Brighton-based MPB snaps up $69M to build out its used camera equipment marketplace

Used-goods marketplaces, an online staple since the beginning of the internet as we know it, have really come into their own during the Covid-19 pandemic: they’ve been a place for people clearing out their domestic spaces to list items that they have that are still in good shape, making some money in the process; and for buyers, they are a resource for finding items at a time when shopping in person and spending money in uncertain economic times have both fallen out of favor. Today, MPB — a popular marketplace that specializes in used cameras and photographic equipment — is announcing significant funding to double down on the opportunity after seeing its platform “recirculate” some 300,000 items of kit globally each year.

The Brighton, England-based startup has snapped up £49.8 million (about $69 million at current exchange rates). It plans to use the money both to expand into more markets — it currently has offices in Brooklyn and Berlin — and into more product areas, specifically, extending the marketplace concept to serve content creators.

The Series D is being led by Vitruvian Partners, with significant participation from Acton Capital, and Mobeus Equity Partners, Beringea and FJ Labs also participating. Vitruvian is a new backer for MPB; the rest were already invested in the startup, which has raised around $91 million since 2011.

MPB did not disclose its valuation in a statement on the fundraise; we have contacted the company to ask and will update if / when we learn more.

For some context, this is the biggest-ever round raised by a startup out of the university-fueled town of Brighton, which has had some tech world focus — Brandwatch made a splash in February when it was acquired by Cision for $450 million; and it is well known for gaming companies and talent — but has largely been off the fundraising radar, perhaps in part because it is so close to London and its own gravitational pull for entrepreneurs and VCs. PitchBook put MPB’s valuation at $50.86 million in 2019; it’s likely to be significantly higher than this now.

“This funding round is a major milestone for MPB, culminating a decade of strong performance and a vision to make great kit accessible and affordable,” said Matt Barker, MPB’s founder and CEO, in a statement. “With the backing of Vitruvian Partners and those reinvesting in our business, we can accelerate our US and European growth strategy at scale, profitably. Photography and videography are intrinsic to societies and cultures all over the world, and at MPB we have created a circular model that offers everyone the chance to be visual storytellers and content creators in a way that’s good for the planet.”

Indeed, what’s interesting about MPB is how it touches on and addresses a number of themes that have been playing out across the world of e-commerce and wider digital society, and what’s probably made it successful has been its appeal to people on one or more of those fronts at the same time.

First, there is the platform it gives to people to sell and buy used camera equipment. The sale of used items gives owners an opportunity to make money off items they no longer need, and buyers a way to procure items at lower costs. And it has an obvious environmental angle to it, since circular economy operators encourage people to get more life out of electronics that might otherwise simply become part of landfill (or encourage more manufacturing of new goods in their place).

But on a more practical level, used-good sales also have often put people off in part because they are deprived of some of the guarantees that you would normally get on goods when buying from more established retailers.

MPB provides buying and seller security in its own way: by employing a team of people to vet and prepare items for sale, and providing a six-month guarantee on items sold over its platform.

(And more generally, used goods marketplaces are seeing some big attention from VCs at the moment in Europe: in February, Wallapop in Spain raised $191 million for its more generalised used-goods marketplace.)

Second, it touches on the bigger trend we’ve seen around the growth of communities focused on specific rather than general interests. It’s a clear way of conferring more authenticity, focus and signal in an otherwise very noisy world online, and in a specialized area like the sale of photography equipment, this can be especially critical and a unique selling point over more generic sales platforms like eBay: it means more attention paid by the platform to stock, as well as a more focused community of buyers and sellers.

Third, there is the focus of MPB in particular. We have most definitely seen the birth of a “creator economy” online, where people are making livings out of their own brands (ugh), or from their specific creative output, bypassing some of the more traditional middle-men in favor of newer ones (eg, network broadcasters no longer the sole gatekeepers for serialized video content and all of the work that goes into making it; YouTube conversely now makes a killing off it, and if Substack, Patreon and others like it play their cards right, they will soon, in their own areas of interest, too.)

