The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: London local, Nicole Vanderbilt — February 10, 2013

Interview: London local, Nicole Vanderbilt

This week, David Iwanow chats to Nicole Vanderbilt, the Etsy Country Manager for UK, Australia and Canada.


Can you please introduce yourself and how did you become involved with Etsy?

My name is Nicole Vanderbilt, and I joined Etsy back in September after spending two years running a UK-based internet startup in the home decor and interior design space. It was during this time that I learned about Etsy and watched it grow in the early stages. I’d always admired Etsy’s strong focus on the seller community and the incredible company culture born out of a unique combination of world class engineers and incredible creative talent. It was my first choice as the next place to work by quite a large margin. I count myself lucky daily that it worked out.

Your role is Country Director, can you explain exactly what that entails?

My role is to make our local in country teams successful, and we are very fortunate that our success and our sellers’ success is pretty much one and the same. More specifically, our country teams work on introducing Etsy to new buyers and sellers, ensuring that the site reflects the needs of the local market while maintaining its strength as a global platform, and supporting, educating and empowering our sellers. They are our biggest asset. A lot of times our job is give them what they need and get out of the way!

How do you stay on top of changes in trends and competitors? Do you prefer online or offline sources?

I think the key is to listen to our buyers and sellers. They are our best source of intel – what they want, what they need, what other things they are finding that they love and that help them run their business, enjoy what they do and make a difference to their lives.

Do you have any tips for readers who would love to work for or with Etsy? Via internships, partnerships, employees?

Get in touch, be creative, don’t assume that we have it all already figured out.

What is your favourite section/product on Etsy? What about it makes it #1 in your heart?

It’s impossible to choose just one. What I love about Etsy is that I can find things that make me laugh, that are beautiful, and that I can use every day. My current obsession is vintage French coffee cups. They seem to be the perfect size for the amount of coffee I need. And, for a while I couldn’t get enough of notebooks. I like finding small ways to make the every day a little less boring.

What is the best or most unique item you have found on Etsy that you had to have/share?

“Most unique” is a fierce fight on Etsy. I loved this when I discovered it because it made me giggle and remember a funny story about high school science class which I never thought would be captured in knit! And, I can barely get through a conversation with a female friend without trying to get her to consider buying a pair of these. The perfect ballet flat, made by a real person, from recycled/upcycled leather, at a good price. There are different colours and fabrics – a little something for everyone.

etsy-homepageEtsy’s current homepage

How does Australia market differ from other regions? Do we buy more products produced locally or globally?

Around the world on Etsy, we find a lot of cross-border purchases happening. It’s exciting to be on the first truly global marketplaces (even the big global Internet retailers mostly silo off each country and try to limit cross-country shopping). By contrast, we are thrilled to be able to help a Latvian rug maker reach customers around the world directly from her workshop and to help an Australian buyer find something from abroad that simply isn’t available locally. It’s good for the business and it’s great for the buyers and sellers involved.

Australia is a strong market for us on both the seller and buyer side. There’s a strong domestic market here and a strong cross-border trade. I think probably the biggest difference is that Australians seem to be even more accustomed to purchasing things from overseas than some of our other markets.

I was interested to discover Adam Savage of Mythbusters loves Etsy, what local celebrities do you know of that love Etsy?

What’s so great about Etsy is lots of different people love it – from Martha Stewart to Tavi to Adam Savage. Locally, we know Lisa Mitchell is a fan.

What recent social changes have you seen that you are excited about? Facebook Search Graph?

I’ll be a bit contrarian here. I am not that interested in more different types of search. Don’t get me wrong, I use Google as much as anyone else, and I am keen for search to work and work well. But, the gap remains in helping people who don’t know exactly know what they are looking for or how to put it into words. How do we help people find relevant inspiration and recreate the same experience that a gallery or boutique offers in the real world – where you can wander around visually, rather than just cutting straight to the chase? The social graph will be a part of this, but we are only really at the beginning.

