#Interview – Ein Startup, das HR-Teams hilft “die besten Teams aufzubauen”


Hinter dem jungen Kölner Startup Recscout verbirgt sich eine digitale Recruiting-Plattform. “Wir helfen den HR-Teams über Referenzen, Regulierungen, Transparenz und im Einklang mit den Personalberater:innen die besten Teams aufzubauen”, sagt Timo König, der das Unternehmen gemeinsam mit Sajad Ghawami und Kevin Manski gegründet hat. Die Rheinländer sehen sich mit ihrem Konzept im Wettbewerb mit “anderen technologisch betriebenen Recruiting-Plattformen, die HR-Teams von Firmen mit wechselbereiten Kandidat:innen zusammenbringen”.

Aus Sicht der Recscout-Macher gehe dabei “allerdings ein besonders begehrter Teil an Kandidat:innen verloren. Nämlich die Kandidat:innen, die noch gar nicht wissen, ob sie zum Wechseln bereit sind und sich auf solchen Plattformen gar nicht erst zur Verfügung stellen”. Im Interview mit deutsche-startups.de stellt Recscout-Gründer König das Konzept hinter seinem Startup einmal ganz ausführlich vor.

Wie würdest Du Deiner Großmutter Recscout erklären?
Oma schau‘, du suchst eine Pflegekraft? Aber du weißt nicht, wo du suchen sollst und wem du vertrauen kannst. Zudem kannst du nur gering einordnen, ob die nötigen Fähigkeiten vorhanden sind. Wir bieten dir eine Online-Plattform, über die du die beste Berater:in mit der Suche einer Pflegekraft finden, beauftragen und verwalten kannst. Komplett kostenfrei. So kannst du deine ideale Pfleger:in einstellen. So wie dir, geht es dort draußen auch den vielen HR-Teams unserer wunderbaren Firmenlandschaft. Wir helfen den HR-Teams über Referenzen, Regulierungen, Transparenz und im Einklang mit den Personalberater:innen die besten Teams aufzubauen. Und weißt du Oma, auch die Personalberater:innen haben Vorteile. Sie können sich und ihre Stärken unabhängig von Raum und Zeit auf der Plattform präsentieren und ihre Arbeit mit Referenzen belegen. So erhalten sie über Recscout ganz einfach neue Aufträge. Es gewinnen also beide Seiten.

Welches Problem genau wollt Ihr mit Recscout lösen?
Wir alle haben die Arbeit zwischen Firmen und Personalberater:innen erlebt. Von der Akquise über die Geschäftsanbahnung und Auftragserteilung bis hin zum Abschluss gibt es viele Stolpersteine. Mit ein klein wenig Technologie und Daten lassen sich die Meisten zur Seite schubsen. Oft haben wir erlebt, dass fähige Personalberater:innen bei Akquisetelefonaten abgewimmelt werden, obwohl sie eine perfekte Kandidat:in startbereit hätten und eine schnelle Stellenbesetzung ist für Firmen enorm wichtig. Hier stehen dann oft sehr alte Rahmenverträge oder schlicht die – oft berechtigte – Skepsis der HRler:innen entgegen, da sie am Tag zig Akquise-Anrufe zu “bekämpfen” haben. Selbst ehemalige Personalberater:innen, die jetzt auf Seiten der HR-Teams arbeiten, haben Probleme damit, die richtigen Personalberater:innen zu finden, ihnen zu vertrauen und zur Unterstützung zu beauftragen. Bei den Aufträgen geht es ja auch um eine Menge Geld. In der nahen Vergangenheit haben Personalberater:innen für eine Besetzung im Schnitt 27.000 Euro in Rechnung gestellt. Wir wollen Recscout zusammen mit den Personalberater:innen und deren Ideen weiterentwickeln. Ähnlich wie für Vermieter:innen bei AirBnb, ist Recscout als Community eine gewinnbringende Ergänzung der bestehenden Vertriebskanäle. Recscout ist wohl das erste Tool, was den Personalberater:innen passiv Anfragen generiert, ohne das die Personalberater:innen selbst aktiv werden müssen. Zudem haben die Berater:innen über Recscout einen extra Vorteil! So kann eine Berater:in, statt rein telefonisch, wohl den gleichen Auftrag über Recscout gar Committed und mit Anzahlung annehmen, da über Recscout Referenzen und Stärken direkt valide präsentiert werden. So ist es für die Personalberater:in leichter, über Recscout bezahlte Aufträge zu generieren. Zudem vergeben HR-Teams ihre Aufträge sicher gerne in einem vertraulichen Umfeld. Wir wollen mit Recscout die Plattform bieten, auf der HR-Teams und Personalberater:innen schnell und effizient zueinander finden. Dann macht die Arbeit auch einen riesen Spaß. Unsere Vision ist es, dass eine Firma global und zugeschnitten auf die individuelle Vakanz die besten Personalberater:in beauftragen kann – egal ob für einen Standort in Deutschland oder in den USA.

Jede Woche entstehen dutzende neue Startups, warum wird ausgerechnet Recscout ein Erfolg?
Der Zeitpunkt, das Team und die Technologie. Zeitlich steht die Personalberater-Branche besser da als vor Corona. Personalberatungen suchen händeringend nach eigenen Mitarbeiter:innen, um all die zum Wechsel bereiten Kandidat:innen bei hochinteressanten Firmen platzieren zu können. Stellenausschreibungen spezialisieren sich laufend und gefragte Fachkräfte sind auch bei ihren aktuellen Arbeitgeber:innen heiß begehrt. Hier sind erfahrene Personalberater:innen gefragt, die den Firmen beim Aufbau starker Teams unterstützend zur Seite stehen, die richtigen Experten finden, ansprechen und von einem Wechsel überzeugen können. Hier bedarf es an Fachwissen, Überzeugungskraft und Gespür. Unser Team setzt sich aus erfahrenen Gründer:innen, Entwickler:innen, Personalberater:innen, Unternehmensberater:innen und HR-Business Partnern:innen zusammen. Recscout ist mein viertes Startup und dieses Team ist etwas besonderes. Denn wir vereinen die verschiedenen Ansichten und Ansprüche an Recruiting-Prozesse und digitale Lösungen. Es ist fabelhaft zu sehen, wenn die Kollegen ein spezialisiertes Wissen anbieten können, von dem man selbst vielleicht mal “gehört” hat. Neben den fachlichen Bausteinen haben wir individuelle Charaktere im Team, die ihre unterschiedlichen Impulse, Gedanken und Ideen selbstbewusst in unser Produkt einfließen lassen. Jeder tritt für seinen Schwerpunkt ein und zeitgleich arbeiten alle zielgerichtet an einer Vision. Die Technologie von Recscout bietet einen Mix aus eigener Entwicklung und technologischen Produkten von starken Partner:innen. Zum Beispiel setzen wir Technologie von Partner:innen im Bereich Payment, Video-Calls und Dokumentenverwaltung ein. Wir selbst bauen an neuen Features, die HR-Teams und Berater:innen noch enger zusammenrücken lassen. Zum Beispiel bauen wir unseren Chat aus, damit beide Parteien hier Aufträge per Klick vergeben, verwalten und abschließen können.

Wer sind eure Konkurrenten?
Unseren Wettbewerb sehen wir bei anderen technologisch betriebenen Recruiting-Plattformen, die HR-Teams von Firmen mit wechselbereiten Kandidat:innen zusammenbringen. Aus unserer Sicht geht hier allerdings ein besonders begehrter Teil an Kandidat:innen verloren. Nämlich die Kandidat:innen, die noch gar nicht wissen, ob sie zum Wechseln bereit sind und sich auf solchen Plattformen gar nicht erst zur Verfügung stellen. Zudem wird eine rein technisch betriebene Plattform diese Kandidat:innen auch nicht von einer neuen Aufgabe überzeugen können, wo soll diese da auch in der Kommunikation ansetzen, der Faktor “Mensch” fehlt. Hier bedarf es den Einsatz, der Personalberater. Wir werden unseren Personalberater:innen auch die Möglichkeit stellen, dass sie über ihr Portfolio an Kandidat:innen mit Firmen in die Gespräche kommen können, da steht dann das Matching zwischen HR-Teams von Firmen und der Kandidat:innen im Vordergrund aber dahinter bleiben die Personalberater:innen, die die Prozesse steuern.

