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Fab Was Going to Be the Next Big Thing. What Went Wrong?

Oliver Samwer
Oliver SamwerPhotograph by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Six months ago, Fab seemed poised to take over the world. The online retailer, which offers flash deals on designer goods, had 700 employees and a valuation of $1 billion. What’s more, Fab had successfully defeated Germany’s notorious clonemeisters, the Samwer brothers, who’ve made their fortune by copying American e-businesses, efficiently rolling out international versions, and co-opting foreign markets.

Fab took an aggressive stand against the German clone kings and won: The Samwers last June gave up on their Fab clone, Bamarang. Meanwhile, New York-based Fab leased a five-story building in Berlin, hired more than 125 employees in Germany and then, in April, opened a physical store in Hamburg. Eventually Fab expanded its sales into 30 countries worldwide. “I would say ‘thank you’ to the Samwer brothers for helping us build a business in Europe faster than we would have otherwise,” Fab Chief Executive Officer Jason Goldberg told me earlier this year.