Wed, Mar 02, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Handmade in Taiwan

New start-up Web site Pinkoi seeks to give Taiwanese independent designers an e-commerce platform that will bring them global exposure

by Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Like Etsy, Pinkoi has various ways to search listings, so shopping feels like a treasure hunt. One way that Pinkoi is different from Etsy, however, is that Pinkoi’s creators see it as a social networking site in addition to an e-commerce platform. Shoppers have the option of logging onto Pinkoi with their Facebook accounts, while sellers can create a “My Pinkoi” page for their own profiles. All users can share their favorite items and ask other Pinkoi users for suggestions.

“We want customers to make friends with designers easily and create a community with them,” Mike Lee says.

The Pinkoi team’s marketing efforts have taken them to events like last year’s Taiwan Design Expo (台灣設計博覽會) and San Francisco’s Renegade Craft Fair. This year they plan to attend an exhibition in Shanghai.

The site is currently open only to designers who work in Taiwan, but the Pinkoi team will eventually invite vendors from other countries, including China. They say that Pinkoi staffers will continue to carefully review vendor applications as the site expands, in part to ensure that mass-produced items aren’t being passed off as handmade, a problem that plagues Etsy (which does not have an application process for sellers). Yen also promises that the site will continue to spotlight Taiwanese brands as it pursues an international market.

“We are going to do it carefully and let people know that we are not going to use designers from other countries to overshadow what we have locally,” Yen says.

The Pinkoi team is still talking with potential investors — none of the three founders currently draws a salary for working on the Web site and the project is financed with their savings. Yen is confident about the start-up’s long-term financial viability, but says that the Pinkoi team sees the Web site as more than a profit-making venture.

“We are kind of like evangelists, telling designers to believe in what they are doing and enjoy what they do,” Yen says. “We can work together to establish the value of design and, more than that, establish the value of Taiwan.”

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