What are some some home grown winners you think are doing Etsy right?

Australian has a very wide variety of fantastic sellers. Some businesses who are really taking advantage of Etsy’s global platform include wall decal designer, stationery team, wedding accessory designer and homewares designer

Do you have any advice for Australians wanting to launch their products on Etsy? Types of products?

The great thing about Etsy is the wide variety of things that sell and sell well. Our biggest categories our things like jewellery, fashion, weddings and vintage, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful selling a furniture, food, or toys.

The key to success is making your shop look great – the product photography, your shop banner, the way all the products look together on the page. Also ensuring that buyers can find you by using great product titles, tags and descriptions with words that people might use to search for your products.

Do you have anything exclusive to share with The Fetch readers on what is coming soon?

We will continue to support our sellers in becoming successful. We are constantly looking for ways we can make this process better and easier for buyers and sellers. So, nothing to announce at the moment but there is plenty in the works to help achieve these goals.

Editor’s note: We’re please to share Nicole will be joining us at our next dinner conversation for The Fetch Melbourne this month! Stay tuned for more events and news from creative companies and startups via

About our Ambassador David Iwanow: David can be found working as a SEO Product Manager for and in Amsterdam. He is an avid traveler and publishes on TravelNetwork but he is also one of the folks behind the monthly SEO Meetups, which have almost 2,000 members across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.You can also find him on TwitterFacebook and Google+.

Interview: Melbourne Local, Ruslan Kogan — June 30, 2012

Interview: Melbourne Local, Ruslan Kogan

This week Kate and Community Ambassador David Iwanow, chat to Australia’s richest person under the age of 30, Ruslan Kogan, about entrepreneurship, education, retail, Melbourne, Tall Poppy Syndrome and what’s next…

Name: Ruslan Kogan
Website: and
Twitter: @ruslankogan

What was your first job?

I’ve run about 20 businesses since the age of 10. My very first one was collecting stray golf balls from Elsternwick Golf Course, taking them home, cleaning and polishing them, putting them in egg cartons and selling them back to golfers at 50 cents a pop.

What happened to some of the businesses you started before Kogan took off, did you just let them lapse or will you get back to them one day?

A lot of the businesses were ventures that interested me at the time, but they weren’t long term passions like Kogan is. These ventures go all the way back, including the golf balls, a car wash business I ran where I ended up hiring my first ever employees, and a web design business in high school.

I found a sweet spot with Kogan and I absolutely love what I’m doing. I can’t picture myself doing anything else.

How did studying at Monash shape your career path?

I’m not a fan of formal education. Although I completed my degree whilst being on a scholarship and receiving a high distinction average, I still maintain that you don’t actually learn anything at uni.

At uni, you learn how to learn.

At Kogan, when we hire people that have a uni degree, all it tells us is that they know how to learn, read and write in English, and they’re capable of meeting deadlines.

At Kogan, we have a strong philosophy that we never send our staff to formal training. Formal training is for people who want to look like they’re learning. Google is for people who want to learn.

What is the favourite retail battle you have had to date?

Kogan is changing the face of Australian retail. I don’t think we’ve had any battles, because the benefits of shopping at Kogan speak for themselves.

We are also a company that says it how it is and we don’t hold back. I think this is why people must think we’re in some sort of battle. It’s very clear that online shopping will continue to get bigger and bigger and existing players in the marketplace need to adapt to this.

The competitive advantage for the existing players used to be that they were the only shops located near their customers. This is no longer the case, as anyone can order from anywhere in the world now.

I think Charles Darwin’s explanation of evolution also applies to the changes we’re seeing in the retail world: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

You’re a master of self-promotion – how important is putting yourself out there for entrepreneurs?

We never consciously try to promote ourselves. One thing we do, is we speak the truth.

There is so little truth in the media these days that the moment you say things how they actually are, every journalist wants to listen and publish it.

For instance, the way you proactively contacted me asking for this interview was a primary example of this.