Wo steht Recscout in einem Jahr?
In einem Jahr wollen wir im Schnitt 30 Stellen im Monat erfolgreich besetzen. Das Team wird mit weiteren Entwickler:innen und talentierten kreativen Sales-Kolleg:innen ausgebaut und die Plattform mit geplanten Features ergänzt. In unserer Mission möchten wir den Milestone von 50-60 regelmäßig aktiven Auftraggeber:innen erreichen und die nächste Finanzierungsrunde vorbereiten. Liebend gerne würden wir den Aspekt der Community weiter entwickeln und beispielsweise vermittelte Kandidat:innen an ihren neuen Arbeitsplätzen besuchen und von ihrer neuen Aufgabe erzählen lassen.

Reden wir zudem noch über den Standort Köln. Wenn es um Startups in Deutschland geht, richtet sich der Blick sofort nach Berlin. Was spricht für Köln als Startup-Standort?
Etwa 2011 bin ich mit ersten Startup-Aktivitäten in Köln gestartet. Seit dem hat sich wirklich einiges getan. In 2015 waren mein Mitgründer und ich (damals im Rahmen der SHOPPEN APP, vergleichbar mit Gorillas, Flink etc. im Bereich Einzelhandel) zur Eröffnung der „Internetwoche Köln“ im Rathaus eingeladen. Es war ein feines Event, bei dem wir sicher noch den Altersschnitt gesprengt haben. Dieses Gefühl von „Selbstverständlichkeit“, „es ist klar, was wir hier machen und wir wollen etwas bewirken“ war noch nicht immer greifbar. Eher ein Gefühl von „abtasten“. Das war mein subjektives Gefühl. Heute sind Startups nicht mehr nur ein Buzzword, sondern sie werden ernst genommen und haben mittlerweile eine grundsolide Basis in Köln. Ein Gedanke in der Hinsicht ist zum Beispiel “Köln Business” und Antje Lienert. In meiner letzten Tätigkeit stand ich vereinzelnd mit ihr in Kontakt und erlebe, wie dieses Netzwerk und der Input / Outcome drum herum täglich wächst und dabei authentisch, ehrlich und nicht wie „wir machen mal Startup“ wirkt. Zudem gibt es mittlerweile zig Co-Working Spaces, Events und Messen in Köln. Von den stets beeindruckenden Gründerinnen vom Okandada Space oder David Wohde, der den WeWork in Köln mit aufgebaut hat, kommen Impulse, Ideen usw. die Synergien und einen echten Startup-Cosmos schaffen, der ein „Miteinander“ spüren lässt. Das zieht dann natürlich auch die vielen Talente der Universitäten und Hochschulen an. So lassen sich diese für die Startups begeistern und erhöhen mit ihren Skills die Qualität der einzelnen Produkte. Es treffen also eine prächtig entwickelte Grundbasis, eine wachsende Kultur, Talente, eine lebhafte Stadt und zu guter letzt eine starke Medienlandschaft aufeinander. Berlin ist als Hauptstadt und der starken internationalen Ausrichtung der erste Spot, die Championsleague im Sinne von Investitionen und Strahlkraft. Das ist auch völlig in Ordnung. Witzig, eigentlich ist Berlin mittlerweile „wie ein Konzern“. Aufgrund der schieren Größe, dem Wettbewerb um die gleichen Talente und Investoren sind einige Prozesse vermutlich nicht mehr so flexibel, wie sie in unserem „Startup-Dorf Köln“ sein können.

Was fehlt in Köln noch?
Vielleicht die gemeinsame Überzeugung, mit Mut und Willen etwas GROSSES schaffen zu können und die Risiken dazu einzugehen. Es gibt in Köln sicherlich Startups, die mit einem mutigen und stark wachsenden Team und passenden Investoren „die Welt erobern können“. Ganz vereinfacht geträumt, würden wir X Euros in RECSCOUT und die Entwicklungs- / Sales-Aktivitäten investieren, warum sollten wir nicht Anfang des neuen Jahres in Europa tätig sein und allen betreffenden Firmen ein bestmögliches Teambuilding ermöglichen können? Das ist bitte mit einem Zwinkern zu verstehen.

Zum Schluss Recscout Du drei Wünsche frei: Was wünscht Du Dir für den Startup-Standort Köln?
Mut zum Risiko in Deutschland. Hier schaue ich manchmal neidisch in Richtung Holland, Skandinavien oder noch weiter Richtung Westen, hier lassen sich bestens die „deutschen“ Erfolgsgeschichten von #Postmates #Shopify aufweisen. Mit dem nötigen Mut des Umfelds hätten sie sich wohl auch hier prächtig entwickeln können. Nicht alles bis ins letzte Detail proven lassen und hinterfragen, sondern starten, machen und anpassen. Die Grundlage von RECSCOUT steht, das Modell und die Strategie lassen sich in verschiedene Richtungen anpassen, ohne sich in der thematischen Ausrichtung zu verändern. Global wollen wohl alle Firmen die eigenen Mitarbeiter-Teams bestmöglich ausbauen. Das ist die Mission. Solche Modelle gibt es sicher in jeder Branche. Mein dritter Wunsch ist, dass die ersten beiden erhört werden.

Durchstarten in Köln – #Koelnbusiness

In unserem Themenschwerpunkt Köln werfen wir einen genaueren Blick auf das Startup-Ökosystem der Rheinmetropole. Wie sind dort die Voraussetzungen für Gründerinnen und Gründer, wie sieht es mit Investitionen aus und welche Startups machen gerade von sich reden? Mehr als 550 Startups haben Köln mittlerweile zu ihrer Basis gemacht. Mit zahlreichen potenziellen Investoren, Coworking-Spaces, Messen und Netzwerkevents bietet Köln ein spannendes Umfeld für junge Unternehmen. Diese Rubrik wird unterstützt von der KölnBusiness Wirtschaftsförderung. #Koelnbusiness auf LinkedInFacebook und Instagram.

KoelnBusiness

Foto (oben): Recscout

#aktuell, #brandneu, #hr, #interview, #koln, #recscout

Flippa raises $11M to match online asset and business buyers, sellers

Flippa, an online marketplace to buy and sell online businesses and digital assets, announced its first venture-backed round, an $11 million Series A, as it sees over 600,000 monthly searches from investors looking to connect with business owners.

OneVentures led the round and was joined by existing investors Andrew Walsh (former Hitwise CEO), Flippa co-founders Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs, as well as new investors Catch.com.au founders Gabby and Hezi Leibovich; RetailMeNot.com founders Guy King and Bevan Clarke; and Reactive Media founders Tim O’Neill and Tim Fouhy.

The company, with bases in both Austin and Australia, was started in 2009 and facilitates exits for millions of online business owners that operate on e-commerce marketplaces, blogs, SaaS and apps, the newest being Shopify, Blake Hutchison, CEO of Flippa, told TechCrunch.

He considers Flippa to be “the investment bank for the 99%,” of small businesses, providing an end-to end platform that includes a proprietary valuation product for businesses — processing over 4,000 valuations each month — and a matching algorithm to connect with qualified buyers.

Business owners can sell their companies directly through the platform and have the option to bring in a business broker or advisor. The company also offers due diligence and acquisition financing from Thrasio-owned Yardline Capital and a new service called Flippa Legal.

“Our strategy is data,” Hutchison said. “Users can currently connect to Stripe, QuickBooks Online, WooCommerce, Google Analytics and Admob for apps, which means they can expose their online business performance with one-click, and buyers can seamlessly assess financial and operational performance.”

Online retail, as a share of total retail sales, grew to 19.6% in 2020, up from 15.8% in 2019, driven largely by the global pandemic as sales shifted online while brick-and-mortar stores closed.

Meanwhile, Amazon has 6 million sellers, and Shopify sellers run over 1 million businesses. This has led to an emergence of e-commerce aggregators, backed by venture capital dollars, that are scooping up successful businesses to grow, finding many through Flippa’s marketplace, Hutchison said.

Flippa has over 3 million registered users and added 300,000 new registered users in the past 12 months. Overall transaction volume grows 100% year over year. Though being bootstrapped for over a decade, the company’s growth and opportunity drove Hutchison to go after venture capital dollars.

