Learning From Etsy's Artisanal Startup Expansion

At a time when websites are valued in the tens of billions of dollars and banks are rushing to make new companies public, Etsy is a uniquely level-headed startup.

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At a time when websites are valued in the tens of billions of dollars and banks are rushing to make new companies public, Etsy is a uniquely level-headed startup. According to The New York Times' Jenna Wortham, the New York-based arts and crafts marketplace secured a new round of $40 million in funding on Wednesday, money it plans to use not simply to grow but to grow sustainably. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson said that his company will hire more community managers and open offices abroad. Australia and Canada are likely locations. But this new chapter in the nearly seven year-old company's history sounds like more than a push to make more money.

"We believe, more than ever, that Etsy can help fundamentally change the way the world works by making it possible for individuals to make and sell things to other people around the globe -- a people-powered economy," Dickerson said in a blog post. "We also want to make sure we are operating Etsy with sound principles that we can be proud of as we continue to grow. In other words, we want to talk the talk and walk the walk."

The most assertive way that Etsy is behaving like a model startup is through earning its Certified B Corporation status. Run by the non-profit B Lab, B Corporation certification describes each of the companies in its network as "a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems." To win the certification, companies have to meet and maintain high standards for environmental sustainability and corporate accountability towards not only its employees but also its stakeholders and customers. A company earning B Corp status is not dissimilar to a food product earning Certified Organic status.

Etsy joining the ranks of the B Corps is notable not only for the connotation of the commitment but also its scale. Last month, Etsy sold $65 million in goods and maintains a community of 875,000 sellers and 15 million registered members. By becoming a B Corp, Etsy is committing to protecting those buyers and sellers are protected and being transparent about how it does so.

"I think becoming a Certified B Corporation is one of the most important things Etsy has ever done," Dickerson said. "It helps us keep an eye on the 'mindful, transparent, and humane' values we aspire to, and also keeps us focused on our intention to 'plan and build for the long term,' not just when it comes to Etsy but for the world at large." And with that $40 million in the bank, Etsy ought to be able to keep watch more easily than ever.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.