Fab CEO to entrepreneurs: learn to break up with a bad idea

Design-centric commerce site is going global in a big way. In a blog post today, the company announced that it is now available in 13 more European countries, bringing its worldwide total to 16 countries.

“Design is a universal language. It’s a lifestyle,” the company said on its blog. “Great design exists in every country and in every region of the world. An essential part of our vision is to help people everywhere benefit from great design.”

Less than a year after its launch last June, Fab is on track to become something of a phenomenon. The site, which attracted 1.5 million users in its first six months, is nearing 4 million members today, said CEO and co-founder Jason Goldberg at Business Insider’s Startup 2012 conference today.

Given the recent buzz around the value of design and the beautification of the web (think Facebook Timeline, the Path re-launch and, of course, Instagram), Fab’s mission is very on trend. But Goldberg said the dual drivers behind Fab’s growth are social and mobile. About 50 percent of Fab’s membership comes from social sharing (about 20-40 percent of daily referrals are from Facebook and 2 percent are from Pinterest), he said. Ahead of its conference, Business Insider reported that 35 to 40 percent of’s traffic comes from mobile apps.

And, recent stats on repeat purchase rates suggest that Fab is building a strong community. About 50 percent of members make a second purchase, and about one third of members make a third purchase, Goldberg said. The company said repeat purchasers make up two-thirds of each week’s purchases.

This year, the company is expected to make upwards of $100 million in revenue, and Goldberg said it can be profitable in the U.S. whenever it chooses. However, he added, that won’t be this year.

For now, he said, their focus is on building a long-term business and making Fab synonymous with design. But, he acknowledged that Fab’s mission wasn’t always so clear.

Before launching the current version of Fab, he and his co-founder spent a year trying to launch a gay social network. They raised $2 million and tried creating a product that would work. But when they realized that they weren’t succeeding — and weren’t having fun to boot — they wasted little time switching gears. They had an hour-long conversation with each board member, a 20-minute board meeting formalizing the decision and, the very next day, they shut down their original site.

Goldberg’s ultimate lesson to entrepreneurs: “If you spend a year on something and you haven’t figured it out, move on to something else… You can’t iterate your way to a business model.”