“There is a huge movement toward this being recognized as an asset class,” he said. “At the moment, the asset class is undervalued and driving a massive swarm as investors snap up businesses and aggregate them together. We see the future of these aggregators becoming ‘X company for apps’ or ‘X for blogs.’ ”

As such, the new funding will be used to double the company’s headcount to more than 100 people as it builds out its offices globally, as well as establishing outposts in Melbourne, San Francisco and Austin. The company will also invest in marketing and product development to scale its business valuation tool that Hutchison likens to the “Zillow Zestimate,” but for online businesses.

Nigel Dews, operating partner at OneVentures, has been following Flippa since it started. His firm is one of the oldest venture capital firms in Australia and has 30 companies in its portfolio focused on healthcare and technology.

He believes the company will create meaningful change for small businesses. The team combined with Flippa’s ability to connect buyers and sellers puts the company in a strong leadership position to take advantage of the marketplace effect.

“Flippa is an incredible opportunity for us,” he added. “You don’t often get a world-leading business in a brand new category with incredible tailwinds. We also liked that the company is based in Australia, but half of its revenue comes from the U.S.”

#advertising-tech, #amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #blake-hutchison, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #flippa, #funding, #mark-harbottle, #matt-mickiewicz, #nigel-dews, #oneventures, #online-marketplace, #online-retail, #recent-funding, #saas, #shopify, #startups, #tc

Commercetools raises $140M at a $1.9B valuation as ‘headless’ commerce continues to boom

E-commerce these days is now a major part of every retailer’s strategy, so technology builders and platforms that are helping them compete better on digital screens are seeing a huge boost in business. In the latest turn, Commercetools — a provider of e-commerce APIs that larger retailers can use to build customized payment, check-out, social commerce, marketplace and other services — has closed $140 million in funding, a Series C that CEO Dirk Hoerig has confirmed to me values the company at $1.9 billion. 

The funding is being led by Accel, with previous investors Insight Partners and REWE Group also participating. Munich, Germany-based Commercetools spun out of REWE — a giant German retailer, and also a customer — and announced $145 million in investment led by Insight in October 2019.

This latest round represents a huge hike on its valuation since then, when Commercetools was valued at around $300 million.

Part of the reason for the big bump, of course, has been the wave of interest in digital transactions from shopping online. E-commerce was already growing at a steady pace before 2020, by some estimates representing more than half of all commerce transactions. The Covid-19 pandemic turbo-charged that proportion, with many retailers switching exclusively to internet sales, and consumers stuck at home happy to shop with a click.

While companies like Shopify have addressed the needs of smaller retailers, providing them with an alternative or complement to listing on third-party marketplaces like Amazon’s, Commercetools has built its business around catering to larger retailers and the many specific, large-scale needs and investment budgets that they may have for building their digital commerce solutions.

It provides some 300 APIs today around some nine “buckets” of services, and a wide network of integration partners, Hoerig said, and powers some $10 billion of sales annually for its customers, which include the likes of Audi, AT&T, Danone, Tiffany & Co., John Lewis and many others.

“Our main focus is the retailer with more than $100 million in gross merchandise value,” Hoerig said. “This is when it becomes interesting.” But he added that the force of market growth is such that Commercetools is also seeing a lot of business from smaller companies that are simply needing more functionality to address their fast growth. “So we also sometimes have customers that start at $5 million in GMV and quickly go to $50 million. With that scale, they also have specific requirements, so the lines get a bit blurry.” (And that also explains why investors are so interested: there is a lot of evidence of the market growing and growing; and by capturing smaller retailers on big trajectories, that represents a lot more scale for Commercetools.)

Hoerig is sometimes credited with being the person who first coined the term “headless commerce”, which basically means APIs that can be used by a company, or its team of strategists, developers and designers, to build their own customized check-out and other purchasing experiences, rather than fitting these into templates provided by the tech company powering the checkout.

But as the API economy has continued to grow, and the world of non-tech companies that use tech continues to mature, that has taking on a mass-market appeal, and so Commercetools is far from being the only one in this area. In addition to Shopify (which has its own version targeting larger businesses, Shopify Plus), others include SprykerSwellFabricChord and Shogun.

Commercetools will be using the funding both to continue organically expanding its business, but also to make some acquisitions to bolt on new customers, and new technology, tapping into some of the scaling and consolidation that is taking place across e-commerce as a whole. What will be interesting to see is where consolidation will happen, and which startups will be raising money to scale on their own: right now there is a lot of enthusiasm around the space because it is so buoyant, and that will spell more money being funneled to more startups.

Case in point: when I first got wind of this funding round, Commercetools told me it was in the middle of a deal to acquire a company. In the end, that company decided to stay independent and take some more investment to try to grow on its own. Hoerig said it’s now pursuing another target.

Indeed, that is also the bigger force that has brought Commercetools to where it is today.

“The chance to invest in a fast-growing, innovative commerce platform was one we could not pass up,” said Ping Li, the partner at Accel who led on this deal, said in a statement. “Commercetools provides e-commerce enterprises the technology necessary to capture revenue in the rapidly growing global e-commerce market.”

#accel, #api, #articles, #att, #audi, #business, #ceo, #commercetools, #content-management-systems, #danone, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #europe, #germany, #headless-commerce, #insight-partners, #munich, #ping-li, #shopify, #social-commerce

Printify bags $45M, led by Index, to ride the custom printing boom

The creator economy loves merch which is great news for on-demand custom printing startups such as Latvia-based Printify — today it’s announcing a $45 million Series A round, led by Index Ventures, off the back of rising demand for its services.

The mission: To keep growing its global marketplace of print shops to meet rising demand for custom wares, shipped.

Also participating in the funding round: H&M Group, Virgin Group, plus the founders of Transferwise, Vinted, Squarespace, RedHat, and entertainment industry investors including Will Smith’s Dreamers VC and NBA player Kristaps Porzingis.

TechCrunch understands Printify’s post-money valuation is just over $300M.

Ecommerce and creator-focused platforms like Patreon and Shopify — which cater to micro-brand creating individual sellers (be they designers, content creators, ecommerce entrepreneurs or other highly online hustlers) — are helping to fire up demand for custom products like t-shirts, mugs, stickers etc, expanding the market for on-demand printing and shipping.

Printify says it’s now connecting some two million merchants with print providers all over the world — and shipping a million units per month.

It’s also grown to employ close to 500 people — doubling its headcount over the past year, now with a plan to add a further 200 positions by the end of the year.

“Our main audiences are creators, entrepreneurs; most of our merchants are people who want to build a side-business and earn money in addition to their main income, however, we also see a high growth of creators and entrepreneurs who use Printify as a service that helps building their core business,” the startup tells TechCrunch.

It’s one of a number of custom printing startups that have positioned themselves to step in to tackle the printing and shipping piece at scale, often building up businesses over several years from a far smaller base. (Others in the space include Printful, Gelato and Zazzle.)

The 2015-founder Printify has slightly fewer years in the business than some of its rivals but it argues that’s allowed it to be more focused on serving the micro-brand building merchants who are now sparking such a boom in demand custom wares.

“Printify gives the ability for everyone to earn additional income,” it says when asked about the competitive mix — touting a focus on product selection, quality and price as its special sauce, in addition to its marketplace’s global footprint, meaning it can print and ship products to meet demand from merchants all over the world.

“Those are the key aspects our merchants are looking for,” it adds. “Printify provides the largest selection of on-demand printed products for creators and merchants to sell online. Furthermore, Printify provides lowest prices, while ensuring reliable high quality standards.”

The most popular products being sold by merchants using its marketplace are “the classics” — aka T-shirts, hoodies, stickers, mugs, posters and hats.

“We also see a fast-growing market for baby and children’s products, sportswear, pet products and drinkware,” it adds. “Most merchants choose Printify because of our wide selection and geographical flexibility — we have 370+ products in our catalog and adding several each week, printed in 100+ locations all over the world.”

Commenting on the Series A funding in a statement, Dino Becirovic, principal at Index Ventures, said: “Printify is the leading marketplace for on-demand manufacturing, offering the largest selection of products and print providers. They have removed all the barriers to product creation and enabled over 2 million creators to launch successful merchandise businesses at the push of a button. Over time, as more manufacturers come online and more methods become available, Printify will allow any creator to bring their wildest product ideas to reality.”