What this might mean for companies like MPB is a surge of interest and attention on equipment for capturing those images, although it will be interesting to see how and if that can be leveraged on a wider scale, given how so much of that creation today is happening on smartphones, which themselves continue to get more sophisticated and eat into not just casual photographers’ buying patterns, but more serious ones, too.

In the question of scaling, MPB will have an interesting partner in the form of Vitruvian Partners, which backs second-hand clothes marketplace Vestiaire Collective — which raised $216 million last month, another sign of the times and how they have boosted the opportunities for used-good sales — alongside other marketplaces like Carwow, Just Eat, Farfetch, Skyscanner and Trustpilot.

“MPB has developed a unique tech-enabled platform to meet a market need, transforming access to photography kit to become a global leader in its field, whilst building a product that genuinely has a positive impact on the world,” said Tom Studd, partner at Vitruvian Partners, said in a statement. “Matt and the team have achieved strong and profitable growth through recent launches in the US and Germany, and we’re delighted to partner with them for the next step of the journey. Vitruvian looks to back exceptional teams with unique products in large markets, and we believe Matt and the team fit those criteria perfectly.”

Sebastian Wossagk, managing partner at Acton Capital, added: “It’s always a privilege to watch companies like MPB grow and excel in their field. Matt and his team have already taken the first steps into internationalisation by opening locations in Brooklyn and Berlin, and we’re excited to support them as they pursue further expansion in both the US and Europe.”

Something notable about MPB is that Barker once said that he founded it in part because he didn’t feel that the requirements of people in the photography community were being addressed well enough by more general sites like eBay or Gumtree. That may still be the case for those two sites (and countless other generic sales platforms), but it doesn’t mean that there are not a number of other players addressing the used-photography equipment market. They include the likes of Worldwide Camera Exchange, Park Cameras, Camera World, and many others with equally SEO-friendly names. That represents opportunities for consolidation, competitive threat, and hopefully innovation for better services, but also a sign that there is more to this market than might meet the eye.

#brighton, #cameras, #circular-economy, #ecommerce, #europe, #funding, #marketplaces, #mpb, #photography, #photography-equipment, #second-hand, #used-goods

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Prosus classifieds group OLX shuts down Berlin’s Frontier Car Group to focus OLX Autos on LatAm and Asia

Cazoo is picking up significant capital today by teaming up with a SPAC in the U.S. at a $7 billion valuation, but it’s the end of the line for another big European name in used-car sales. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that Berlin-based Frontier Car Group, which builds used-car marketplaces with a focus on emerging markets, is shutting down its operations in the city.

Its majority owner OLX Group, a division of Prosus (the tech holdings of Naspers that is now listed as a separate entity), said that it wants to refocus on more local operations in Latin America and Asia under its OLX Autos brand, into which it will fold in the remaining FCG operations.

The company currently has operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Peru. OLX Autos independently also had three other brands: CarFirst brand in Pakistan, Cars45 in Nigeria, and webuyanycar.com in the US.

OLX took a controlling stake in Frontier as a result of an investment of about $400 million in late 2019, valuing Frontier at around $700 million at the time. There was no official announcement of the closure, but we saw the news in passing on Twitter, and Prosus spokesperson confirmed the details to TechCrunch in a statement.

“OLX Group can confirm the closure of the FCG Germany GmbH entity based in Berlin over the coming months,” said the spokesperson. “This entity represents a subset of the OLX Group workforce in Berlin – other OLX Group employees in Berlin were not impacted by this entity closure, and those operations are ongoing. This decision to close FCG Germany GmbH was not taken lightly. The decision reflects the evolution of the OLX Autos strategy to focus more strongly on the LatAm and Asia markets. In order to have our development teams closer to our customers, we will shift core product development operations to India, a key market for OLX Autos. OLX Group is committed to taking care of our people in such a difficult situation and has offered a financial runway beyond what is compulsory, to allow time and flexibility to find new roles. Effected employees are being encouraged to apply for open roles within our other entities.”

About 100 people are being impacted by the news, the company confirmed to us and it looks to be an immediate move. If you go to FCG’s site now, it automatically redirects to OLX.

