The concept of Etsy is fascinating to me. As it brings handcrafted and original products to the vastness that is the Internet, it is an irony in itself. On April 16, Etsy expanded the irony even further by going public, with each share starting at $31. Now, the concept of Etsy fascinates me even further because I cannot help but wonder if it can maintain its original purpose and remain a public company simultaneously.
Usually, watching small companies grow and go public brings some sort of capitalist happiness to me. It demonstrates that one can start slow and make it big, but why do I not feel the same way for Etsy? I think this is because Etsy never stood for capitalist happiness, but pure happiness despite mass production and unoriginality. Going public synonymizes itself with a growth that is so contradictory to this company’s original intentions and the concept of handicrafts.
Etsy does not seem to be concerned by this. They have reserved 5 percent of their shares for their community and have certified that shareholders understand that the concerns of this company are more than just profit. In fact, in its 10 years of existence, Etsy has never made a profit. While this does keep the spirit of the company alive, it raises a lot of business-related concerns.
Nobody needs to be a genius to know that when a company goes public, what starts to matter the most is making a profit — it all becomes about the performance of the company, the number of shareholders and the value of every share. To fulfill these concerns, the company relies on image and publicity. If Etsy’s image relies on its deviation from a capitalist machine of manufacture, will it be able to maintain the integrity of its store? Probably.
Given that the entire success of Etsy relies on its differentiation from online shopping centers such as Amazon and EBay, I want to believe that the previously non-profit company will work hard to maintain its dedication to handicrafts and to its community. If it fails to do so, Etsy will become commonplace, and this mundane state will bring the company down. As it has been doing for a few years, maybe Etsy will extend irony to Wall Street, too. If shares are a division of a company’s soul, maybe for Etsy, it is the distribution of the soul, a way to extend its ideology to the country and show that their handcrafted products can be as successful as mass-produced items.
Sadly, Etsy’s shares immediately dropped in value after their opening. Does this prove that Etsy is not cut out for the capitalist world it is trying to make a mark upon? Possibly, but moreover, it proves that the world is not ready for Etsy. Our society is not in the state to understand that humans are a unique selling point in the modernized era of today. It does not understand that the slightly crooked stitch in a t-shirt and the singular design in a jewelry box are not “hipster” or “avant-garde,” but they are instead appreciation. Appreciating a human being’s skills and resolve to create something that has a story and a sentiment behind it is something that is imperative to do, so as to not cave into the machines and their steel-y way of eliminating the essence of originality in creation.
Can I guarantee Etsy is steering away from its image of originality? No, but I can guarantee that if it does, it will cease to be Etsy and hence cease to make the impact it intended to make. Only profits a year from now will be able to certify the route this company chose to take, but I hope Etsy realizes that steering clear from its uniqueness is not only caving into the mass production it fights strongly against, but also dimming any hint of hope we can have that originality and human effort over machinery will once again be appreciated.