Antiquing on the Internet
David Rosenblatt’s e-commerce site 1stdibs will sell you Catherine the Great’s bookcase for just under $17 million.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
As head of the e-commerce site 1stdibs, David Rosenblatt ’90 is disrupting the market for luxury goods. View full image
David Rosenblatt ’90 joined the marketing tech company DoubleClick in 1997 and served as its CEO from 2004 to 2008; in 2007, Google bought it for $3.1 billion. Now he’s CEO of 1stdibs, an e-commerce site for luxury goods—art, furnishings, and jewelry with an average price of $5,000. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Laurie Rosenblatt, and four children, aged 6 to 13.
Y: When you were an undergrad, did you expect to become a tech titan?
R: I majored in East Asian studies and thought I was likely to join the Foreign Service—but I didn’t even know what Foreign Service people do. I just thought it would be interesting and exciting. Over time I realized that doing something commercial would offer challenges that were more interesting.
Y: How did you end up at DoubleClick?
R: I went to Stanford’s business school and graduated in ’97 and moved to New York for a woman.
Y: A woman! Did it work out?
R: She’s my wife.
Y: Let’s say it did. So—DoubleClick?
R: I was interested in working for an Internet start-up, so I went about it informally through friends, simply looking for the best idea and best team I could find.
Y: And Google agreed. What made you leave the advertising world and go to a luxury goods site?
R: I saw in 1stdibs a company with the potential to have a similar impact on the high-end luxury market. It was one of the last industries that had yet to be disrupted by the Internet.
Y: What was 1stdibs up to when you got there?
R: The site was largely oriented to interior designers—to the trade. And so my initial experience with 1stdibs was when my wife and I were designing and then furnishing the apartment in which we live now. When I was introduced to 1stdibs [as a potential venture to run], I called my interior designer and asked if he had heard of it, and he said, “Have I heard of it? Your apartment was sourced from it!”
Y: What’s your favorite thing you got from the site?
R: We have a set of lamps in our kitchen—brass lamps—hanging from the ceiling. They’re beautiful and I will look at them every day of my life.
Y: Now 1stdibs is also appealing to individuals, right?
R: We’ve adapted to capture “civilian” interest.
Y: Can you tell us the actual range of prices?
R: Right now you could find beautifully handcrafted seventeenth-century French tiles for under two euros each, as well as a baroque burr-walnut bureau-bookcase for nearly $17 million. It once belonged to Catherine the Great.
Y: And reading-wise? What book are you into?
R: It’s a history of Islam and I’m reading it because my daughter is reading it in her history class. I look forward to discussing it with her. I think it’s fun to read, but maybe that’s because I went to Yale.
Y: Your daughter thinks it’s fun, too?
R: So far, so good. We’ll see how she feels after Chapter 8.