Pi Day 2008 was my last day working at Google, meaning this week marks my second year working at Polyvore! What an amazing 2 years it’s been.
The last few months have been particularly exciting…
Eddy & I are engaged! He proposed in a purikura photo booth in Tokyo on December 21st, 2009. The moment was captured on film, but you can’t see my face because I’m wearing a ridiculous fur hat (it was cold!). We’ve been together for 5 years. :-)
Polyvore has a new CEO.Sukhinder Singh Cassidy joined our team! She has a ton of impressive credits to her name, including that she ran Google Asia Pacific & Latin America, founded Yodlee, was the first bizdev person on Google Maps (bringing our Google Maps alum count to 5!), and has been on the cover of Fortune. I’m looking forward to learning lots from her. I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors over the course of my career.
Polyvore was on TV. A big first for us! CBS Philadelphia did a great piece on Polyvore. They even interviewed one of our community members, a woman from Philadelphia named Shedgy who makes beautiful 50’s and 60’s inspired outfits. You can watch the clip at CBS3.com.
I gave talks at two conferences. I hate public speaking. I get terribly nervous and awkward onstage (some of the Google Maps team may remember my terrible speech at Geo Developer Day). But in the spirit of facing your fears, I’ve been trying to force myself to do more public speaking. I spoke at the Chictopia10 social media conference at New York Fashion Week, and I gave a talk at a Stanford Women in Business conference. Both had small friendly audiences, and both went well.
It’s hard to believe that Polyvore has come so far over the last 2 years! Not so long ago we were 5 people working out of Pasha’s house. Now we’re one of the largest fashion sites on the web and have managed to attract a huge talent like Sukhinder. There’s nothing more rewarding than working on a product you love with a community who loves you back, on a team that’s like a family. A huge thank you to Pasha, who I would follow to any other company, even if only out of curiosity. :-)
It’s been a year and a half since I left Google to join Polyvore, which is about the same time that I stopped updating my blog. The last 18 months have been really crazy! But I love the startup life and I’m so glad I decided to join Polyvore.
The past few months have been especialy hectic. In August, we raised $5.6M in Series B funding. I got to participate in the fundraising process, which was pretty interesting. The funding announcement got some nice press coverage, including pieces in The New York Times, TechCrunch and VentureBeat.
We were also incredibly lucky to be profiled in The New York Times on the front page of the Business section. It was a great article that helped drive a decent amount of traffic and has led to subsequent press coverage. So far we’ve gotten coverage in WGSN, The LA Times, Min Online, and twice in Advertising Age.
Traffic-wise, we’re doing great. According to Google Analytics, we have over 4 million unique visitors per month and over 150 million monthly pageviews. According to Compete.com, we’re now larger than Style.com and InStyle.com, making us one of the largest style/fashion sites on the web. Our incredible user community continues to amaze me with how talented & creative they are. Every day I’m blown away by their artistry.
Our team has grown too. We’re now at 9 people and are starting to hire for more specific roles, rather than having everyone do a little bit of everything. I love our team to pieces and feel really lucky that I get to work with such a cool, talented group of people. One of my favorite engineers from Google recently joined us. Liz Xu was the tech lead for My Maps (one of the projects I PMed at Google) and I’m super excited to be working together again.
My own role at Polyvore has evolved in rather strange & unexpected ways. Although I’m supposed to be a Product Manager (or technically, VP of Product Management, but that sounds kind of silly when you only have 9 people :-), over the 18 months I’ve done everything from writing code to washing dishes to pitching VCs to hiring janitors to selling ads to finding our new office. It’s been a crazy whirlwind of just doing whatever needs to get done, which I guess is fairly typical of a small startup.
