Techstars-backed Pickie Unveils Redesign, Targets Women With Flipboard-Style Shopping Experience

The “Flipboard of shopping” CEO talks about how pitching to male investors affected the app’s direction–and how the company is engineering a course correction through design.

Since graduating as one of the more promising startups out of the Techstars accelerator, Pickie, which is often referred to as the Flipboard for shopping, has grown to “tens of thousands of users,” according to cofounder and CEO Sonia Sahney Nagar. That growth is far from stellar, considering the free service has been on the market for roughly a year–and the company has started to rethink its focus.


Toward that end, today the startup unveiled a redesign of its iPad app, which aims to attract more of its target demographic: women. While Pickie has always marketed to women, its initial app also went after men, despite not being very popular among males. “We were spreading ourselves too thin,” Nagar says. “We were in too many categories–men’s fashion, this gadget section–and we hadn’t completely defined our user.”

Now, with a small team and $1 million in funding, Pickie’s offerings have been streamlined–an elegant shopping experience that has been simplified and refined.

When Pickie first launched, it aimed to be a catalog-like shopping experience that personalized its offerings based on your tastes and social recommendations. You could flip through beautiful images and purchase items online–much in the vein of services like Pinterest and The Fancy. But as some reviews pointed out, it felt as if Pickie was trying to do too much. The new version of Pickie’s app has been narrowed down. Extraneous categories have been nixed; the interface is cleaner, emphasizing beautiful photography and a more magazine-like experience that focuses on three categories: fashion, beauty, and home products. What’s more, socially delivered content has been augmented with editorial content, providing higher-quality curation from a small army of fashion bloggers.

Nagar says the pared-down experience is something the startup should have focused on earlier–especially as a means of attacking the startup’s core audience, rather than trying to make it more accessible to other potential users. “We knew women were using it–95% of our engaged users who would spend over an hour in the app were all women,” says Nagar, a former senior product manager at Amazon. “I feel like we were straddling this middle ground of having this app that we hoped would somewhat appeal to men, so it diluted the clear value proposition to women.”

The Pickie team traces the costly mistake back to its funding. Nagar only pitched to a handful of female VCs–but mostly pitched to men. “We knew all along that women were our target, but I think when we were fundraising, it was scarier to go into the meeting and be like, ‘All right, you as a male investor, there is nothing in this app that’s going to appeal to you,'” Nagar recalls. “Whereas when we showed men the gadget and book section, I think it helped us get funding. I tried to be smart about who the audience was when we were pitching–in some ways, there were adjustments we made when pitching men versus women.”

Now, however, the company has to focus on user acquisition. “We had some mentors early on who told us to double down on women, and we didn’t listen to them–they were like, ‘Don’t even let men into the app!'” Nagar recalls. “What we’ve done with the redesign is double down on women, the categories they cared about, and then optimize everything in the design for that.”

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.