Wanelo Raises $2M … But Is Distilling Pinterest To Products The Right Idea?

From Fab to Netflix to Amazon, the eCommerce world is starting to warm up to the future of online shopping: Social curation. Call it the “Pinterest-effect” — People are embracing the idea that bookmarking and social sharing slowly are replacing search with regards to product discovery. And this is leaving many investors salivating at the prospect of Pinterest’s eventual revenue model.

Taking this idea one iteration further, Wanelo, like OpenSky and other Pinterest-offshoots, is a site that allows users to bookmark and share their favorite products via a grid layout and high-res imagery. Ostensibly the startup wants to find a quicker path to profitability by focusing only on the curation of things that bring in revenue. Makes sense.

Unlike OpenSky, the startup allows you to follow your Facebook friends in addition to top site users — resulting in a more personalized product feed than that of just celebrity selections. To post an item to Wanelo enter a product URL, tag the item with categories, and add price and other details. Users can browse through Wanelo items by popularity, recency, or by people and stores that they follow.

Site founder Deena Varshavskaya (who is seriously from Siberia) tells me that the most remarkable part of Wanelo is its user engagement, with 1.3 million products from 24,000 different stores posted since its launch in 2010, and over 100,000 products saved daily. The average user spends 16 minutes on the site according to Varshavskaya, and the startup has more than 100K fans on Facebook.

Investors like First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, Naval Ravikant, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko, Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green, Roger Dickey, Aayush Phumbhra, Andy Dunn and other angels made a $2 million dollar bet this week that curating products around a social graph will succeed. And Varshavskaya says that Wanelo user engagement is proof that it does.

“Pinterest is a great product and it solves the curation problem for images,” Varshavskaya tells me, “It contains products as well, but that’s not their focus, so users don’t go to Pinterest to shop. They go there to collect things like recipes. Wanelo has nothing but products and users know that, so they come to Wanelo to shop. Users on Wanelo have much more purchase intent,” she says, citing user tweets she’s meticulously favorited, like the one below.

By narrowing user sharing activity to just one category (product), you inevitably lose the users who were just visiting your site to upload images of pretty sunsets or flowers, thus sacrificing at least one form of user scale. But Varshavskaya, who rules out affiliate links as a business model (she declined to comment on what Wanelo’s inevitable business model will be), insists that eliminating the noise surrounding social sharing will ultimately be a better business.

“Imagine that you went to Amazon.com and started seeing images mixed in with products you can buy,” she explains, “I don’t think you would like that as a shopper or that it would make a good shopping experience.” Fair enough, but we’ll have to wait until either Pinterest and/or Wanelo come up with a business model and bring in significant revenue in order to truly find out what’s a better strategy.