Frey, was even able to leverage the site to gain attention for his magnetic light switch. After taking off on the site, Frey received a $250,000 angel investment to help start the business.
Einhorn says the site is now on pace to do some 10 million “fancies” (that means hitting the “Fancy it” button – same as “Pin It” on Pinterest) this month and expects to see 15 million next month, based on its current growth curve.
The Fancy, already has several impressive supporters (e.g., Kanye), as well as board members like Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square), Chris Hughes (Facebook), Jim Pallotta, and LeRoy Kim (partner at Allen & Co.). The startup’s investor line-up also includes top VCs Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, Allen & Co., General Catalyst, Esther Dyson, Celtics owner Jim Pallotta, MTV creator Bob Pittman, former eBay COO Maynard Webb, Eric Eisner, Jeff Samberg, and Ashton Kutcher.