The Hunt, the community-driven online site that makes photographs shoppable, and counts celebrities Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher as investors, has secured $5.5 million in Series A financing from seed investor Javelin Venture Partners. The site allows consumers to share photos of what they are seeking to buy, with a like-minded community that includes some brands who “hunt” down the product or offer similar items.

Alex Gurevich, partner at the venture capital firm, said, “The team has executed very well and has built out an experience at The Hunt that has significant traction in their ability to gain new members as well as keep them engaged.”

Gurevich said the uniqueness comes from a two-sided community, one actively on the hunt and the other providing the solution, with community members playing both roles at any given time. He said that proposition is “very sticky, with sustaining value over time because it is hard to replicate” the like-minded community members who participate.

Tim Weingarten, cofounder and chief executive officer of The Hunt, said the funding will be used to hire more engineers to enhance the experience. The site now has an app for iPhone users, and is looking to introduce an iPad app. “The reason we wanted to launch a mobile app is because we went from being 10 percent mobile to over 50 percent, and of that 50 percent, about 85 percent of users are accessing the site on their smartphone.” 

Weingarten said the app was a “natural” given that the demographic of users, between 15 and 30 years old, are used to taking photos from their smartphone and then posting them on the site. He said that after eight weeks of testing the app, the company found that users spend 30 to 40 minutes using the app over the course of three days each week.

According to Weingarten, the stickiness that Gurevich refers to is based on the consumer mind-set of participants on the site: “Users want to buy something. They’re not there to browse. They have buyer’s intent.”

The business model relies on an affiliate model to get commissions on clicks, but is working on other ways to monetize the traffic on the site.

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