Although it was founded and headquartered in Berlin, Frontier Car Group had always focused on emerging markets and taking the used-car marketplace model to those countries.

Inspired by Cazoo rival Auto1 — another Berlin-based used-car marketplace that went public via a listing in Germany in February and is now valued at $12.6 billion (likely an encouraging comparison for Cazoo investors) — Frontier founders Sujay Tyle, Peter Lindholm and André Kussmann thought they could take that model to less developed markets for a bigger opportunity.

“I fell in love with the Auto1 model,” Tyle told TechCrunch back in 2018. “I could see how it could be applied to emerging markets. Emerging markets represent nascency.” Tyle himself is a whizz-kid who hails from the U.S. and was in his early 20s when he co-founded Frontier. He left it in August 2020 and now lives in Mexico City, building a new e-commerce investor there called Merama.

Frontier, in part because of the success of Auto1 (which took hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from the likes of Sequoia, SoftBank and others), became a part of the guard of exciting new tech startups building businesses out of Berlin.

That focus on emerging markets linked up Naspers’ global expansion strategy, and so OLX, a classifieds operation that had an interest in automotive marketplaces, became a strategic investor in Frontier, first with a smaller stake, and eventually taking majority ownership and control of the operation.

It’s not clear why OLX decided to wind down the Frontier brand and to double down OLX Autos but notably, over the last year it looks like OLX was restructuring in other markets, including with the layoff of 250 people in its operations in India after shutting down marketplaces focused on real estate and used goods.

While some companies like Cazoo have apparently seen a strong surge of business in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health crisis has hit a number of economies, economic sectors and specific companies harder than others, leading to tightening costs. Overall, we’ve seen big slumps in new car sales in different markets around the world.

A Prosus spokesperson said that both OLX and OLX Autos were impacted at the start of Covid-19 but have since recovered. Prosus has remained profitable in what has been a turbulent year, but some have pointed out that those profits have declined. (It will next update its financials in June.)

#ecommerce, #emerging-markets, #europe, #frontier-car-group, #marketplaces, #naspers, #olx, #prosus, #used-cars

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YC-backed Queenly launches a marketplace for formalwear

Queenly, a marketplace for formalwear, launched into a world where its core product of dresses and gowns had a massive competitor, bigger and more elusive than Poshmark: quarantine.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the fancy in-person events that one might attend, such as award shows, pageants, proms and weddings to be canceled to limit spread. But despite the fact that you might be rocking sweats over slacks, Queenly co-founders Trisha Bantigue and Kathy Zhou say that they had half a million in sales last year, and over 100,000 people visit their website everyday.

“So many women bought dresses to just dress up and feel normal at home, when everything else around the world was not,” Bantigue said. “It helped them feel grounded and stabilize themselves in this crazy chaotic pandemic environment.” The canceled events have also found new homes, such as Zoom weddings, Twitch pageants, socially distant proms and graduation car parades. The co-founder added that content creators on TikTok and YouTube have also bought Queenly dresses.

Pandemic growth added a surprising dimension to Queenly’s business, and the Bay Area startup is currently partaking in the Y Combinator winter cohort to navigate it. So far, it has raised $800,000 to date from investors including Mike Smith, former COO of Stitch Fix, Thuan Pham, former CTO of Uber, and Kelly Thompson, former COO of Samsclub.com and Walmart.com. The goal, the co-founders tell me, is to become the StockX for formalwear.

Queenly is a marketplace for buying and selling formal dresses, from wedding dresses to pageant gowns. The 50,000 dresses on the platform are either new or resale, and sellers get paid 80% of the price that the gowns go for.

Part of the company’s biggest sell, according to the co-founders, is its algorithm that matches buyers to dresses. Before Queenly, Zhou was a former software engineer at Pinterest who helped build content creation flows and the back end of the platform. She took the same focus that her and her Pinterest co-workers had on data-driven search and development and applied it to Queenly.

The search engine can go deeper than a normal dress search on Macy’s can, which might create options based on size, color and cut. In contrast, Queenly can help offer more diverse insights with a larger range of sizes, silhouette options and different shades of the same color.

