With more startups looking to get in on the fashion discovery game, the crowdsourced shopping service The Hunt has taken a big step forward, in the form of a $10 million venture capital raise from Khosla Ventures. The Hunt has changed a lot since it released its iOS app, shifting from a desktop experience to one that is overwhelmingly (read: 95 percent) mobile. With this latest infusion of cash, the startup is getting ready to release its first Android app and working on making the experience more addictive than it already is.
For those who aren't familiar, The Hunt is essentially a community-based shopping app, through which users can post "hunts" for items they're looking to find (often accompanied with a photo pulled from a magazine or online); other users then jump in and help them find either the exact item or a similar look. Chronic online shoppers tend to excel at this kind of work.
Scrolling through the app, you'll see a lot of crop tops, festival style, high-waisted jean shorts and lace. It indicates a few things: Nasty Gal should be making a killing from this app, and its demographic skews pretty solidly young and female.
Along with a mass switch from desktop to mobile, the Hunt's user base has grown since November, up tenfold to roughly half a million monthly active users. As for the shift to mobile, a lot of that owes to the fact that The Hunt's core demographic of 13 to 30-year-old females is a particularly mobile-heavy group.
The Hunt is fairly sticky by nature -- the natural high of, yes, the hunt -- but Weingarten says the team is working on making certain aspects of the experience more addictive. Part of that will come in the form of making threads more conversational and enabling users to build personal connections with each other. And the team is also working making the solving experience more challenging for the app's power-finders.
"For them it's a game. It's like their fantasy football," Weingarten says.
In addition to the real-time feed of hunts on the app's home screen, there's a separate feed called "Needs Help," which pulls out the most difficult hunts (those that are popular but have no solves). To personalize that challenge, Weingarten says The Hunt might begin sending users weekly challenges for near-impossible hunts that are similar in style and price point to ones they've solved in the past.
Ben Ling, a partner at Khosla Ventures who has experience at both Facebook and Google, will be joining The Hunt's board, which Weingarten describes as instrumental in building out the app's capabilities for interactions between users and for working out avenues for monetizing, which The Hunt hasn't done much of to date. Given that The Hunt knows what users are searching for (and in what price range), the potential for sponsored search results is sizable.
"If you think about Google, they capture intent from your query and turn that into ad words. We'll be capturing your intent from your hunts," Weingarten says.
Although The Hunt is still building out the experience for its core demographic, one of Weingarten's goals for 2015 is to diversify that user base, drawing in more men and moving the needle up on the age bracket. Some guys are already using The Hunt, often by uploading a photo of themselves, adding a "Style Me" tag and asking for fashion advice from other users.