The site was launched in 2005 by iospace, a small company composed of Robert Kalin, Chris Maguire, and Haim Schoppik. The initial version had taken two and a half months to build. Later Jared Tarbell joined the team. Former NPR executive Maria Thomas joined as COO in 2008, was promoted to CEO and left Etsy in December 2009. Robert Kalin resumed his role as CEO from December 2009 until July 2011. Investors include Sean Meenan, Spencer and Judson Ain, Union Square Ventures, and founders of Flickr and Delicious.
Kalin said that he named the site Etsy because he “wanted a nonsense word because I wanted to build the brand from scratch. I was watching Fellini’s 8 ½ and writing down what I was hearing. In Italian, you say ‘etsi’ a lot. It means ‘oh, yes’ (actually it’s “eh, si”). And in Latin and French, it means ‘what if.'”
In Etsy’s first year, it attracted attention for frequently adding new tools and functionality to the site to help sellers gain exposure and traffic, including Adobe Flash-based visualizations and a taxonomy of categories with tags.Etsy passed $1.7 million in sales in May 2007. On July 29, Etsy had its one-millionth sale and anticipated its two-millionth sale would occur mid-December 2007. In November 2007, buyers spent $4.3 million purchasing 300,000 items for sale on Etsy, an increase of 43 percent from October 2007. In June 2007, it expected to be profitable by the fall, but in December 2007 it was not a profitable company. In January 2008, Etsy received an additional $27 million in funding from Union Square Ventures, Hubert Burda Media, and Jim Breyer.
In February 2008, trouble at eBay, including a strike by some dissatisfied sellers, brought speculation that Etsy could be an increasing competitor. At the same time, however, some Etsy sellers expressed unhappiness with how Etsy was handling complaints about stores. At the time, a comparison of the two websites included complaints that on Etsy, items are difficult to find, the interface “feels slow”, and the buying and selling process is United States-centric. Other reviewers enjoyed using Etsy’s specialized search options,including the “Shop Local” tool.
In July 2008, Rob Kalin ceded the position of CEO to Maria Thomas. Some longtime Etsy employees left the company in August 2008, including founders Haim Schoppik and Chris Maguire. In September 2008, Etsy hired Chad Dickerson, who formerly worked at Yahoo!, as Chief Technology Officer. The company acknowledged concerns about vendors selling other people’s work as their own.
In April 2009, users organized an “etsyday” promotion on Twitter that brought extra attention to the site. As of May 2009, it had approximately 60 employees and sales of $10 to 13 million per month, possibly boosted by consumer interest in cheaper and more personalized goods due to the United States recession.
In March 2011, Etsy “introduced a Facebook-style social networking system called People Search…to help buyers and sellers connect with each other and become friends”. By doing so, Etsy made any past purchase with feedback easily searchable, which caused many complaints. Etsy then made changes to the site to better guard information regarding users’ purchases.
In July 2011, Chad Dickerson, CTO since September 2008, became CEO, upon the firing of Rob Kalin. Later CTOs were Kellan Elliot-McCrea and John Allspaw.
In April 2012, a newspaper article about Etsy covered its fraud detection efforts;Etsy had been criticized in the past for inconsistently applying its rules about items having to be handmade. Later in April 2012, the writer of Regretsy, a popular blog, did independent research into a specific featured vendor, Ecologica Malibu, and found evidence to accuse the vendor of being a reseller, which would be against the Etsy Terms of Service.The vendor asserted that it was in line with the Terms of Service, stating that the shop had simply failed to identify itself as a “collective” that included the work of several individuals, and many Etsy community members posted on the Etsy forum expressing unhappiness with the action (or lack of action) taken by Etsy. As of June 2012, the vendor’s account is no longer active on Etsy.
In May 2012, Etsy raised $40 million in Series F funding, and announced the company had become B Corporation certified. This funding is partly going toward expanding Etsy in international markets, including France, Germany, and Australia.
On October 1, 2013, Dickerson held an online Town Hall Meeting to announce that Etsy would now permit factory-made goods and drop shipping, provided the seller either designed or hired designers of the items, disclosed to Etsy their factory, disclosed that they used factories and took “ownership” of the process. In that meeting and afterward, Etsy claimed the meaning of the word “handmade” should be redefined to encompass factory made.
In September 2016, Etsy announced the acquisition of artificial intelligence startup, Blackbird Technologies.