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October 31, 2021

Since Covid’s March 2020 lows, Etsy shares are up some 600%, torching the Nasdaq (up 115%), eBay (175%), Walmart (35%) and Amazon (100%). The 16-year-old company is worth just shy of $30 billion. Active buyers and sellers on Etsy have doubled to 90 million and 5 million, respectively. As with most digital retailers, growth has slowed in the second half of 2021 as the economy has reopened, but analysts are betting Etsy will hit a 30% sales increase in 2021.

Let Amazon, Walmart and Target battle to deliver mass-produced items as cheaply and quickly as possible. Etsy has empowered an eclectic (and mostly female) community of crafters with the same cutting-edge AI, data science and marketing tools that the retail giants use. In doing so, Etsy, a member of Forbes’ Just 100 list of the top corporate citizens, has provided millions of moonlighters with crucial income—and purpose—in a time of unprecedented layoffs, lockdowns and dislocations. Says Silverman, “The mission is to keep commerce human.”

Etsy has always been the crunchy kid at the country club. Founded by Brooklyn artisan Rob Kalin, it churned through CEOs before going public in 2015 as a Certified B Corporation beholden to strict environmental and community standards. Wall Street hated its do-gooder stance—and red ink. In 2016, Etsy’s net losses grew 45%, to $54 million. The next year, investors Black-And-White Capital, TPG and Dragoneer bought up shares, hoping to force Etsy to sell itself. Etsy pushed back. The board scrambled for a CEO to balance its mission-based employees and its money-obsessed investors. Silverman, who had joined the board in 2016, seemed a good fit.

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