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Can New York ecommerce startup Grand St do for indie hardware designers what Etsy did for indie crafters?

Even a novice ecom­merce ana­lyst would con­cur that if an ecom­merce start­up man­ages to achieve a repeat-buy­er rate of 40 per­cent and cross­es the $1 mil­lion mark in rev­enues after just six months of trad­ing, it’s onto a pret­ty hot busi­ness idea. And this is pre­cise­ly what Grand St., the New York start­up aim­ing to become the Etsy of elec­tron­ics, has done.

Etsy for elec­tron­ics 

Co-founder Aman­da Pey­ton real­ized that there are tens of thou­sands of hard­ware star­tups in exis­tence, cre­at­ing seri­ous­ly snazzy con­sumer gad­gets that you sim­ply won’t find in stores. Things like “Ever­purse”, a bag that dou­bles as a smart­phone recharg­er, or mod­u­lar robot­ic kits, or “smart” dog col­lars. The list goes on.

After curat­ing a small dai­ly selec­tion of goods since its launch last July, the start­up decid­ed last month to expand its ecom­merce store into a larg­er mar­ket­place for indie hard­ware design­ers. Apt­ly named “Mar­ket­place”, the new ini­tia­tive has a num­ber of key fea­tures which sea­soned ecom­merce ana­lysts will rec­og­nize have real poten­tial to make it the elec­tron­ics ver­sion of Etsy.

Firms with prod­ucts ready for pur­chase can list them on Grand St, which takes an 8 per­cent cut of the sales. But Mar­ket­place will also cater to indie firms which have prod­ucts not quite ready to ship: they’ll be able to list their wares for pre-order up to six months before they’re con­sumer-ready. Grand St won’t charge for these items but it will require proof that the prod­uct has been fund­ed and that man­u­fac­tur­ing has start­ed (it’s restrict­ed first batch of firms in this cat­e­go­ry to crowd­fund­ed projects to weed out bad actors and over­long wait times). Final­ly, firms want­i­ng cus­tomer feed­back on their new giz­mos can list their prod­ucts on Mar­ket­place under “Beta”, where cus­tomers will be sent the item in exchange for feedback.

A new com­mu­ni­ty 

The busi­ness-savvy ecom­merce ana­lyst will quick­ly appre­ci­ate that the indie mar­ket in con­sumer elec­tron­ics has been hard to find, not least because of the expense involved for a small bunch of indi­vid­u­als to cre­ate a pro­to­type. Crowd­fund­ing ini­tia­tives like Kick­starter, HWTrek and Drag­on Inno­va­tion have put paid to dif­fi­cul­ties like that, however.

Grand St.’s Mar­ket­place real­ly does have the poten­tial to do for indie hard­ware design­ers what Etsy did for the mak­ing and craft­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Pey­ton believes it’s “the future of electronics.”

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