Yahoo buys social shopping site Polyvore

Yahoo is buying Polyvore, a Mountain View-based social shopping startup, in a bid to pull in more style-savvy users and the retailers and advertisers who cater to them.

The amount and terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Yahoo said in a statement that the 8-year-old fashion website will be a good fit with Yahoo Style and Yahoo Beauty, and “will strengthen Yahoo’s digital magazines and verticals through the incorporation of community and commerce.”

Polyvore allows its millions of users to piece together and share outfits or furniture and interior decor ideas by dragging and dropping images into collages. The New Yorker once described it as “a lot like playing paper dolls with pictures of real clothes.”

Users who click to buy their mixed-and-matched items spend a lot on the site: about $383 per session, according to a 2013 analysis by RichRelevance.

Yahoo said it was particularly interested in the online catalog’s native ad technology, which involves advertisements so well-integrated into a platform that they resemble other content. The acquisition brings to Yahoo the startup’s partnerships with about 350 retailers.

“Polyvore has built an excellent team, a category leading product, and a strong business based on a highly engaged community,” said Simon Khalaf, Yahoo’s senior vice president of publishing products, in a statement. “The combination of Yahoo’s industry-leading digital content with Polyvore’s expertise in community and commerce has outstanding potential. ”

This is not just an “acqui-hire” to pick up talent: Polyvore’s popular website will continue to operate following the close of the acquisition. The firm has at least 120 employees, according to this list and stylized photo-array of them.

“Our core mission of empowering people to feel good about their style will remain the same, but with Yahoo’s help we’ll be able to make Polyvore even bigger and better for our user community,” said Jess Lee, Polyvore’s co-founder and CEO, in the statement. “I’m also excited that we’ll be able to deliver more scale to our advertisers by integrating our ad offerings into Yahoo Gemini.”

Lee is no stranger to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Both women worked closely together at Google, and Lee has credited Mayer with convincing her to work for the search giant. Lee joined Google the same month it went public in 2004, and worked for several years as a Google Maps product manager.

Polyvore’s other three co-founders have a Yahoo connection: software engineers Pasha Sadri, Guangwei Yuan and Jianing Hu worked at the Sunnyvale Web pioneer before starting Polyvore. Lee was the last of the four co-founders to join, and started out as an addicted user of the beta site who had emailed Sadri with ideas on how to improve it. She later took on the CEO role from Sadri, who no longer works at the company.

Yahoo said the Polyvore team will join its Sunnyvale headquarters, as well as its offices in San Francisco and New York. Lee will report directly to Khalaf.

As my colleague Michelle Quinn wrote a year ago, Polyvore is an outlier on at least one Silicon Valley metric: its gender diversity. As of last year, women made up 26 percent of the engineering staff, 39 percent of the product and engineering workers and 67 percent of the firm’s leadership.

Above: A screenshot from Polyvore’s website.


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