 

#content-creators, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #fundings-exits, #merchant, #nba, #print-on-demand, #printful, #printify, #printing, #shopify, #transferwise, #virgin-group, #will-smith, #zazzle

Cannabis e-commerce startup Jane Technologies raises $100m after stellar growth

Don’t call Jane Technologies the Amazon of weed. Instead, think of Jane Technologies as the Shopify of weed, and it’s an important distinction. While other startups attempt to build a destination marketplace like Amazon, Jane Technologies is trying something more powerful. The company is building the backends for dispensaries that are quickly taking their cannabis offerings online, and the company accounts for 20% of all legal cannabis sales in the United States. To Jane Technologies, the future of cannabis isn’t a single destination like Amazon; the future of cannabis is the neighborhood dispensary that sells weed online, and Jane wants to power their online store.

Today, the company is announcing a $100m Series C financing round, bringing the total amount raised since its founding in 2015 to $130 million. Honor Ventures lead the round, and Founding Managing Partner Jeffery Housenbold joined Jane Technologies’ board of directors.

Jane Technologies expects to use the additional capital to grow its digital footprint and its teams across multiple areas of operations. The company intends to build new features and expand its product offering for large and small cannabis operations.

Online cannabis retail sales are quickly becoming the norm as consumers’ expectations change, and Jane offers a turn-key solution to build a robust online presence quickly.

Socrates Rosenfeld, Jane Technologies co-founder and CEO, is quick to point out Jane’s current positioning is a long time in the making. In an interview with TechCrunch, he says that this was a bet the company made in 2015 that the future of e-commerce is not a marketplace, but the complete digitization of all commerces.

“I think we are really seeing the next chapter of what the future of E-commerce will look like,” Rosenfeld said, “not just in the cannabis industry perhaps across the world with various retail verticals like alcohol, convenience goods, restaurants, and groceries. Local establishments [now have] some digital connective tissue to their local community, and I don’t think there’s a more challenging environment than the cannabis industry. I’m very proud of the team that we’ve come this far and still have a long way to go, but I think that’s the direct result of us being able to raise this [100 million].

It’s often cited that cannabis was one of the winners of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales lit up as the world shut down. Jane Technologies’ internal numbers lend more supporting evidence. According to their data, only 17% of legal cannabis sales were done online before the pandemic. However, during the height of the pandemic, online says reached a high of 52%, and now, halfway through 2021, Jane Technologies says online sales account for 38% of all legal cannabis sales.

According to Rosenfeld, in 2019, Jane saw $100 million in total transactional volume with one million people on the platform and worked with 1,000 dispensaries. In 2021, the company forecasts it will reach $3.5 billion in total transactional volume and is now working with 2,100 dispensaries, including in Canada. Even more impressive, the company has nearly doubled the number of products listed on its product database, with 700,000 items up from 350,000, showing a dramatic increase in cannabis products available to the consumer.

“We feel extremely fortunate to be born from the cannabis industry where there was no direct consumer ecosystem,” Rosenfeld said. “And we had to go and figure out a way to connect and tie the consumer to the brand and the retailer. We couldn’t do that by shipping products directly to the consumer, and we couldn’t do that by competing against the retailer; we had to work in partnership with our retail partners to provide them with powerful e-commerce enablement tools.”

Last month Jane Technologies partnered with its first Canadian retailer, High Tide. Then, two months ago, the company launched Jane Roots, a powerful all-in-one e-commerce platform that allows dispensaries to focus mainly on the front-end design while Jane takes care of the retail integrations.

“Over the last 25 years I’ve spent working with e-commerce companies, few have become enduring global platforms,” said Jeffrey Housenbold, Founding Managing Partner of Honor Ventures, in a released statement. “Jane has all the right ingredients to become the next eBay or Shopify. They are creating a win-win for all constituents in the ecosystem – brands, retailers and consumers all benefit from their platform and trust Jane to be the go-to service provider to build the future of cannabis commerce on a global basis. I’m excited to watch Socrates and his team build an amazing company, a great place to work and a trusted brand.”

#amazon, #cannabis, #e-commerce, #honor-ventures, #jane-technologies, #shopify, #tc

API platform Postman valued at $5.6 billion in $225 million fundraise

San Francisco-based Postman, which operates a collaborative platform for developers to help them build, design, test and iterate their APIs, said on Wednesday it has raised $225 million in a new financing round that values it at $5.6 billion, up from $2 billion a year ago.

The startup’s new financing round — a Series D — was led by existing investor New York-headquartered Insight Partners. New investors including Coatue, Battery Ventures, and BOND also participated in the new round, which brings total raise across rounds to over $430 million. Existing investors Nexus Venture Partners and CRV also participated in the new round.

APIs provide a way for developers to connect their applications to other internal and external applications. But it’s a space that until the past decade not many firms have attempted to streamline. (Developers relied on — and many continue to do so — open source CLI tools such as curl and HTTPie. That said, Postman now has a number of competitors including Stoplight, and A16z and Tiger Global-backed Kong.)

Abhinav Asthana, a former intern at Yahoo, faced this frustration first hand and built a Chrome extension for himself and friends.

Little did he know just how many developers and firms needed it, too.

The six-year-old startup’s product, which began its journey in India, is today used by over 17 million developers and over 500,000 organizations including Microsoft, Salesforce, Stripe, Shopify, Cisco, and PayPal.

The list is big: Postman co-founder and chief executive Asthana told TechCrunch that 98% of the Fortune 500 companies are customers of Postman.

“We are solving a fundamental problem for the technology landscape. Big companies tend to be slower as they have many other things on their plate,” he told me two years ago.

Postman API Platform’s offerings

“Every company in every industry in the world today uses APIs and needs an API platform. This trend is only growing with the move to cloud and digital experiences,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch Tuesday.

The startup today leads the market and doesn’t compete with many players. Which would explain the investors’ excitement. The startup, which declined to share its revenue, raised the new round at over 100 multiple of its revenue, according to an investor with knowledge of the matter.

Postman’s platform is crucial for developers, but it was only recently that the startup expanded to create a public marketplace for developers and firms to find ready-made APIs to use.

“The Postman Public API Network connects millions of developers around the world and provides them with a space dedicated to discovering, exploring, and sharing of APIs. This was ultimately driven by our creation of public workspaces, which allows users to connect across different organizations,” Asthana said.

“With the emergence of APIs, we believe that this will usher in the next generation of no-code and ‘citizen developers.’ We encourage a world filled with innovation for everyone with different backgrounds and varying levels of technical experience. More and more, we’re seeing people in sales, marketing, and finance become more comfortable with APIs and become the champions of this technology,” he said.

The startup, which employs over 425 people, plans to deploy the fresh funding to hire more employees across sales, marketing, product, and engineering divisions.

Postman will also “heavily” invest in broadening its product roadmap. “We are expanding the Postman platform across areas that technical users need along with supporting the needs of business users. At a high level, we are investing in supporting workflows for all kinds of APIs — whether they are private APIs, partner APIs, or public APIs,” he said.

Some upcoming items on the roadmap include a new version of the Postman API, support for protocols like gRPC, ProtoBuf, and more extensive capabilities for GraphQL. “We are also focusing heavily on integrations with other vendors in the software development lifecycle like AWS, Git hosting providers like GitHub and GitLab. We are also releasing our Flow Runner tool, a no-code API composition tool to enable anyone to build API driven programs.”

The startup also plans to invest in supporting students through API literacy programs and contribute toward open source projects.

“APIs have quickly become the fundamental building blocks of software used by developers in every industry, in every country across the globe—and Postman has firmly established itself as the preferred platform for developers,” said Insight Partners Managing Director Jeff Horing in a statement.

“Postman has the opportunity to become a key pillar of how enterprises build, deliver products, and seamlessly enable partnerships across the ecosystem. Their continued, rapid expansion and strong management team point to a future for Postman with virtually unlimited possibilities.”