Last week, a seller sold her wedding dress with a tag that says the dark mesh on the dress is for a darker skin tone. Queenly is beta-testing a feature that lets you search medium skin tone sheer options or dark skin tone sheer options. The team says that skin-tone filters are one of the important long-term goals of their search engine.

“These are just some things that we know because we’re women, and we know how to build this product for women,” Zhou said. “As opposed to if this was a male founder, they would not know that that would even be something that women would search for.”

Currently, there are over 50,000 dresses for sale on the Queenly platform, ranging from $70 to $4,000 and going up to size 32.

Image Credits: Queenly

With these search insights, Queenly says that it is able to sell dresses within two weeks, claiming that some users say that their same dresses spent five months on the Poshmark platform.

The diversity of dresses, from a price and range perspective, is one of the ways that Queenly stays competitive with large retail brands like Nordstrom.

“Buying and carrying inventory is very capital intensive for any startup,” Bantigue said. “As female minority founders it was hard for us to raise in the beginning.” As a result, the startup doesn’t keep a physical inventory of dresses, but instead relies on users to help get dresses from owner to buyer. If a dress is under $200, Queenly sends a prepaid shipping label to the seller to mail directly to the end buyer. If a dress is over $200, Queenly gets the dress sent directly to the company, does light dry cleaning and authentication, and then sends it right to the user.

Bringing the users into the transaction process adds a layer of risk because it depends on people to do things for the startup to be successful. The incentive here is that sellers make 80% of their sale price, and Queenly pockets the other 20%.

The startup’s biggest cost is shipping. To limit these costs, Queenly currently doesn’t accept or honor any returns, unless the dress upon arrival is not what was described in the sales post.

While this is a sensical business decision, it could be a hurdle for the startups’ clientele. Sizes are complicated and inconsistent, so the inability to return a dress might stifle a customer’s appetite to buy in the first place.

“We were actually worried about this before, but for two years now we [have not] had a complaint about sizing,” Bantigue said.

The co-founders say that many buyers are comfortable tailoring a dress post-purchase, and sellers are required to post pictures so expectations are set pre-purchase. There have been no cases of counterfeit brands to date, Bantigue said.

Queenly’s next plan is to bring on boutique stores and dress designers for Queenly partners, a program started to help small boutique businesses digitize their inventory through the Queenly platform.

“For years, the formalwear industry has been mostly offline, with only big name players being available online,” Bantigue said. “We want to change this.”

#fashion, #marketplaces, #startups, #tc

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Tony Florence, the low-flying head of NEA’s tech practice, on the art of building household brands

Tony Florence isn’t as well known to the public as other top investors like Bill Gurley or Marc Andreessen, but he’s someone who founders with SaaS and especially marketplace e-commerce companies know — or should. He’s responsible for the global tech investing activities for NEA, one of the world’s biggest venture firms in terms of assets under management (it closed its newest fund with $3.6 billion last year).

Florence has also been involved with a long list of e-commerce brands to break through, including Jet, Gilt, Goop, Casper, Letgo, and Moda Operandi.

It’s because we talked earlier this week with one of his newer e-commerce bets, Maisonette, that we wanted to ask him about brand building more than a year into a pandemic that has changed the world in both fleeting and permanent ways. We wound up talking about how customer acquisition has changed; what he thinks of the growing number of companies trying to roll up third-party sellers on Amazon; and how upstarts can maintain momentum when even younger companies become a shiny new fascination for customers.

Note: one topic that he couldn’t and wouldn’t comment on is the future of one famed founder who Florence has backed twice, Marc Lore, who stepped down from Walmart last month to begin building what he recently told Vox is a multi-decade project to build “a city of the future” supported by “a reformed version of capitalism.”

Part of our chat with Florence, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows:

TC: You’ve funded a number of very different businesses that have managed to grow even as Amazon has eaten up more of the retail market. Is there any sector or vertical you wouldn’t back because of the company?

TF: You have to be thoughtful about Amazon. I wouldn’t say there’s one particular area that you either can ignore or feel like you’re completely comfortable and open to, given the scale of their platform. At the same time, there are founding principles and fundamentals that we think about as they relate to companies being able to compete and operate successfully.

