Last year, I was sitting by the window at Gramercy Tavern waiting for a couple of friends to show up for dinner. While waiting, I happened to notice a lady walk by with a very cute cropped turtleneck on and I thought, “that’s a very nice top, I want that.” Later that night, I remembered the turtleneck and I went to my computer and googled something like “striped crop sweater funnel neck.” I did an additional search on Polyvore and ShopStyle, and while my search returned hundreds of similar striped tops, the exact top never showed up – the fit and shape on the top had been very different and I was interested in finding the top I had seen in person specifically. After modifying my search phrase a few times, I finally came across an image of the top on an Australian fashion blogger – but no link to where I could actually purchase the item (her blog post that had the top in it was more a feature about the purse in the picture).
My personal example is probably some version of a relatively common frustration that many individuals experience – certainly for women who take lots of fashion cues from their every day environment. Rarely, however, do individuals chase down others to ask “where did you get that shirt?”
Enter The Hunt – or as I like to call it, the crowdsourcing platform/app for fashion missed-connections. The Hunt is a useful little tool geared towards individual who are searching for a specific or “similar-to” item; while the app is primarily used for stalking down clothing items, the tool can also be used for various other accessories, home goods, etc. Rather than rely on Google or ShopStyle, The Hunt harnesses the power of user-generated product finds. Members can post images of products they would like to buy, and other users will help them hunt down where the product is actually sold. With over 4 million users and 3 million “hunts” started each week, approximately 50% of all hunts on the platform are “solved” within 24 hours.
The Hunt keeps its value proposition relatively straightforward: this app helps you purchase that great dress you saw in person or that you saw while scrolling on Instagram, Tumblr, etc. The Hunt creates value through it’s ability to cater to a variety of purchasing needs and motivations; whether a user is searching for a similar or exact item match or a user who simply loves helping others find great deals, The Hunt provides that extra human touch that one could argue eludes complicated, algorithm based search results from Google and other engines.
Tim Weingarten has been very vocal about the fact that he believes the key to a successful crowdsourcing community like The Hunt is an underlying intrinsic motivation behind each participant to actually spend time and help others find things to wear. “A lot of entrepreneurs would assume that if you pay people or give them cuts of the action or you make economic incentives that will help you build a community faster and will get people to do whatever you want them to do–sell things, buy things, create content, whatever,” he says. “We strongly believe that extrinsic motivations will backfire and that the most long-term sustainable franchises are built off of intrinsic motivation.”
Growth, Challenges & Value Capture
Since its start in 2011, The Hunt has branched out into “related” activities. Users can poll the community for real-time advice (e.g. “do you like shirt A or shirt B more?” or “does this outfit look good on me?”). While I imagine individuals are less prone to utilize the platform for opinions compared to the deal-finding services (indeed there seem to be less posts/engagement in the “Help Style Me” category), I would also guess that The Hunt’s established community makes it easier for customers to entertain the idea of these related services — especially compared to other now-shuttered startups (GoTryItOn, Fashism, etc.) that focused solely on these “opinion-crowdsourcing services” from the start. The Hunt has focused on fostering strong community ties where individual trust can be built through helping users solve their “hunts” and through referring them to product they want. While the outcome remains to be seen, establishing this base-level of community trust should on some level help The Hunt avoid the market-for-lemons challenge its earlier predecessors where community opinions were maybe not trusted or valued by individual users.
Probably more pressing, but certainly less unique, is the fact that The Hunt will need to figure out how to generate revenue. Aside from the same big data/consumer insight angle, an affiliate model will only take them so far as the primary point of The Hunt is not to sell the user product but to help her solve a problem – key for establishing credibility and continuing to build up its user base.