#battery-ventures, #bond, #cisco, #coatue, #crv, #funding, #insight-partners, #kong, #microsoft, #nexus-venture-partners, #paypal, #postman, #saas, #salesforce, #shopify, #stripe

xentral, an ERP platform for SMBs, raises $75M Series B from Tiger Global and Meritech

Enterprise Resource Planning systems have traditionally been the preserve of larger companies, but in recent years the amount of data small medium sized businesses can generate has increased to the point where even SMEs/SMBs can get into the world of ERP. And that’s especially true for online-only businesses.

At the beginning of the year we covered the $20 million Series A funding of Xentral, a German startup that develops ERP for online small businesses, but it clearly didn’t plan to stop there.

It’s now raised a $75 million Series B funding from Tiger Global and Meritech, following up from existing investors Sequoia Capital, Visionaries Club (a B2B-focused VC out of Berlin), and Freigeist.

The cash will be used to enhance product, hire staff and expand the UK operation towards a more global ERP market, which is expected to reach $32 billion by 2023.

Speaking to me over a call, Benedikt Sauter, founder and CEO of central, said: “We hook into Shopify, eBay, Amazon, Magento, WooCommerce, and also CRM systems like Pipedrive to collect the software together in one place, and try to do it all automatically in the background so that companies can really focus. Our goal is that a business owner who decides on Friday that they need a flexible ERP can implement and configure xentral over the weekend and hand it over to their team on Monday.”

The German startup covers services like order and warehouse management, packaging, fulfillment, accounting, and sales management, and, right now, the majority of its 1,000 customers are in Germany. Customers include the likes of direct-to-consumer brands like YFood, KoRo, the Nu Company and Flyeralarm.

John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global, said: “Our diligence has uncovered a delighted customer base at xentral and a product offering that has evolved into a true mission-critical platform for ecommerce merchants globally. We are excited to partner with such product visionaries as Benedikt and Claudia as the business scales to serve customers not only in Europe but around the globe in the future.”

Xentral was Sequoia’s first investment in Europe since officially opening for business in the region this year. Sequoia backed other European startups before, including Graphcore, Klarna, Tessian, Unity, UiPath, n8n, and Evervault — but all of those deals were done from the US. Sequoia and its new partner in Europe, Luciana Lixandru, is understood to be joining Xentral’s board along with Visionaries’ Robert Lacher.

Alex Clayton, General Partner at Meritech said: “Meritech invested in NetSuite in 2008 with the vision of bringing ERP to the cloud… We believe that xentral will bring automation to hundreds of thousands SME businesses, dramatically improving multi-channel processes and data management in an ever-growing e-commerce market.”

Sauter and his co-founder Claudia Sauter (who is also his wife) built the early prototype of central originally for their first business in computer hardware sales.

#amazon, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #business, #business-partner, #ceo, #co-founder, #crm, #data-management, #ebay, #erp-software, #europe, #general-partner, #germany, #graphcore, #klarna, #luciana-lixandru, #magento, #meritech, #netsuite, #online-payments, #partner, #pipedrive, #sequoia-capital, #shopify, #tc, #tiger-global, #uipath, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #visionaries-club, #woocommerce, #xentral, #yfood

Shopistry bags $2M to provide ‘headless commerce without the headaches’

Canada-based Shopistry wants to turn the concept of headless commerce, well, on its head. On Monday, the e-commerce startup announced $2 million in seed funding to continue developing its toolkit of products, integrations, services and managed infrastructure for brands to scale online.

Jaafer Haidar and Tariq Zabian started Shopistry in 2019. Haidar’s background is as a serial technology founder with exits and ventures in e-commerce and cloud software. He was working as a venture capitalist when he got the idea for Shopistry. Zabian is a former general manager at OLX, an online classified marketplace.

Shopistry enables customers to create personalized commerce experiences accessible to all. Haidar expects headless will become the dominant architecture over the next five years, though he isn’t too keen on calling it “headless.” He much prefers the term “modular.”

“It’s a modular system, we call it ‘headless without the headaches,’ where you grab the framework to manage APIs,” Haidar told TechCrunch. “After a company goes live, they can spend 50% of their budget just to keep the lights on. They use marketplaces like Shopify to do the tech, and we are doing the same thing, but providing way more optionality. We are not a monolithic system.”

Currently, the company offers five products:

  • Shopistry Console: Brands turn on their optimal stack and change anytime without re-platforming. There is support for multiple e-commerce administrative tools like Shopify or Square, payment providers, analytics and marketing capabilities.
  • Shopistry Cloud is a managed infrastructure spearheading performance, data management and orchestration across services.
  • Shopistry Storefront and Mobile to manage web storefronts and mobile apps.
  • Shopistry CMS, a data-driven, headless customer management system to create once and publish across channels.
  • Shopistry Services, an offering to brands that need design and engineering help.

Investors in the seed round include Shoptalk founder Jonathan Weiner, Hatch Labs’ Amar Varma, Garage Capital, Mantella Venture Partners and Raiven Capital.

“At MVP we love companies that can simplify complexity to bring the proven innovations of large, technically sophisticated retailers to the masses of small to midsize retailers trying to compete with them,” said Duncan Hill, co-founder and general partner at Mantella Venture Partners, in a written statement. “Shopistry has the team and tech to be a major player in this next phase of the e-commerce evolution. This was easy to get excited about.”

Shopistry is already working with retailers like Honed and Oura Ring to manage their e-commerce presences without the cost, complexity or need for a big technology team.

Prior to going after the seed funding, Haidar and Zabian spent two years working with high growth brands to build out its infrastructure. Haidar intends to use the new capital to future that development as well as bring on sales and marketing staff.

Haidar was not able to provide growth metrics just yet. He did say the company was growing its customer base and expects to be able to share that growth next year. He is planning to add more flexibility and integrations to the back end of Shopistry’s platform and add support for other platforms.

“We are focusing next on the go-to-market perspective while we gear up for our big launch coming in the fourth quarter,” he added. “There is also a big component to ‘after the sale,’ and we want to create some amazing experiences and focus on back office operations. We want to be the easiest way to control and manage data while maintaining a storefront.”

 

#amar-varma, #apps, #cloud-software, #duncan-hill, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #funding, #garage-capital, #headless-commerce, #jaafer-haidar, #jonathan-weiner, #mantella-venture-partners, #mobile, #online-shopping, #raiven-capital, #recent-funding, #shopify, #shopistry, #startups, #tariq-zabian, #tc

E-commerce-as-a-service platform Cart.com picks up $98M to give brands scaling tools

Cart.com, a Houston-based company providing end-to-end e-commerce services, brought in its third funding round this year, this time a $98 million Series B round to bring its total funding to $143 million.

Oak HC/FT led the new round of funding and was joined by PayPal Ventures, Clearco, G9 Ventures, Mercury Fund, Valedor Partners and Arsenal Growth. Strategic investors in the Series B include HeyDay CEO Sebastian Rymarz and Casper CEO Philip Krim. This new round follows a $25 million Series A round, led by Mercury and Arsenal in July, and a $20 million seed round from Bearing Ventures.

Cart.com CEO Omair Tariq, who was previously an executive at Home Depot and COO of Blinds.com, co-founded the company in September 2020 with Jim Jacobson, former CEO of RTIC Outdoors.

Tariq told TechCrunch that the company provides software, services and infrastructure to small businesses so they can scale online. Cart.com is taking the best parts of selling direct-to-consumer on marketplaces like Amazon and Shopify to create value for brands. Tariq said he is pioneering the term “e-commerce-as-a-service” to bring together under one platform a suite of business tools like store software, marketing, fulfillment, payments and customer service.

“We see the power of having an interconnected platform,” Tariq said. “There also needs to be a hybrid between selling direct-to-consumer on Amazon and Shopify for companies that don’t have the money to pay for a percentage of their sales and receive no access to customers or data, and needing 20 different plug-ins that are not connected.”

Cart.com went after the new funding after seeing validation of its idea: brands coming to them wanting more products and services, which led to acquisitions. The company has acquired seven companies so far, including — AmeriCommerce, SpaceCraft Brands and, more recently, Dumont Project and Sauceda Industries. Tariq is planning for another three or four by the end of the year.

In addition, it received inbound interest from strategic investors, like Oak and PayPal, which Tariq said was going to enable the company “to be more successful faster.”

Allen Miller, principal at Oak HC/FT, said after spending time with Tariq to understand his vision about Cart.com’s software, payments and services, he felt that the company was doing something that didn’t exist in today’s commerce infrastructure.