But the most unexpected part of my job so far has been my work on revenue growth, building our ad sales pipeline. When I was a PM at Google, I never touched monetization, so working on the revenue side of things has been an entirely new experience for me. At first I didn’t even know what an IO was (insertion order, a common advertising term), but over the last 6 months I refined our ad opportunities, wrote our media kit, pitched to ad agencies, responded to RFPs, negotiated deals and trafficked a bunch of campaigns. There have been plenty of times where I felt like I was in over my head and didn’t know what I was doing, but I guess those are the times when you learn the most. Polyvore has been an incredible learning experience so far.
I’m back in Hong Kong to spend the holidays with my family. It’s great to be home! Mostly I’ve been shopping and eating, but yesterday I went to the Asia Game Show with Stephen to check out video games and cosplayers.
Compared to US geek conventions like Comic-Con or Anime Expo, it was a lot smaller. But much more crowded.
Sony was the major sponsor and took up half of the exhibition hall with booths dedicated to PS3 and PSP games. Little Big Planet was heavily featured.
So was Metal Gear Solid 4, the best game of 2008 according to IGN. Here’s a statue of protagonist Solid Snake.
They were also playing trailers for the latest Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy XXXLLLVVIIIIXXXXXXASDF.
They had playable demos of the newest Naruto fighting game, Narutimate Storm. Here’s Kakashi’s special, Raikiri.
There was an 18+ only area for the more violent games, like Resident Evil 5. We didn’t go in because the line was too long.
The other half of the exhibit hall was filled with vendors selling everything from laptop bags to cosplay costumes to SD cards. The cosplay costumes were pretty cheap, only HKD $150, or USD $20.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a con where there wasn’t someone selling cute fuzzy animal hats.
One vendor was selling hentai pillow covers — one side had a distressingly young-looking anime girl and on the other side she’s in a state of undress. Ew.
I’d say the biggest difference between Hong Kong cons and US cons is the cosplay. In Hong Kong the vast majority of cosplayers are young women, whereas in the US there are probably more male cosplayers. Also, the average level of attractiveness is probably higher in HK cosplayers. Plus there were a ton more rabid fanboy photographers circling around the cute girls at the Asia Game Show than at any other con I’ve ever been to, except maybe Comic Market in Tokyo.
This girl, dressed as Haruhi Suzumiya, had a pack of 20+ guys snapping photos of her for at least 20 minutes straight. It was like Britney Spears being mobbed by the papparazzi.
Except unlike Britney and the papparazzo, she was working her poses for them.
Naruto was the most popular series amongst the cosplayers. Here’s a 9-tail Naruto.
Sasuke from Naruto.
Will Sailor Moon ever go away?
This was the only white cosplayer I saw. He was a captain from Bleach, but he didn’t have a number painted on his uniform. I think he bought his costume in the exhibit hall and put it on right there and then.
Vampire Knight was also pretty popular.
US cons are always filled with Star Wars characters, but I only saw one at the Asia Game Show, a Darth Vader.
A goth loli French maid.
The hair looks like Dragon Ball but I don’t recognize the clothing.
At every con there is always a dude in a dress. This guy was a good sport and let people take pictures with him.
There were lots of characters I didn’t recognize. If you can identify them, leave a comment.
Attending weddings is fun. Planning weddings does not seem fun. If / when I get married, my wedding will be held online in IRC, so as to minimize planning. This is the conclusion I’ve arrived at after attending a ton of ceremonies this year, all of which were beautiful but seemed hellish to plan. Best wishes to the happy couples and I applaud you for orchestrating such beautiful ceremonies!
Irene and Shaw (thanks for letting me be in the bridal party even though I didn’t help organize anything :-)
Jonathan and Atsuko
Sheena and Eli
Daisy and Leon (for some reason I don’t have any pics of Leon…)
Co-founder and CEO of style & social commerce platform Polyvore. Before that, I worked on Google Maps. I'm fascinated by internet memes, weird YouTube celebrities, and 4chan. I enjoy doodling and own way too many comic books. I'm half-Chinese, half-Japanese, grew up in Hong Kong and studied computer science at Stanford. More »