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Here’s why e-commerce app Wish raised $1 billion in two years

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wanted to meet with Wish founder Peter Szulczewski.

Wish CEO Peter Szulczewski onstage at a 2016 Code Commerce event in San Francisco
Wish founder Peter Szulczewski
Henry Dombey for Recode

Wish, the affordable mobile-friendly shopping app that’s second only to Amazon in online mobile retail, is raking in venture capital. The company raised $500 million in their last round in November, which was on top of the first $500 million Wish raised two years prior.

That means Wish has $1 billion in the bank, and the company plans to use it to reduce shipping times, Wish CEO Peter Szulczewski said Tuesday night in an interview at Recode’s Code Commerce conference in San Francisco.

Wish targets customers with low-price goods such as dresses, watches, sneakers or jewelry shipped straight from Chinese manufacturers — but that also means delivery can take weeks and items sometimes arrive damaged.

“The shipping times are extremely long,” said Szulczewski. “It’s scaled and worked so far because the prices are so inexpensive.”

Wish sets itself apart from Amazon by focusing on discovery and treating its app more like a shopping mall that displays products the customer might want in a window instead of requiring people to type in a search query like on Amazon.

“The consumers don’t actually need the product the next day or within three days,” said Szulczewski. Still, Wish does hope to improve wait times. The company recently launched a new service, Wish Express, which fulfills orders within six days.

Despite its high valuation, Szulczewski says Wish only ever received one hard offer to buy the company, and that was in 2012.

“I think Walmart made its bet,” Szulczewski said about Walmart’s recent acquisition of “It’s not going to make another one.”

“Doug called me too,” said Szulczewski, referring to Walmart CEO Douglas Mcmillon. “But I’m not interested in selling the business. I love what I’m doing.”

Before Wish found itself in competition with Amazon, Szulczewski and his co-founder Danny Zhang were using deep learning to help publishers target ads with Google’s AdSense. When the pair decided to pivot to online retail, they channeled their expertise to serve highly effective Facebook ads, a strategy that has been key for reaching new customers.

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