He said that Cart.com is well positioned to help companies, like those with $1 million in sales, stay focused on growing the business while Cart.com stitches together all of the tools for them to operate in the background.

“It’s a unique offering to merchants that has a high value proposition,” Miller said. “The vision and drive that Omair and Jim have, along with an inspiring mission they want to achieve — to be brand-centric and help the next generation of merchants. These guys also have a good playbook on finding companies and teams to acquire, as well as handling the post M&A to have everyone on one platform.”

The new financing will enable Cart.com to further invest in technology development and to increase headcount by at least 15 times, with plans to go from fewer than two dozen employees to more than 300 team members by the end of the year. The company has nearly 70 jobs posted on its website for positions in engineering, technology, digital marketing and e-commerce. Tariq also expects half of the funds to go toward more acquisitions.

Cart.com currently serves over 2,000 e-commerce brands, including GNC, Haymaker Coffee, KeHE and Gravatiq, and processes more than $700 million in gross merchandise value per year. The company saw revenue increase 400% since the platform’s launch in November.

In addition, the company has nine fulfillment centers across the country, and is increasing its access to reach 80% of the U.S. population with two-day shipping, Tariq added.

“We are giving the power back to brands by giving them what they need to operate e-commerce,” he said. “There are still a few pieces to fill in so brands have a unified experience, but with us, they can add fulfilment, marketing or customer conversion tools with the click of a couple of buttons.”

 

#allen-miller, #amazon, #arsenal-growth, #cart-com, #clearco, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #funding, #g9-ventures, #mercury-fund, #oak-hc-ft, #omair-tariq, #paypal-ventures, #recent-funding, #saas, #shopify, #startups, #tc, #valedor-partners

Upscribe, raising $4M, wants to drive subscription-first DTC brand growth

Upscribe founder and CEO Dileepan Siva watched the retail industry make a massive shift to subscription e-commerce for physical products over the past decade, and decided to get in it himself in 2019.

The Los Angeles-based company, developing subscription software for direct-to-consumer e-commerce merchants, is Siva’s fourth startup experience and first time as founder. He closed a $4 million seed round to go after two macro trends he is seeing: buying physical products, like consumer-packaged goods, on a recurring basis, and new industries offering subscriptions, like car and fashion companies.

Merchants use Upscribe’s technology to drive subscriber growth, reduce churn and enable their customers to personalize a subscription experience, like skipping shipments, swapping out products and changing the order frequency. Brands can also feature products for upsell purposes throughout the subscriber lifecycle, from checkout to post-purchase.

Upscribe also offers APIs for merchants to integrate tools like Klaviyo, Segment and Shopify — a new subscription offering for checkouts.

Uncork Capital led the seed round and was joined by Leaders Fund, The House Fund, Roach Capitals’ Fahd Ananta and Shippo CEO Laura Behrens Wu.

“As the market for D2C subscriptions booms, there is a need for subscription-first brands to grow and scale their businesses,” said Jeff Clavier, founder and managing partner of Uncork Capital, in a written statement. “We have spent a long time in the e-commerce space, working with D2C brands and companies who are solving common industry pain points, and Upscribe’s merchant-centric approach raised the bar for subscription services, addressing the friction in customer experiences and enabling merchants to engage subscribers and scale recurring revenue growth.”

Siva bootstrapped the company, but decided to go after venture capital dollars when Upscribe wanted to create a more merchant-centric approach, which required scaling with a bigger team. The “real gems are in the data layer and how to make the experience exceptional,” he added.

The company is growing 43% quarter over quarter and is close to profitable, with much of its business stemming from referrals, Siva said. It is already working with customers like Athletic Greens, Four Sigmatic and True Botanicals and across multiple verticals, including food and beverage, health and wellness, beauty and cosmetics and home care.

The new funding will be used to “capture the next wave of brands that are going to grow,” he added. Siva cites the growth will come as the DTC subscription market is forecasted to reach $478 billion by 2025, and 75% of those brands are expected to offer subscriptions in the next two years. As such, the majority of the funding will be used to bring on more employees, especially in the product, customer success and go-to-market functions.

Though there is competition in the space, many of those are focused on processing transactions, while Siva said Upscribe’s approach is customer relationships. The cost of acquiring new customers is going up, and subscription services will be the key to converting one-time buyers into loyal customers.

“It is really about customer relationships and the ongoing engagement between merchants and subscribers,” he added. “We are in a different world now. The first wave could play the Facebook game, advertising on social media with super low acquisition and scale. That is no longer the case anymore.”

 

#artificial-intelligence, #brand-management, #customer-experience, #customer-success, #dileepan-siva, #direct-to-consumer, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #funding, #jeff-clavier, #recent-funding, #shopify, #startups, #subscription-services, #tc, #uncork-capital, #upscribe

Growth is not enough

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We were a smaller team this week, with Natasha and Alex together with Grace and Chris to sort through a week that brought together both this quarter’s earnings cycle, and the Q3 IPO rush. So, it was just a little busy!

Before we get to topics, however, a note that we are having a lot of fun recording these live on Twitter Spaces. We’ve found a hacky way to capture local audio and also share the chats live. So, hit us up on Twitter so you can hang out with us. It’s fun – and we may even bring you up on stage to play guest host.

Ok, now, to the Great List of Subjects:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#alphabet, #ascap, #class, #contentful, #earnings, #electric-vehicles, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #lordstown-motors, #microsoft, #oova, #peppy, #redwood-materials, #robinhood, #robinhood-ipo, #shopify, #softbank, #squire, #startups, #tesla, #tiger-global

Shopify’s Q2 results beat estimates as e-commerce shines

Canadian e-commerce juggernaut Shopify this morning reported its second-quarter financial performance. Like Microsoft and Apple in the wake of their after-hours earnings reports, its shares are having a muted reaction to the better-than-expected results.

In the second quarter of 2021, Shopify reported revenues of $1.12 billion, up 57% on a year-over-year basis. The company’s subscription products grew 70% to $334.2 million, while its volume-driven merchant services drove their own top line up 52% to $785.2 million.

Investors had expected Shopify to report revenue of $1.05 billion.

Shopify also posted an enormous second-quarter profit. Indeed, from its $1.12 billion in total revenues, Shopify managed to generate $879.1 million in GAAP net income. How? The outsized profit came in part thanks to $778 million in unrealized gains related to equity investments. But even with those gains filtered out, Shopify’s adjusted net income of $284.6 million more than doubled its year-ago Q2 result of $129.4 million. Shopify’s earnings per share sans unrealized gains came to $2.24, far ahead of an expected 97 cents.

After reporting those results, Shopify shares are up less than a point.

In light of somewhat muted reactions to Big Tech earnings surpassing expectations, it’s increasingly clear that investors were anticipating that leading tech companies would trounce expectations in the second quarter; their earnings beats were largely priced-in ahead of the individual reports.

The rest of Shopify’s quarter is a series of huge figures. In the second three-month period of 2021, the company posted gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $42.2 billion, up 40% compared to the year-ago period. That was more than a billion dollars ahead of expectations. And the company’s monthly recurring revenue (MRR) grew 67% to $95.1 million in the quarter. That’s quick.

Shopify is priced like the growth will continue. Using its Q2 revenue result to generate an annual run rate for the firm, Shopify is currently valued at around 43x its present top line. That’s aggressive for a company that generates the minority of its revenues from recurring software fees, an investor favorite. Instead, investors seem content to pay what is effectively top dollar for the company’s blend of GMV-based service revenues and more traditional software incomes.

Consider the public markets bullish on the continued pace of e-commerce growth.

It will be interesting to see how BigCommerce, a Shopify competitor and fellow public company, performs when it reports earnings in early August. Shares of BigCommerce are up more than 3% today in wake of Shopify’s results. Ironic given Shopify’s relaxed market reaction to its own results? Sure, but who said the public markets are fair?

#apple, #bigcommerce, #companies, #e-commerce, #earnings, #ecommerce, #microsoft, #publishing, #shopify, #tc, #web-applications

Shopify allows merchants to sell NFTs directly through their storefronts

Shopify has made it possible for eligible sellers to sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens) via its platform, which opens up a whole new world for e-commerce merchants.

