Jessica Lee had been a product manager at Google for four years when a friend showed her a then-new site called Polyvore that let users mix-and-match different products to make digital collages.
Lee quickly got addicted to making her own collages (or “sets,” in Polyvore lingo), but felt frustrated that the site didn’t offer some of the features she wanted. So, she wrote a note to the cofounders — three ex-Yahoo engineers — jam-packed with praise, but also complaints and product suggestions.
“And they wrote back and said, ‘Why don’t you come fix these things yourself?” Lee tells Business Insider. “They said, ‘Why don’t you come work here?'”
So she did. For her, a job at Polyvore promised that she would get to work with her two favourite things: Art and tech. (Lee had wanted to go to art school, but her parents convinced her to study computer science at Stanford, instead.)
That was seven years ago. Since, Lee was awarded honorary-cofounder status and became CEO in 2012. Polyvore has been profitable for nearly three years, has more than 20 million unique users every month, and is one of the largest referrers of social commerce traffic on the web, driving more retail sales than Pinterest and Twitter combined.
Here’s an example of some user-created sets on Polyvore (Lee said she’s noticed an outcropping of “pastel goth” themed sets lately):
Lee couldn’t give many specific details about Polyvore’s upcoming updates yet, but promised that there’s some interesting things on the horizon, including even more focus on personalisation mobile (at this point, 50% of sets are created through the site’s app).
Polyvore is based in San Francisco, but Lee was visiting the company’s smaller New York City office to celebrate fashion week with some of the site’s community members.
“It was so amazing getting to meet all these artistic, passionate people,” Lee says.