Cold Brew Labs' (Pinterest) First Product Was An App Called Tote

As Derek noted a couple days ago, before there was such a thing as Pinterest, Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra started up an entity called "Cold Brew Labs."  The major thing to come out of Cold Brew was an app called "Tote."  So what exactly were those guys doing before gaining fame and admiration for Pinterest?  Let's do a forensic examination of the fragments left behind on the web and see if we can piece it together.

Over at AppStoreHQ, we have the original launch listing for Tote:

TOTE 1.01 is out!

Tote is a mobile shopping application you can use to browse from 30 great stores, save your favorites, and get notified about price drops.

Version 1.01 introduces a ton of new features, including speed improvements, the ability to find nearby stores, and expanded inventory.

New products are added regularly. Happy shopping!

Features include:

* Browse by category, retailer, item type, and popularity.
* Save your favorite items. Tote emails your favorites to you, so it's accessible on your home or work computer.
* Get price drop alerts when your favorite items go on sale.
* Find nearby stores and call them directly from your phone.
* Read fashion and shopping news.
* Send recommendations to friends, family or colleagues.

TOTE is great for shopping anywhere: during commutes, while waiting in line, or on the way to your favorite stores! Even if you have spotty reception, Tote caches images locally, so you can browse anywhere.

Product Categories Include:

- Accessories: Belts, Headwear, Scarves and Wraps, Sunglasses, Wallets, Watches
- Clothing: Jeans, Dresses, Jackets, Knits, Loungewear, Maternity, Outerwear, Pants, Tops, Skirts
- Shoes: Boots, Evening, Flats, Heels, Clogs, Platform, Pumps, Sandals, Sneakers
- Handbags: Evening bags, Hobos, Minis, Shoulder Bags, Totes
- Jewelry: Bracelets, Earrings, Necklaces, Rings, Wristlets

Don't bother trying to download from that link.  It's no longer available in the U.S. store, but that was the starting point for Tote.  What did it look like?


On the final screen shot, please note the tagline "Tote your favorite things."

What does it say on the Pinterest home page?  "Pinterest is an online pinboard.  Organize and share things you love."

"Favorite things" vs. "things you love?"  Depending on how seriously you take the word "love," those phrases could be interchangeable and it would appear there's a common theme between Tote and Pinterest.

The archived remnants of the original site describe their apps a little more ... than the app store does:

Cold Brew Labs was founded in 2008 to make mobile shopping effortless and fun. Our first product is TOTE, a mobile shopping platform for the iPhone. Mobile shoppers use TOTE to discover, share and buy from their favorite retailers anytime, anywhere.

TOTE takes a radically simple approach to mobile shopping:

  • Present products from the best retailers in a beautiful, intuitive interface.

  • Personalize shopping by asking users what they love.

  • Make buying easy, whether online, in stores, or directly from the phone.

We work tirelessly to improve TOTE based on feedback and data from our users.  We are proud to be backed by FirstMark Capital and a group of outstanding angel investors and advisors.

Now we see the phrase "what they love" and we also see an emphasis on "a beautiful, in

tuitive interface."  You will recall Pinterest spent a lot of early effort on design and they grid layout.  We're definitely seeing those philosophies articulated at Tote.

We can only see a small time period of the original Tote website's blog.  10/21/09 - 11/10/09.  It isn't clear if there were more posts than this.  In that 21 day period we see:

  • A "hello world" post.

  • A comment on a new "sample sale" site

  • Announcement of a software update

  • Comments on the willingness of consumers to buy products with their smart phones

  • Finally, a beauty blogger is declared a "Tote Tastemaker."  Essentially they announce they follow a blogger to keep up to date on beauty topics and that beauty products will be added to Tote's tracking list.

The Tote Twitter account is still active.  Its posts span from 9/9/9 to 12/15/09, with 40 total tweets.  They were/are following 175 accounts and 127 were/are following them.  Primarily it's  fashion and fashion sales links with a product update announcement here and there.

On the whole, there really isn't much online about Tote that wasn't written since Tote was released several years ago and when it launched no one really noticed.  It looks like a little app that launched and then faded away.  Many apps do launch and fade away, after all.  What we do see is a emphasis on design and focus on things that people love, two things that absolutely moved over to Pinterest as Tote was put to rest.
Todd Allen writes for Startup Grind, among other things