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Why This Curated Market for Indie Hardware Is Gaining Traction

Grand St., a curator of independently made electronics and related gear, is one of the few channels to tackle the sprawling maker marketplace.
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What it is
Grand St. is a curator and marketplace for independently made electronics and related gear. The eight-person New York-based company handpicks and tests items, selling only the best ones, which range from devices for the connected home to charging cables and portable power sources.

The website sells more than 200 products, many of which--like the video game-inspired Question Block Lamp and the Nomiku sous vide cooking immersion circulator--were launched through successful crowdfunding campaigns. 

How it started
Founders Amanda Peyton, Joe Lallouz and Aaron Henshaw originally set out to build a home device. But they soon recognized that there was no good market at which to sell it.

"Instead of building a single product, we wanted to build a resource for the entire [maker] movement," Peyton says. They launched Grand St. in early 2013 on a budget of just $50,000 scraped together from friends and family members. By April they had received $1.3 million in seed funding from First Round Capital.

Why it took off
Grand St. positioned itself as one of the few channels around that would tackle the sprawling maker marketplace by vetting and distributing products from new companies. The approach created a groundswell of interest among gadget fans.

"Over the past few months we have built our community up to more than 200,000 members, and we really think that there's an audience of millions of people who have an appetite for these types of products but need someone to prove that they're legit," Peyton says.

The business case
Grand St. takes a cut of 30 to 50 percent on each item sold. "We generally take a standard retail margin," Peyton says, pointing out that this covers everything from photography to warehousing to processing sales and shipping.

What's next
In February the company rolled out a marketplace where independent manufacturers can post products to the website while managing distribution and order fulfillment themselves, minus Grand St.'s rigorous testing and marketing support. This slashes Grand St.'s commission to 8 percent. Says Peyton, "We want to make it so that anyone with a product that fits our criteria can list on Grand St."