Buyosphere is a fascinating shopping website that both solves the problem of how to find specific items on the web and aims to create those “Ah-ha!” moments that we all cherish. I’ll preface this interview by saying that Buyosphere co-founder (and internet phenom) Tara Hunt is hilarious as well as smart, and was an absolute blast to talk to.
During the interview, she even coined a clever new fashionista term that I’ll share below.
Hunt co-founded Buyosphere in 2010, and the initial version allowed people to gather together everything that they liked and build a taste profile. What they found out was that this specific data problem was daunting – even the most advanced computer algorithms can’t yet accurately grasp taste.
What they saw, however, was that people were already helping others to do product searches on the web. Using human input as a feedback indicator has allowed them to build a great place for users to shop online. Thus, they made a pivot, into the robust and practical Buyosphere of today. You can think of Buyosphere sort of like a Trip Advisor for online shopping – a place for recommendations made, literally, just for you.
TWF: Tell us about your company.
TH: Buyosphere is a shopping and Q & A platform where you go for expert help when you’re shopping for something online. If you know something about a category, you can help others find what they’re looking for and get rewarded for it. You can ask, answer, and discover a whole new world of shopping.
TWF: If you can describe your company in 5 words, what would they be?
TWF: Tell us about your team. Who does what and how do you manage your staff?
TH: Jerome Paradis is our CTO. He’s a brilliant coder, and everything you see, other than the design, is his. He builds everything that makes the site work, and does all of the heavy lifting on the product side.
Cassandra Girard is my co-founder and COO. She does the product management stuff and makes sure things move forward. She handles accounting, HR, legal paperwork, and makes sure that we have all of our ducks in a row. She’s the glue that holds the company together – the yin to my yang, if you will.
I’m the co-founder of the company, and I get all of the glory. I’m the face of the company and handle marketing, pr, social media, and blogging. I also handle pitching to investors, investor relations, and customer relations stuff.
We also just hired a few more developers – we’ve built our platform on Django using Python.
TWF: What is unique about your company?
TH: We are solving shopping search through human intervention and gaming – and no one else is doing it like we are. Products like ShopStyle and Google Products offer shopping search, companies like Svpply and Lyst offer social shopping, and sites like Quora and Local Mind use Q & A. However, we combine all three of those elements to get a site that offers shoppers expert, human answers to their shopping needs. Personalization in product selection is being more and more demanded, and we’re helping to pave the path for that.
TWF: What are your future plans?
TH: We’re working on adding gamification elements. We’ll have points for people who are answering, adding suggestions, voting, and posting – with big points going to people who make suggestions that are actually purchased. We’ll have leader boards, and experts will win actual gift certificates to stores in their category. People who make solid recommendations will build a reputation on Buyosphere, and be rewarded accordingly.
Eventually, we’ll get brands involved directly, and they’ll be charged for making suggestions – to ensure quality and generate revenue for the site. We’re also working on building out a white label for brands to use the Buyosphere tools on their own sites.
(Author’s note: Yes, please! Can’t wait for this to happen.)
We will also be importing Facebook “Likes”, so that we can do profile matching, and users can get recommendations from people with similar taste profiles.
TWF: Tell us about the market you’ve been trying to target and the response you’ve gotten so far.
TH: We target North American women who are shopping savvy online – both for shoppers and for experts. We focus on users that have disposable income, but not disposable time. Our users are 25 to 40 years old, and are active on all of the the social networks.
Our response has been surprising – we have a lot of men involved! It’s a nice, diverse group of people.
TWF: What things inspire you the most – whether in business or in life?
TH: Those “Ah-ha!” moments, when something grabs you by the heart. When you log onto a website, use an app, see a product, or meet a person, and immediately have those connecting moments, where it feels like something magic just happened.
We aim to solve a problem, but also create those “Wow!” moments for users. I love dissecting what that moment is all about; figuring out what drives people and what doesn’t. We’re trying to facilitate more of those amazing experiences on Buyosphere.
Tara and I geeked out for a good long while about unifying product search on the web, what the best mascara is, customer interactions, and our favorite recent purchases. We each shared our most recent “wow” transactions. Hers is her beautiful red Foley & Corinna Mid-Town Tote that she spotted on someone on the street and hunted down on Ebay, and mine is my skull and leopard print Alexander McQueen silk scarf that I nabbed for 40% off from Net-a-Porter.
We showed each other our items, and Tara caught me sniffing mine – and coined the hilarious new term “new scarf smell.” Yes, you can use that.
Buyosphere is a smart product with a strong team that has a lot of potential to change the way we shop for things on the web. By layering real, expert human interaction over powerful technology, the site can truly help users create more real shopping connections.
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