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Ello Generates First Revenue ... Through T-Shirt Sales

The shirts are for fun, but marketplace features are part of the social site's long-term plans.


Ello has its first revenue stream — and no need to fear, it has nothing to do with your personal data.

After the social network launched in mid-September with a steadfast, ad-free mission statement that put Facebook’s ad model to shame, there remained one burning question: If the social network didn’t plan to make money selling user data or showing advertising, what was it going to do to foot the bill?

T-shirts! At least for now.

Ello announced a partnership with Threadless on Tuesday to sell T-shirts emblazoned with redesigned versions of its simple, smiley-face logo. The shirts will be created by independent artists, and while Ello isn’t sharing financial details on the partnership, CEO Paul Budnitz confirmed to Re/code that the collaboration will bring in the company’s first revenue.

That doesn’t mean T-shirt sales represent Ello’s long-term funding strategy. “It would be hilarious if we funded Ello with T-shirts,” Budnitz laughed, describing the partnership as “fun” more than anything.

Physical goods, on the other hand, are a serious part of Ello’s monetization strategy, he said. Budnitz owns a custom-bicycle company in addition to running Ello, so he’s used to selling products for a living and wants to give artists and vendors a space to sell online.

Ello’s other business strategy: Social features, a la carte. Budnitz compared Ello to an iPhone: Everyone gets the same basic features, but then you can download the extra features (the apps) that you really want to use.

“We’re going to let everyone [build] Ello into their Ello,” he said. “We’re essentially building an app store that allows people to customize [the social network].”

That app store is already in the works, and may launch in early 2015, Budnitz said.

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