This week marks Josh Silverman’s one year anniversary as CEO of Etsy. On Tuesday Etsy released its first quarter 2018 earnings report so Josh is doing a bunch of interviews right now. On Wednesday he was on CNBC:
Josh has clearly had a ton of media training. He always says the same exact thing in every interview:
- We own special.
- We believe the market opportunity for special is huge.
- In a world where people are buying commodities, special is different and sets us apart.
- The thing about marketplaces is the bigger they get, the better they get.
But his interviews are still worth watching because he does reveal his overall understanding of who Etsy sellers are and what they want. Move your cursor to the 2:56 mark and you’ll hear it. “Our sellers want to spend their time making and serving customers,” Josh tell Jim Cramer. “They don’t want to spend their time being business people.”
Over the last 12 months has Josh actually talked to Etsy sellers? I mean sat down and talked to them? Not watched videos about them (he nicely references a video he’s watched), not typed up answers in a moderated forum discussion, but actually spoken at length with real sellers about what they do? I don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say no.
In my experience, Etsy sellers care very deeply about being business people. To imply that we are very happy to depend on Etsy for all of our business needs and that we don’t realize the vulnerability in that decision is condescension at its utmost. I can’t help but wonder if Etsy sellers were 87% male, rather than 87% female, whether he’d dare to belittle us the same way.
There was a time, not too long ago, when Etsy cared about helping sellers to develop business skills. That was a part of Etsy’s mission, part of its drive. It wasn’t just about growing Gross Marketplace Sales and increasing the amount of money made from Seller Services. It was also about creating a new economy by helping makers develop the skills they needed to grow their businesses. In comparison what I hear now sounds terribly hollow.
Josh, in year two I hope you will get out more, visit studios and come to a better understanding of who you’re serving. Although shareholders may be the ultimate master now, it’s the sellers that are out here furiously producing all that “special” and I don’t think you understand us very well.