Also, over 90% of businesses fail within their first year of operation. This means that any business that is currently in business, is having an influence in the world. They should not be shy in telling their story.

What do you think of Tall Poppy Syndrome?

Tall Poppy Syndrome is alive and well in Australia. It’s unfortunate, but something we have to live with. I’ve learned to take it as a compliment. Nobody hates someone they’ve never heard of, so I’d rather be hated than ignored.

If you look at our media, the businessman is always portrayed as the evil guy, sitting in his penthouse smoking a cigar, running the pharmaceutical company, etc. We sometimes forget to acknowledge that behind every product/service that enhances our lives is an entrepreneur losing sleep, thinking about how to make the product/service better for the consumer. This applies to everything we use – the computer you’re using to write this article, the coffee you just drank and the car you drive. Behind each of those is an entrepreneur working 24 hour days to figure out how to make it better.

It’s thanks to Henry Ford’s pursuit of profit that cars are cheaper, to Richard Branson’s pursuit of profit that flights are cheaper for everyone, and it’s thanks to Kerry Packer’s pursuit of profit that we have one day cricket. Finally, it’s thanks to Steve Job’s pursuit of profit that my mum has been able to send a text message from her phone for the first time ever.

You are fairly active in the tech blog space, why do you think other retail heads appear scared to offer an public opinion on blogs?

It’s simple, ‘we’re nobody’s bitch’.

We are a direct to consumer manufacturer. The only people we are trying to please is our customers. We can say things exactly how they are. We don’t need to keep our channel partners and distributors happy and run everything we say past them. We are our own sustained end-to-end business. This puts us in a unique position and allows us to preach exactly what we stand for.

You are located in Melbourne – what do you think being based here offers over other cities like Sydney?

I’ve travelled around the world many times over, but no matter how far I travel, I still think Melbourne is the best city in the world. I couldn’t think of being located anywhere else. The great thing about running a company that is internet based and takes advantage of cloud technologies, is that you can run it from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. The internet means that an email takes the same amount of time from South Melbourne to Albert Park as it does from South Melbourne to Palo Alto.

You’re almost 30, what is some open advice you give to those under 30?

I have a lot of young entrepreneurs contact me all the time asking for my opinion on their business ideas.

I run every idea past two tests, which I think determine if a business will be successful: What is your competitive advantage? And what is your value add to the consumer?

Any business that can clearly articulate these two will be a successful business. Some young entrepreneurs have ideas that meet this criteria and I tell them they’re onto a winner.

Often when I see this person six months later, I ask them how their business is going, and the most common answer is ‘which business?’ I find that a lot are good at discussing their business plan but only a handful actually make it happen. The best business advice is printed on Nike t-shirts: ‘Just Do It!’.

What’s next for Kogan and Ruslan Kogan?

For me, the goal always remains the same. The most important thing for me is personal happiness. I’ll always be doing what makes me happy. I can’t think of anything that would make me happier than running Kogan and seeing the company grow from strength to strength.

On the Kogan front, the goal is very clear, we want to make kogan a worldwide household brand within the next 5 years. We think technology can make the world a better place, and the way we’re going to achieve this is by making the latest technology more affordable for everyone. We’re constantly expanding our product range and the geographies in which we operate.

About our Ambassador David Iwanow: David can be found working as a SEO Product Manager for and in Amsterdam. He is an avid traveler and publishes on TravelNetwork but he is also one of the folks behind the monthly SEO Meetups, which have almost 2,000 members across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.You can also find him on TwitterFacebook and Google+.

Event Review: What I learnt at SMX Sydney — May 29, 2012

Event Review: What I learnt at SMX Sydney

This is an event review by David Iwanow from Search Marketing Expo in Sydney – an event about all things search that took place a few weeks ago. 

Having spent most of last week sitting in the Sofitel at SMX Sydney learning about what is changing or maturing in digital marketing, I had a few insights on what is working and what is not. The conference had a large number of international speakers from the US, which is great as any changes in social, SEO or PPC are first launched overseas – sometimes a few years before we see them in Australia. I did notice how Australian conferences/events are different to similar events overseas and here are some insights on what I saw.

