The Story of Depop: The Visual Marketplace
What do you get when you cross Instagram's aesthetics and eBay's signature merchant traits?
A brand new platform that does it all: Depop.
The mastermind behind the idea, one Simon Beckerman, established Depop back in 2011, and has since created the largest fashion marketplace online, with more than 21 million users buying and selling all-things vintage, and on the daily.
Its aptly crafted motto invites clients to 'buy, sell, discover, and explore the most inspiring and unique things', allowing users the freedom to define their own vintage journey.
But before Depop morphed into a beautiful business butterfly, it had to go through its caterpillar stage.
Read on to learn how Depop reached the greatest of heights in online vintage shopping:
Back in the Day
Born and raised in Italy, Beckerman cultivated a taste for industrial design from very early on. A rebellious teenager at heart, Simon defied community-imposed standards and instead, paved his own path to success. Unlike your everyday kid, Simon never conformed to society's definition of normal, and took the artistic, less travelled route instead.
After graduating high school, Beckerman enrolled in Polytechnic University of Milan to study industrial design. However, unable to finish his first semester, Simon dropped out of school and set his mind on building a business empire. Meanwhile, he worked a few jobs here and there, and even tried as a DJ, only to realize his natural talent lied in the art of creation.
A crafter in essence, Simon soon abandoned his short music career and threw himself in the big-boy business league led by a single thought:
'Go big or go home!'
A Promising Start
The 90s in Italy were a thriving time for business opportunities as well as rising to the occasion when met with success. Of course, the internet was still a luxury at this time, but not for the Beckerman household. Frequent visitors to their mother's internet-equipped office, the Beckerman brothers spent hours at their mom's desk, exploring the latest technology, music and fashion. While feeding on ideas, the boys birthed the thought of opening a free magazine for all who enjoyed engaging stories found on the Internet.
And with that, PIG was born - an Italian magazine delivering the latest news worldwide!
A window to the world of news for Italians, the magazine survived on basic advertising that did good, but not good enough in Simon's mind. At the time, the family distributed 3,000 copies of the magazine a month, but the need for more current stories was on the rise.
At one point, the Beckermans attempted to sell the magazine for money. But in 90s Italy, and with a previously free-of-charge magazine available, the brothers soon noted a crash in distribution and a significant loss of readership.
Instead of holding themselves back from the fiasco, Simon and his brother dedicated their efforts to rebuild PIG from the ground up and attract a greater (and paying!) audience. Simon Beckerman was hungry for all the marketing and business knowledge he could get, and learning his consumers' needs would earn him the sufficient experience to achieve greatness.
For some, the next seven years may have flown by to no good use, but for Simon and his family, it had been the most eye-opening seven years yet. The family was obviously in no rush to succeed and instead spent years socializing with all the right people and pulling all the right business strings. While initially attendees and incognitos, Simon and his keen soon had their own taste of fame and quickly became locals' sweethearts.
During this period, the brothers soaked up on all the marketing knowledge and wisdom available. And soon, that knowledge would make way for a fruitful baby project - a sunglasses brand to shower the Beckerman name in greater glory and recognition.
Little did the brothers know back then that this very business idea - tiny as it was - would become their stepping stone towards a super-successful entrepreneurship.
Opening up New Doorways
Retrosuperfuture, the Beckermans' popular eyewear brand was first launched in 2006. Back then, Simon was still running PIG, and on his own, too, but never shied away from simultaneously putting his blood, sweat and tears into Retrosuperfuture.
Heavily relying on his newly adopted marketing strategies, Simon felt certain the brand would fail had it not met all of its customers' requirements. With this challenge in mind, Simon threw himself to work and decided that advertising his product to celebrities would be the first step to worldwide recognition.
However, before he even had the chance to reach out to celebrities, Simon placed his product in the hands of the closest thing to celebrities - their stylists, BFFs, photographers and assistants. As a result of this clever move on his part, Simon's eyewear soon became the talk of town and famous faces began to take note. What began as subtle marketing now grew to obvious popularity, and soon enough, the biggest celebrities were wearing their own pair of Retrosuperfuture sunglasses.
With the Internet now up and running, Simon's next step was to ask celebrities to showcase his product by posing for pictures on Flickr.
In seven years' time, Retrosuperfuture grew into a $13 million company, selling more than 100,000 pairs of sunglasses annually!.
Still, this wasn't the time for Simon to stop and smell the roses - after all, the great success was still to come!
A Digital Marketplace Wonder
It was a morning much like any other, and Simon was reading his PIG magazine when a sudden realization came to mind. A shift was coming, Simon thought, and this shift would soon replace prints with digital technology. It was the future of online communication happening before his eyes, and Simon was paying attention at the right time.
With the launch of Instagram, online marketing never looked the same again. Mobile apps grew faster than ever before, and magazines were left in the shadows of time. Concerned that his magazine wouldn't see the light of day again, Simon reshifted his goals to online earnings.
Still nurturing his childhood dream of becoming a designer, Simon was now ready to put his plan into practice. Funny as it may sound, he initially designed his apps on a piece of paper. After a few months of ups and downs, Simon took a good look at what he had created and found something valuable in its essence.
Initially, Simon intended to design a social app through which his magazine readers would buy advertised items. But, he achieved even more than that when Simon first added PayPal as a payment method, thus allowing his customers to sell their own items for the first time ever.
Before you know it, Depop grew into an essential app that combined Instagram's social characteristics and eBay's selling principles. Targeting audiences under the age of 26, Simon was convinced this kind of audience would make the majority of future mobile app users.
And he was right!
In the years to come, Depop has grown to be one of the largest fashion market places, boasting over 21 million active users globally. Buying and selling vintage items never seemed so practical and doable!
Among other things, Depop also allowed its users to build personal brands and start real businesses which earned over 100,000 euros annually.
The New CEO
'Success comes from experience and experience comes from failure. I am constantly failing, which means that I am constantly learning - hopefully!' - Maria Raga.
Regardless of the company's success at the time, the brain behind the operation - Simon - still needed an expert to manage Depop's finances. To Simon, it became more obvious that, to maintain his brand popular, a change in structure was due.
The first step there? Assign a new brand CEO.
After an extensive search for the perfect candidate, Simon announced he had found his CEO match, and her name was Maria Raga. Born and raised in Spain, she graduated from the University of Valencia in Business Administration before she became a research associate at Harvard Business School.
Trusting her instincts, Raga explored her other potentials which led her to become a management consultant in Bain and Company. After spending five years at the company, in 2010, Maria moved to London to become one of the team founders of MyCityDeal, later acquired by Groupon. Just four years later, Maria immersed herself in a fashion start-up called Brand Alley, where she acquired the fashion knowledge she needed.
Once she became Depop's CEO, it didn't take Maria long to get into the swing of things and excel at her position. Large and in charge, Maria's CEO focus remained on the company's finances. From experience, Maria knew that no company can thrive with a lack of funds. However, in just three years, Raga's efforts paid off and she managed to double the brand's employees from 30 to 60. Overachiever alert!
Raga didn't mind connecting with the brand's two million users in the slightest. In fact, she was well-aware that through providing refined customer support, she would ensure Depop's longevity and innovation on the online market - for decades to come!
One thing is certain in Depop's success story - it made vintage shopping and selling simple, practical, and most of all, fun!
And yet, far from its vision to build a virtual marketplace for all buyers, sellers and genuine lovers of vintage items, Depop also offered a platform that basically serves the idea of owning your own online business on a plate.
That's why every aspiring entrepreneur looks at Depop's success story with admiration!