TC: And these are what? You’ve backed Marc Lore, Philip Krim (of Casper), Sylvana and Luisana of Maisonette. Do they have something in common?

TF:  Sometimes [founders] come at the problem organically; they’re living it [and want to solve it]. Other times, somebody like Marc sees a business opportunity and just attacks it. But there are commonalities. These are folks who are very customer centric, who are focused on good, fundamental unit economics, and who are obsessive about their people, their teams. It takes a village to build a young successful company, and all of those founders you mentioned are great at recruiting world-class people. There’s a sense of vision and mission and culture.

When you wake up and decide to do something, the majority of people you talk to just want to tell you the reasons why it can’t work, so it also takes a certain [wherewithal] to have such conviction around what you’re doing that you’re kind of all in on it, and you’re going to break through no matter what.

TC: Maisonette was going to open a brick-and-mortar store but put a pin in that plan because of COVID. Will we go back to seeing direct-to-consumer brands opening real-world locations when this is over? Has the pandemic permanently changed that calculation?

TF: Leading up to the pandemic, a lot of the young DTC companies that were direct-to-consumer brands, and even the traditional e-commerce marketplaces, were experimenting with offline. Some of it was out of necessity, frankly. Sometimes [customer acquisition costs] became so expensive that it was actually cheaper for them to go offline. In other cases, it was done because the customer wanted that closed loop experience, as with [mattress maker] Casper.

A lot of companies [opened these stores] in a contained way it worked really well. It’s very accretive financially to the overall business contribution, margin wise. It was accretive for the overall customer experience. And in many cases, it didn’t cannibalize anything. It just expanded the [total addressable market].

We’re spending a lot of time right now continuing to think through what are the permanent changes that are going to come out of the pandemic, but I would say the omnichannel model has really has started to take shape and succeed if you look at big retailers like Walmart and Target, so I think there will be an omnichannel dynamic to many of these companies that we’re talking about. Also, over the last 12 months, the cost of acquisition and the efficacy of marketing has swung back in the favor of these young companies. It’s improved to a point where we don’t really even need to think about offline.

TC: I know it had become expensive to acquire customers digitally because it was so crowded out there. Did it become less crowded?

TF: There were very few platforms that these companies could use pre pandemic that weren’t oversaturated . . . it was just very competitive, and that would bid up the cost of acquisition. In the last 12 months, you’ve seen big parts of that market go away. With airlines and financial services and a lot of the spend going way down, it’s become a lot cheaper for companies to market digitally.

TC: Still, it feels at times that it’s hard to maintain a brand’s momentum over time; there’s always some new outfit nipping at its heels. How does a brand itself fresh and relevant in 2021?

TF: There’s a hits dynamic — a fad dynamic — in the consumer space, so that’s always a challenge. You [compete by] continually reinventing and adding [to your offerings]. You see that in social categories, you see that in marketplaces [where they add] managed services and other components [like] payments, and you clearly see it in the way some of the direct-to-consumer companies continue to add new products to the mix.

You focus on the core aspects of your brand and its mission and vision and make sure that the customers really feel that. There’s a community dynamic that has really occurred the last four or five years around e-commerce companies. Glossier is a great example of a company that built a great community around a core set of product offerings, and that has really propelled that company beyond its core customer customer base.

There’s also a contextual commerce opportunity. Goop is a great example this; Gwyneth [Paltrow] brilliantly came up with [an effective way] to merge content and commerce, and that’s something a lot of companies in the commerce space have started to invest in.

TC: Content, community and not necessarily speed, so focusing on what Amazon does not. Can I ask: do you think Amazon needs to be reigned in?

TF: If you’re competing with them [in the] cloud market or a commerce market, they’re a very formidable competitor, and you got to take them very, very seriously. They’re at a scale that’s just incredibly impressive. But I do think you’re seeing a lot of innovation around the edges and companies finding areas that Amazon maybe can’t focus on or isn’t focusing on.

TC: What do you think of these Amazon Marketplace roll-ups that we’re seeing? There’s been at least a half of dozen of them that already, including Thrasio, which announced $750 million this week. All are raising money hand over first.

