The startup online marketplace, Jet, launched in July, is growing quickly and reportedly close to completing a $500 million funding round.

Three months into its existence, online marketplace startup says it has more than a million customers. co-founder and chief operating officer Nate Faust tells Internet Retailer the company surpassed the milestone about two weeks ago, just two weeks after eliminating its annual membership fee and months before the online marketplace’s goal, noted in April, of a million customers by the end of the year. Faust says Jet never charged the initial $49.95 membership fee, so the company hasn’t had to issue refunds or deal with backlash from removing it so early in its existence.

“We hadn’t charged anyone yet for a membership, so it was pretty much a non-event and has led to higher conversion rates,” he says. “You’re always hesitant when you sign up for any recurring fee, whether it be a backup service or an email service. We’ve removed that.”

In a presentation at the Forrester Digital Business conference in Chicago last week, chief customer officer Liza Landsman said the marketplace has experienced rapid customer growth, growing 100% from August to September and 70% from September to October, with shoppers buying five to six items on average the first time they shop on the site.

“We’ve found that we’re driving substantially larger baskets than the industry average,” Faust says. “That’s across all categories because we’ve got this almost gamified shopping experience. We’re exposing the true economics and we’re seeing incredible increases in conversion rates on those second and third items.”


Merchants who sell through the marketplace have noticed an impact on their own bottom lines.

Tom Sanders, co-founder of web-only mass merchant Our Pampered Home, says sales through account for 5% of sales, already eclipsing the revenue it generates through eBay Inc.

In addition to removing the membership fee, Jet has steadily increased the number of products on its marketplace.

Jet carries more than 7 million SKUs, with such major retail chains as Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. (No. 40 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide), Barnes & Noble Inc. (No. 47) and Sports Authority (No. 277) selling on its platform.


“On any day about 80% of our orders are from first-time buyers,” Faust says. “They’ve come in through more general awareness marketing or Google PLAs (Product Listing Ads) where there’s no mention of a membership fee.”

Investors have noticed the growth.

Jet has raised more than $225 million  to date. Published reports Wednesday said is on the verge of closing a $500 million funding round, led by investment firm Fidelity Investments. Spokesmen for and Fidelity declined to comment.

While online retailers are adding staff to keep up with a spike in demand during the holidays or lowering free shipping thresholds to generate higher demand, Faust says Jet will not follow suit.


“We’re not hiring any seasonal,” he says. “We’re continuing to hire, but it’s all permanent and it’s all employees that will remain post-holiday as the company continues to grow. We’re not expecting a big holiday-induced spike in volume. We expect our January volumes to be higher than our December volumes.” Jet offers free shipping on orders over $35.

The company has worked with shipping software provider EasyPost to streamline shipping and postage operations. EasyPost helps online retailers access all their shipping providers in one location by enabling them to add all of their carrier accounts and then buy postage in one fell swoop.

Faust says employing EasyPost has allowed his team to focus more on improving the marketplace rather than logistics minutiae.

“We haven’t had to invest the fixed resources in a large development team to integrate with every carrier we work with,” he says. “For us, it’s been less about the cost of shipping products and more about the flexibility and the speed with which we could move. We’re able to move very quickly without focusing a lot of fixed resources on it.”


“It’s more about being able to access all the carriers through one place,” adds EasyPost CEO Jarrett Streebin. “The carrier software is quite dated. What we have is a cloud solution where you can add all your carrier accounts and purchase all through the cloud, and send those labels out to your fulfillment centers.”

Heading into 2016, Faust says Jet is focusing on improving the customer experience so those first-time buyers become repeat buyers.

“Unlike many other marketplaces, we are the central point for customer service,” he says. “We have 24/7 customer service. Any issue you have with a package is sorted out by our customer service. We’re still ramping up in the fulfillment centers, but that’s more driven by our natural growth rate rather than the preparation for peak.”