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Steering Etsy’s Future

Dec 15, 2014

by Chad Dickerson

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

The life of every company is marked with milestones. We reached a new one lately at Etsy that I wanted to tell you about: we’ve had two changes on our Board of Directors, a departure and an addition, that say a lot about how far we’ve come and how well-positioned we are to extend Etsy’s reach in the world.

How We Got Here

Since Etsy’s founding in 2005, we’ve grown from the sketch of an idea to a global community of more than 40 million members and 600-plus employees. At Etsy, our success is the direct result of the hard work and dedication of our seller community and everyone at Etsy who makes the company work every day.

We have also benefited tremendously from the contributions of Caterina Fake, an imaginative entrepreneur, and cofounder of Flickr and Hunch, who joined Etsy’s board in 2006 and recruited me to Etsy two years later. The early inspiration for Etsy’s community spirit and sense of design came largely from Caterina’s work. In Etsy’s earliest days, Rob Kalin, Etsy’s founder, wrote to Caterina inviting her to create one of the very first “treasuries,” and noting that many of Flickr’s principles inspired early Etsy. Caterina has been a mentor and a close friend since we first worked together at Salon.com back in the late 1990s. Caterina has recently co-founded Sesat School and joined the Rare Cancer Research Foundation. Her latest creation is an inspired app called Findery that allows people to share stories about places by leaving notes tagged to geographic locations. After serving eight years on Etsy’s board, she decided in July to step down to focus on family, cancer research, and doing what she does best: guiding startups and putting them on a solid path to success.

Caterina was instrumental in guiding Etsy from its early days to the present, starting when Etsy was just the four founders. She became Chairman of the Board in 2009, and in four years’ time gross merchandise sales grew from less than a couple hundred million in 2009 to $1.35 billion in 2013. During her tenure, Caterina recruited many executives and employees to the company, provided product guidance, and championed our work to maintain and expand on our commitment to being a values-based business, helping us to become a Certified B Corp in 2012.

We are grateful to Caterina for her service and her Etsy spirit. I can’t thank her enough for her contributions. Caterina will always be a friend of Etsy and we look forward to seeing her on her visits to Brooklyn.

In Caterina’s own words:

“In eight years I’ve seen how much the company has grown, how much art has been created, how many businesses have flourished. I’m happy and sad. Happy that we’ve come so far, and created so much that is good. And leaving the board means that, more often than not, the 100+ page documents I read will be written by Proust or Knausgaard, and will not contain spreadsheets. But not being Chairwoman of something so special, so vast and good? Sad. Nonetheless, at this point it’s impossible to get Etsy out of my life. I hang out with Etsy employees, wear Etsy clothes, eat from Etsy dishes, play an Etsy guitar, and wash my hair with Etsy shampoo.”

I’ll be succeeding Caterina in the position of Chairman.

Where We’re Headed

Just before Caterina stepped down, we were fortunate to welcome Michele Burns to Etsy’s Board. Michele has a long and impressive resume: she was previously the CEO of Mercer, the global human resources and financial services company, and before that was CFO of Delta Airlines and EVP/CFO of Marsh & McLennan. Michele is on the boards of Cisco Systems, Goldman Sachs Group, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Circle Internet Financial, a digital currency company that makes it easy to use bitcoin.

Michele is a seasoned voice on Etsy’s board. The experience she brings to the table is well-suited for all of us at Etsy at this juncture for many reasons. Here are three:

  • Michele is a strong female leader who understands our passion to build a people-powered economy that fosters small business growth and entrepreneurship. She identifies with the mission of economic empowerment at Etsy, where the majority of our sellers are women. Diversity is a core value at Etsy that applies to our Board as well as to the people who build our platform.
  • Michele is a battle-tested leader. As CFO of Delta during 9/11 and the head of Mercer, Michele has immense practical experience running companies, and she knows a lot about how to lead and manage teams. That experience will be a big asset to Etsy.
  • Michele understands both traditional and emerging commerce models. She was previously on the board of Walmart and has a keen sense of what lies ahead.  That insight, and her interest in the marketplace as it evolves, is why she’s on the board of a company that’s helping to build a market for bitcoin, and now Etsy, a new kind of model and marketplace.

The other thing you should know about Michele is that in addition to being deeply accomplished, thoughtful and professional, she’s down to earth and fun to work with. I’m grateful to long-time Board member Jim Breyer for introducing us to Michele, and have already benefited from her insight.

“I’m excited to join Etsy’s Board and to help grow a company that brings together the collective creative forces of makers and merchants to create value and economic empowerment for many. I look forward to the days ahead,” Michele shared.

Preserving and Strengthening the Etsy Way

Etsy has come a long way from its humble roots in an apartment in Fort Greene. In 2009, we moved from our quirky office on three floors to a bigger space in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. We hit another milestone this year when we announced a new commitment to growing Etsy here in Brooklyn, where we signed a lease to move to a new location in 2016 that will seat almost twice as many people as our current local staff of 350 employees.

Our leadership is evolving as well. I’m confident that Michele will be a wise steward for Etsy and a partner to me as we scale and grow, and as our community grows with us. I look forward to working with Michele in the coming year and beyond.