TF: We haven’t made an investment in the area, though we’re watching very closely. It can be a very capital intensive strategy to execute on because you’re buying brands and then bringing them onto the platform to consolidate and grow, but there’s just an enormous long tail to the e-commerce space and this is an opportunity to consolidate that.

TC: Like, an infinite opportunity? How many roll-ups can the market support?

TFL I do think that we’ll see a handful of these companies get to decent scale. The question will be whether you’ve got more of an arbitrage going on [by] buying companies and generating synergies or there’s some fundamental bigger breakthrough. If you could use AI [and] machine learning to understand how to better serve customers and think about customer acquisition a little bit better, that would be really interesting. If there are real economies of scale to the supply chains [or] baseline infrastructure, that would certainly be interesting.

It’s early on. It remains to be seen how this is gonna play out.

Pictured above, left to right: NEA’s global managing director, Scott Sandell, and Florence, who is the head of global tech investing activities at NEA and who works alongside Mohamad Makhzoumi, who oversees the firm’s healthcare practice.

#casper, #ecommerce, #glossier, #goop, #jet, #maisonette, #marc-lore, #marketplaces, #nea, #tc, #tony-florence, #venture-capital

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Spain’s All Iron Ventures closes €66.5M first fund

Spain’s All Iron Ventures (AIV), an investor in b2c marketplaces and ecommerce plays, has closed its first fund with commitments totalling €66.5 million (~$79M) — which it touts as one of the largest first fund raises in the country. 

Capital committed to the fund by its parent Group’s founding partners and other investors brings its total investment capacity to around €110M. 

Backing for the fund has come from private investors, with no public support sought. AIV aligns itself with what it dubs a “new breed” of entrepreneur-backed VCs emerging in Europe — which includes having its own incubation program.

The Bilbao headquartered fund has been operating since late 2017, run by co-directors Hugo Fernández-Mardomingo and Diego Recondo. It’s part of the All Iron Group — which includes a listed real estate holding company and was founded by the Ticketbis founders who sold their ticket reselling marketplace to eBay in 2016 for more than 165M; a major exit success story for the Spanish ecosystem.

Among some 150 investors in AIV’s fund I are local entrepreneurs such as Iñaki Ecenarro (who is also a partner); Salvador García, co-founder and CEO of fintech startup ebury; and Jose Poza, founder of Ibercom which later merged with MasMóvil (which was itself recently acquired by private equity in a multi-billion euro deal).

The fund leads or co-invests mainly in Series A and pre-A funding rounds — though it notes it has flexibility to also invest at seed level. It typically cuts an initial check of up to €2M, with the capacity to support portfolio companies in follow-on rounds too.

Its investment thesis is focused on b2c companies, with a stated preference for marketplaces, subscription and e-commerce models. “Capital efficiency and clear path to profitability play a significant part in AIV’s investment decisions,” it adds in a press release.

In terms of geography, AIV positions itself as a partner for international VCs wanting to invest in Spain and elsewhere — with an international focus on Europe and the Americas.

Recent investments include Ukraine-based online tutoring marketplace Preply and Spanish on-demand laundry service Mr Jeff.

Other portfolio startups include Lookiero, Lingokids, Spotahome and Seedtag (from Spain) — as well as Barkyn (Portugal), Refurbed (Austria), Paul Camper (Germany). Kodit (Finland), Rebag (US) and Zenklub (Brazil).

#all-iron-ventures, #b2c, #ecommerce, #europe, #marketplaces, #spain, #vc, #venture-capital

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Vectrix is developing cloud security marketplace built for and by security pros

In a typical security team, engineers write one-off scripts to track a particular problem on a cloud vendor such as an unauthorized user on your GitHub account, and while engineers are capable of writing such scripts, it’s not exactly an efficient or scalable way to deal with the range of security problems these pros need to track.

Vectrix, a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2020 cohort started by three security veterans, wants to fix that problem. It has created a security marketplace where fellow security pros write modules to automate these kinds of fixes, and other security pros can take advantage without reinventing the script writing wheel every time.

