Updated from Jan. 8th to include launch date and news on Etsy's initial public offering in the eleventh paragraph.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bradford Shellhammer, co-founder of the online retail site Fab, is taking another stab at e-commerce as he tries to go up against the likes of Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report , eBay (EBAY) - Get Report or others. But this time, he's taking a new approach: less numbers and more "ethos."
Shellhammer's new venture, Bezar, launched today after having raised $2.25 million in a round led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures. Bezar, named for the phonetic spelling of both "bizarre" and "bazaar," will be an online marketplace for off-the-beaten path products from small designers you wouldn't find on Amazon, eBay or even fab.com. The mission is to provide a space for those struggling to keep up with today's fast-paced world of retail and to be a champion for unique, if slightly bizarre, design.
Those who know Shellhammer will not be surprised at the role that he is taking on with Bezar. In grade school, Shellhammer's nickname was "Brand name Brad," and he spent much of his college career working in retail. He also proudly dares to be different with a unique wardrobe that today includes a polka-dotted shirt, polka-dotted jacket, and polka-dotted tie--each in different colors.
"Honestly I just happened into this startup and technology world, but I'm really just a glorified retail salesperson," Shellhammer told TheStreet.
Nonetheless, Shellhammer thinks he has what it takes to tackle the e-commerce world largely controlled by Amazon. He jokes that running Fab taught him more than he'd ever learn getting an MBA, but what really gives him the confidence to go up against Amazon is the desire to create a world where consumers own unique clothing, furniture, and art, as opposed to the world he grew up in during the 90s, where "everyone owned the same Abercrombie shirt."
Shellhammer firmly believes that there is a need for Bezar -- He sees Amazon as more of a technology company that enables consumers to get necessities like toothpaste or notebooks quickly delivered to their home. "But it's not a shopping experience where you buy a necklace for an anniversary or a piece of art to hang above a sofa," he explained.
That's the kind of market Bezar is going after, with categories like home, art, accessories, and jewelry. "Bezar will never sell a product that is on Amazon or eBay," Shellhammer promised. "The products we will sell are not appropriate for Amazon."
RSRResearch analyst Paula Rosenberg agrees that Bezar is in a whole different ballpark compared to Amazon.
"Amazon is the exact opposite [of Bezar]," she said in an email. "It's an almost infinite assortment of 'stuff.' All kinds of stuff. And so you'll go there not to browse, but with a specific intention to find something you want, at a presumably low price, with very reliable and fast delivery."
On the other hand, consumers will visit Bezar, not with a specific product in mind, but with the goal of discovering an exclusive, curated piece of art.
While peer-to-peer e-commerce site Etsy (which recently filed go to public) may offer a similar concept, Shellhammer claims that, like Amazon, it fails to show appropriate regard for designers' intellectual property, lacking authenticity and selling knockoffs or copies next to originals.
While Amazon is trying to get items to you ever faster, Bezar is taking a much different approach. Once an order is placed on Bezar, the company will then place an order with the vendor; there will be no stock inventory. That means that it could take as long as 12 days to receive an order.
But Shellhammer isn't worried that this will detract from the appeal of ordering a unique, handmade product. "There's great power in the message of 'You're buying something that's going to take a while to make,'" he explained. "I think there is a large group of people out there who don't want the easiest, quickest thing."
While he may be taking a bet on consumer demand, Shellhammer is positive that there is a demand from the vendor side, having received endless emails from designers looking to sell on Bezar within moments of announcing the new venture.
"The thing that's really driving us is there's a need to help this one community, the design community," Shellhammer said. "Because of how big box retail works they can't compete and are constantly taken advantage of by big companies. I'm inspired by local food and craft beer companies that have disrupted different markets. Beer consumption's up in the U.S., but traditional companies are still down because there are independent breweries grabbing market share. I want to be the force that helps designers do that with things like jewelry and textiles and art and personal accessories."