Social Sharing

People like short hashtags and consistency, the official conference hashtag for Twitter was #omxsydney12 but the one that I found easily to use and more popular was the #SMX one. Compared to US/UK conferences/events, I’ve found the social activity is much lower in Australia and often non-existent during smaller events.

So the tip is to make sure your hashtags are short and easy to remember but also that they are regularly promoted between speakers and during the conference venue to increase attendee adoption of them. Also look at encouraging attendees via rewards. This could be for those who tweeted the most conference images, uploaded the most videos or became Foursquare mayor of the conference venue during the week. You want as much social activity as possible happening during your conferences/events so people know how much they missed out on by not being there.

Social Checkins

The conference session was filled with a number of industry people who are heavy users of Foursquare and Facebook Places but found a very small percentage of attendees were using these platforms regularly. There is also lower use of social checkins by international speakers who may not see the data roaming charges of $5/MB as worth it. The insight is to encourage attendees to use social checkin services and offer rewards as it spreads the reach of your conference/event but also encourages networking outside of official events during the conference.

WiFi Access

This is something about a large number of power boards that is expected by attendees – with SMX also having little or no issues with WiFi access at the venue. The only item learnt was that some venues need to examine how they provide access as bandwidth can be quickly consumed by a room full of people sharing and broadcasting via multiple social platforms. The insight is to ensure your conference/event venue has enough capacity to deal with every attendee being on more than one device at a time, the one area not to cut corners is WiFi if you want attendees to stay happy.

Networking Events

The best insights and discussions often happen once the day has ended over a cold beer when both the attendees and presenters have a chance to unwind and can have more off the record discussions. There is less of a concern that every statement will be instantly tweeted or blogged when the person they are speaking to has a drink in one hand and a handful of chips in the other. If you are attending conferences you need to ensure that you make time to visit one or two of the after-hours networking events if you want to get the most out of your time there. There also needs to be a suitable mix of events that are suitable for attendees who are not drinking but also those who like to let their hair down and run wild.

Presentation Decks

The key part is that most presenters are more willing to share links to their slide decks but you also want to ensure you are ready to jot down notes as some of the best insights come from responses to audience questions or jabs back at other speakers. There are an increasing number of presenters using platforms like SlideShare but still a majority of them still only share links to their decks on their personal websites.

Be Positive and Introduce Others

The biggest insight I got this time was just how many people may not know each other just because you have connections in common. Take a few minutes out to make sure that you introduce people when you are hanging with but also take an extra step and make some one-on-one introductions to key people within the industry that should know each other. I believe the days of hoarding connections at conferences and not disclosing how you know each other is slowing dying off as people can easily see your social connections and there is more value in making stronger connections.

Promotion of Events/Conferences

No matter what you budget is there are always people in your target market who managed to miss the news or fail to book far enough ahead so they are able to take time away from work to attend. The key insight here is to encourage organisers of local meetup groups, industry evangelists and strong networkers to help you promote the upcoming events. The benefit is personal referrals and recommendations to attend an event hold much more weight than a bulk email newsletter broadcast out to your previous attendees.

Stay on Top of Events

There are a number of easy ways to keep ahead of trends such as subscribing to The Fetch, Twitter Hashtags, Linkedin Groups and dynamic options like a Twitter list of popular speakers in your industry. So if you are attending or planning an upcoming conference, I hope this list gives you some insights on how to make sure it’s a success and the attendees get the most out of it. Also if you are attending a conference take a few minutes out to tweet/share something of insight from the conference as a thank you for all their hardwork that went into delivering the conference.

About our Ambassador:  About our Ambassador David Iwanow: David can be found working as a SEO Product Manager for and in Amsterdam. He is an avid traveler and publishes on TravelNetwork but he is also one of the folks behind the monthly SEO Meetups, which have almost 2,000 members across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook and Google+.

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