Alex Dunbrack, company co-founder and COO, says that he and fellow co-founders, CTO Matthew Lewis and CEO Corey Mahan saw this problem first-hand in their previous jobs at PlanGrid, Vimeo and Uber. So like so many YC company founders, they decided to build a solution.

“It’s a marketplace of automated security tools that monitor tech and have response capabilities for any security issues that a company may have within their cloud vendors,” Dunbrack explained. He says this could be on GitHub, AWS, G Suite, potentially any cloud service.

The idea is to have security professionals build these modules, then give them a “royalty” and bragging rights for coming up with a viable solution. Dunbrack says it’s not unlike the HackerOne model, which provides a financial incentive and community recognition to find vulnerabilities in code.

Users don’t actually download anything. They simply select a module, enter their cloud service credentials and provide an output like Slack or Jira for any alerts the module generates.

Image Credits: Vectrix

The startup vets the modules and the developers before allowing them in the marketplace. While this is a manual process at the moment, he says they are working on bringing more automation to it. For now, each person that wants to contribute modules, they do an interview, a reference check, employment background check and similar types of investigation.

Once they pass this, and the security pro writes the module, it has to pass further scrutiny. “We basically scope exactly what they’re going to build and the kinds of alerts that will come out of it. And then from there, we have an extremely templated logic scheme on the code side where they’re just writing the logic to go do the scan,” he said.

Module writers can’t see any user information on the service, and Vectrix makes sure there are no issues like outbound requests for data. Presently they have 10 modules with plans to add several more soon. While they are working on the pricing model, today customers pay a flat fee for access to the entire marketplace, rather than paying per module.

The company is currently just the three co-founders, but they hope to expand, and when they do they have already given a lot of thought about how to build a diverse and inclusive company. He says, for starters, they are not swayed by the Silicon Valley network effect.

“A lot of people will say ‘we simply want the best people,’ but our interpretation of the best people is really a collective of differing thoughts and experiences that really make someone’s perspective unique. That comes from diversity in the way that we see it, so in a lot of senses bringing the best people on is bringing the widest range of thinking processes, and that comes with diversity and being inclusive, and kind of taking all of those factors into account,” he said.

As for the YC experience, Dunbrack says he was mostly looking forward to learning from the network of companies that came before him, and he says that even virtually the company has succeeded in giving him that experience.

So far, the company has bootstrapped and used the money from Y Combinator, but it intends to do a fundraising round soon. “We’re cognizant of what we’re bringing to the industry and the value there. So bringing on strategic partners is really how we’re going to be approaching this,” he said.

#cloud, #cloud-security, #marketplaces, #security, #startups, #tc, #vectrix, #y-combinator, #yc-summer-2020

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Investor survey results: Upcoming trends in social startups

Voice-based social networks and gaming as a new form of identity were among the top emerging trends in consumer social startups, according to an Extra Crunch survey of top social tech investors. Meanwhile, anonymity and dating apps with a superfluous twist were spaces where investors were most pessimistic.

Extra Crunch assembled a list of the most prolific and well-respected investors in social. Many have funded or worked for the breakout companies changing the way we interact with other people. We asked about the most exciting trends they’re seeing and which areas they expect will soon spawn blockbuster social apps.

Subscribe to Extra Crunch to read the full answers to our questionnaire from funds like Andreessen Horowitz, CRV, and Initialized.

Here are the 15 leading social network VCs that participated in our survey:

Stay tuned next week for a followup article from these investors detailing their thoughts on social investing in the COVID-19 era.

Olivia Moore & Justine Moore, CRV

What trends are you most excited in social from an investing perspective?

First, it’s worth noting that consumer social is very hard to predict. Unlike enterprise software, there’s no rational buyer, and the things that take off can seem “random” or dumb. Startups that see huge success in this space are often pioneering a new feature or way of communicating that hasn’t existed before. Any VC who claims to know what the “next big thing” in consumer social will look like should probably go build it themselves!

#funding, #fundings-exits, #investor-survey, #investor-surveys, #marketplaces, #social, #social-networks, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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