On Monday, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls launched its first-ever NFTs –– including digital artwork of NBA championship rings –– by launching an online store on Shopify. Instead of having to go to an NFT marketplace, Bulls fans can now purchase the digital art directly with the team’s online store using a credit or debit card. In its first day of making them available, the NBA team sold out of the NFTs within just 90 seconds, according to Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s VP of merchant services.

“You could buy NFTs on credit cards before, but honestly the NFT buying experience outside Shopify isn’t awesome for anyone right now,” he told TechCrunch “That’s why we decided to do this work. Merchants and buyers shouldn’t have to take a course in crypto to buy things they care about.”

It’s also about giving consumers more options to buy NFTs – especially those who are not well-versed in cryptocurrency.

By making it possible for merchants to sell NFTs directly through their Shopify storefronts, the company says it’s creating access for merchants who want to sell NFTs. They will eventually be able to choose which blockchain they’d like to sell on based on their products and customer base since Shopify supports multiple blockchains, Nejatian said.

“By contrast, if merchants want to sell on an NFT marketplace, they need to choose based on the blockchain supported by that marketplace,” he added.

The Chicago Bulls selected the Flow blockchain for their NFTs, for example. But overall, Shopify merchants can today choose from Flow and Ethereum, but soon “will have more choice with other blockchains on Shopify,” according to Nejatian.

The move was also driven by demand from merchants asking for the ability to sell NFTs and the desire to give creators and artists another forum to grow professionally.

“Many creators are already seeing the value of selling NFTs to their fans, but we’re removing some of the friction for themselves and their buyers, allowing them to better monetize their work and their connection to their audience,” he added. “We’re opening up a world where their fans feel meaningful connection to their brands, and where NFTs just increasingly become part of how we buy and sell online.”

#blockchain, #blockchains, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #ethereum, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #nfts, #shopify, #technology

Crypto infra startup Fireblocks raises $310M, triples valuation to $2.2B

Fireblocks, an infrastructure provider for digital assets, has raised $310 million in a Series D round of funding that tripled the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion in just over five months.

Sequoia Capital, Stripes and Spark Capital co-led Fireblocks’ latest round, which also included participation from Coatue, DRW VC  and SCB 10X – the venture arm of Thailand’s oldest bank – and Siam Commercial Bank. The latter is the third global bank to invest in Fireblocks in addition to the Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon and SVB Capital. 

In February, the New York-based startup raised $133 million in a Series C round at a $700 million valuation. The latest financing brings Fireblocks’ total raised since its 2018 inception to $489 million. And as for Fireblocks’ valuation boost, the growth correlates with its increase in customers and ARR this year, according to CEO and co-founder Michael Shaulov. 

Since January, Fireblocks has seen its customer base increase to about 500 compared to 150 in January. Its ARR (annual recurring revenue) is also up – by 350% so far in 2021 compared to 2020. Last year, ARR rose by 450% compared to 2019.

“We expect to end the year up 500%,” Shaulov said. “We’ve already adjusted our revenue predictions for 2021 three times.”

Put simply, Fireblocks aims to offer financial institutions an all-in-one platform to run a digital asset business, providing them with infrastructure to store, transfer and issue digital assets. In particular, Fireblocks provides custody to institutional investors and has secured the transfer of over $1 trillion in digital assets over time. 

Fireblocks launched out of stealth mode in June of 2019 and has since opened offices in the United Kingdom, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore, France and the DACH region. Today, it has over 500 financial institutions as customers – a mix of businesses that already support crypto and digital assets and those that are considering entering the space. Customers include global banks, crypto-native exchanges, lending desks, hedge funds, OTC desks as well as companies such as Revolut, BlockFi, Celsius, PrimeTrust, Galaxy Digital, Genesis Trading, crypto.com and eToro among others. 

Of those 500 institutions, Fireblocks is working with 70 banks that are looking to join the cryptocurrency space, and start platforming their infrastructure, according to Shaulov. Siam Commercial bank, for example, is using the company’s infrastructure to transform into a blockchain-based bank.

“Our platform creates highly secure wallets for cryptocurrencies and digital assets, where institutions can store their funds or their customer funds, and also get security insurance,” he said.

Fireblocks’ issuance and tokenization platform allows for the creation of asset-backed tokens.

“We handle all the security or compliance, all the policies and workflows,” Shaulov said. “Basically all the complicated stuff you need to do as a business when you want to start working with this new technology. So it’s a bit like ‘Shopify for crypto.’ ”

Sequoia Partner Ravi Gupta is naturally bullish on the company, describing Fireblocks as “the leading back-end infrastructure for crypto products.”

“The team has the potential to build a large, enduring business serving crypto-native companies, consumer fintech companies, and traditional financial institutions alike,” he told TechCrunch. “Their growth has been tremendous, and the quality of their product and customer sentiment are remarkable.”

Image Credits: Left to right: Fireblocks co-founders Idan Ofrat, Michael Shaulov and Pavel Berengoltz / Fireblocks

Fireblocks has also started to see businesses outside of what would be identified as fintech or finance show interest in its platform such as e-commerce websites that are looking to create NFTs on the back of their merchandise. 

The Fireblocks platform, Shaulov said, helps spread the expansion of digital asset use cases beyond bitcoin into payments, gaming, NFTs, digital securities and “ultimately allows any business to become a digital asset business.”

What that means is that Fireblocks’ technology can be white labeled for crypto custody offerings, “so that new and established financial institutions can implement direct custody on their own without having to rely on third parties,” the company says.

Shaulov emphasizes Fireblocks’ commitment to staying an independent company after a wave of consolidation in the space. Earlier this year, PayPal announced its plans to acquire Curv, a cryptocurrency startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Then in early May, bitcoin-focused Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd. said it agreed to buy BitGo Inc. for $1.2 billion in cash and stock in the first $1 billion deal in the cryptocurrency industry.

“Consolidation can be painful for clients,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s Important for us that we stay independent and that’s part of the purpose of this round.

The company will also use the funds to increase its engineering and customer success operations, and expand geographically, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.  

“Fireblocks provides the most secure and flexible platform for a wide range of customer needs,” said Sequoia’s Gupta. “It uses world-class multi-party computation technology to secure digital assets in storage and in transit, and has the most flexible platform with controls for product teams to be able to build on and manage Fireblocks effectively.”

#articles, #asia-pacific, #bank, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #blockfi, #celsius, #coatue, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #curv, #decentralization, #digital-currencies, #etoro, #finance, #financial-technology, #fireblocks, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #galaxy-digital, #israel, #money, #new-york, #paypal, #ravi-gupta, #recent-funding, #revolut, #saas, #sequoia, #sequoia-capital, #shopify, #singapore, #spark-capital, #startups, #stripes, #svb-capital, #tel-aviv, #thailand, #united-kingdom, #venture-capital

A DNS outage just took down a large chunk of the internet

A large chunk of the internet dropped offline on Thursday. Some of the most popular sites, apps and services on the internet were down, including UPS and FedEx (which have since come back online), Airbnb, Fidelity, and others are reporting Steam, LastPass, and the PlayStation Network are all experiencing downtime.

Many other websites around the world are also affected, including media outlets in Europe.

What appears to be the cause is an outage at Akamai, an internet security giant that provides networking and content delivery services to companies. At around 11am ET, Akamai reported an issue with its Edge DNS, a service that’s designed to keep websites, apps and services running smoothly and securely.

DNS services are critically important to how the internet works, but are known to have bugs and can be easily manipulated by malicious actors. Companies like Akamai have built their own DNS services that are meant to solve some of these problems for their customers. But when things go wrong or there’s an outage, it can cause a knock-on effect to all of the customer websites and services that rely on it.

Akamai said it was “actively investigating the issue,” but when reached a spokesperson would not say if its outage was the cause of the disruption to other sites and services that are currently offline. Akamai would not say what caused the issue but that it was already in recovery.

“We have implemented a fix for this issue, and based on current observations, the service is resuming normal operations. We will continue to monitor to ensure that the impact has been fully mitigated,” Akamai told TechCrunch.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen an outage this big. Last year Cloudflare, which also provides networking services to companies around the world, had a similar outage following a bug that caused major sites to stop loading, including Shopify, Discord and Politico. In November, Amazon’s cloud service also stumbled, which prevented it from updating its own status page during the incident. Online workspace startup Notion also had a high-profile outage this year, forcing the company to turn to Twitter to ask for help.

#airbnb, #akamai, #cloudflare, #computing, #dns, #downtime, #europe, #fedex, #internet, #lastpass, #notion, #security, #shopify, #spokesperson, #technology, #twitter

Okendo raises $5.3M to help D2C brands ween themselves off of Big Tech customer data

While direct-to-consumer growth has exploded in the past year, some brands are finding there’s still plenty of room to forge ahead in building a more direct relationships with their customers.

Sydney-based Okendo has made a splash in this world by building out a popular customer reviews systems for Shopify sellers, but it’s aiming to expand its ambitions and tackle a much bigger problem with its first outside funding — helping brands scale the quality of their first-party data and loosen their reliance on tech advertising kingpins for customer acquisition and engagement.

“Most D2C brands are still very dependent on big tech,” CEO Matthew Goodman tells TechCrunch.

Gathering more customer reviews data directly from consumers has been the first part of the puzzle with its product that helps brands manage and showcase customer ratings, reviews, user-generated media and product questions. Moving forward Okendo is looking to help firms manage more of the web of cross-channel customer data they have, standardizing it and allowing them to give customers a more personalized experience when they shop with them.

via Okendo

“Merchants have goals and want to better understand their customers,” Goodman says. “As soon as a brand reaches a certain level of scale they’re dealing with unwieldy data.”

Goodman says that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature and Google’s pledge to end third-party cookie tracking has pushed some brands to get more serious about scaling their own data sets to insulate themselves from any sudden movements.

The company needs more coin in its coffers to take on the challenge, raising their first bout of funding since launching back in 2018. They’ve raised $5.3 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures. 2020 was a big growth year for the startup as e-commerce spending surged and sellers looked more thoughtfully at how they were scaling. The company tripled its ARR during the year and doubled its headcount. The bootstrapped company was profitable at the time of the raise, Goodman says.

Today, the company boasts more than 3,500 D2C brands in the Shopify network as customers, including heavyweights like Netflix, Lego, Skims, Fanjoy and Crunchyroll. The startup is tight-lipped on what their next product launches will look like, but plans to jump into two new areas in the next 12 months, Goodman says.

#brand, #ceo, #netflix, #publishing, #recent-funding, #shopify, #startups, #sydney, #tc, #venture-capital, #web-applications

Brokrete wants to be the “Shopify of construction”, raises $3M Seed led by Xploration Capital

With the pandemic affecting every aspect of life and industry, it’s no surprise that digitization is coming to construction fast. Construction suppliers are increasingly under the same pressure as other sectors to perform at a higher level. We’ve seen the rise of companies like Dozer, Reno Run, and Toolbox try to address this, but often the model is closer to a vertical integration one rather than something more open. Even with that, it’s still the case that to order concrete or bricks, construction companies have to negotiate each time, while simultaneously record keeping.

This is the argument of Brokrete, which bills itself as the “Shopify of construction.”

The startup has now raised a $3M seed financing round led by Xploration Capital, which was joined by unnamed new strategic investors and existing investors. The startup graduated from Y Combinator’s winter cohort last year. Other strategic investors include Ronald Richardson, Avlok Kohli (CEO of AngeLlist Ventures) and the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF). The funding will be used to expand in North American and European markets. Brokrete also launched an e-commerce platform for suppliers in the construction industry it calls Storefront.

Jordan Latourelle, the company’s founder and CEO said: “Construction today is a largely offline, $1.2 trillion market where legacy commerce is the norm. Brokrete’s Storefront product equips suppliers with the tools required to enhance their operations by orders of magnitude. I founded Brokrete after seeing an industry left behind by e-commerce giants. Now we are becoming the operating system for e-commerce in the construction industry, while staying easy and affordable at the same time.”

Brokrete says its platform is code-free, white-labeled, multi-channel, and industry-specific to sell and manage orders online. Suppliers get an iOS and Android app for e-commerce to receive offline orders from more ‘traditional’ customers. It then provides order management, payouts, dispatching, logistics, and real-time delivery. There are also financial and operational ERP integrations. Brokrete claims to works with 1000+ contractors and to have a 250+ supplier network. 

Latourelle told me: “We’re giving the construction industry an opportunity to use it on a Shopify way, and create their own store. It’s like a branded storefront for suppliers.”

Eugene Timko, Managing Partner at Xploration Capital said: “Construction is one of the few remaining large industries with mostly undigitized supply chains. Historically the key problem was the lack of real-time access to actual stocks which prevented producers and distributors from going online. Now with Brokrete’s end-to-end solution, these businesses can not only sell through Brokrete’s marketplace but can also enable their own direct online channels. Similar to Shopify, this has allowed many thousands of previously offline businesses to start accepting orders online.”

#android, #angellist, #avlok-kohli, #ceo, #e-commerce, #europe, #managing-partner, #operating-system, #retailers, #shopify, #storefront, #tc, #toolbox, #y-combinator

How we got 75% more e-commerce orders in a single A/B test for this major brand

The Conversion Wizards, a conversion rate optimization (CRO) consultancy, was entrusted with boosting the conversion rates of a multibillion dollar company.

We used research to optimize the page and ran an A/B test. The winning version, labeled “radical,” resulted in a 75% increase in sales.

The original and double-control pages are actually identical. And to ensure that our judgment is sound, we always include a double-control.

Screenshot from the winning, optimized treatment (above the fold, desktop)

Screenshot from the winning, optimized treatment (above the fold, desktop). Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

Here’s a screenshot of the original page (above the fold, desktop). Image credits: Conversion Wizards

Here’s a screenshot of the original page (above the fold, desktop). Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

We took the average of those two identical pages as the baseline to determine the lift, and it revealed a 75% increase at 99% statistical significance.

Here are the Google optimize screenshots:

Google optimize

Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

Google Optimize

Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

Here’s a link to the full image of the original page.

Here’s a link to the full image of the winning page.

A look under the hood

Before I discuss the changes that produced the lift, it is important that I quickly go over the research that informed those changes. Why? Because it is a critical aspect of the process and too many CRO practitioners do not devote enough attention to figuring out why more site visitors aren’t converting.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

We surveyed both bouncing visitors and subscribers to the Subscribe & Save program. One of the important questions we asked the bouncing visitors was: “If you did not purchase today, what was your reason?”

#advertising-tech, #amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ecommerce, #facebook, #growth-marketing, #machine-learning, #retailers, #shopify, #walmart

Facebook Pay extends its reach later this summer

Facebook Pay is one of many payment services aiming to eliminate the "phone, laptop, credit card" shuffle by offering easily accessed one-tap payment options.

Enlarge / Facebook Pay is one of many payment services aiming to eliminate the “phone, laptop, credit card” shuffle by offering easily accessed one-tap payment options. (credit: Fiordaliso via Getty Images)

This August, Facebook will be making its Facebook Pay payment service available outside its own platforms for the first time. Facebook’s announcement describes the move as providing a mobile-friendly seamless checkout experience for businesses that elect to use it, pointing out that Facebook users already use the service to send money and buy items in Facebook Shops and the Facebook Marketplace.

There isn’t much meat in Facebook’s announcement, which mostly rehashes feel-good bullet points that apply to the entire online financial industry, not just Facebook Pay—for example, the system’s use of encrypted storage and the fact that businesses accepting Facebook Pay don’t need to manage customers’ card or bank account numbers. While these features sound good at first blush, they’re both de rigueur, not innovations—the majority of online stores already use third-party payment processors that manage credit card and bank account numbers for them.

Facebook pledges that Pay users’ credit card and bank account information won’t be used to “personalize their experience” or target advertisements. The company also says that payments and purchases will not be shared with a user’s friends or to a user’s profile or feed. It’s worth noting that these are explicitly separate promises, though—Facebook isn’t promising that payments and purchases won’t be used for “personalization” or ad targeting.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#facebook, #facebook-pay, #shopify, #social-media, #tech, #virtual-currency

Vaayu’s carbon tracking for retailers raises raises $1.6m, claims it could cut CO2 in half by 2030

Carbon tracking is very much the new hot thing in tech, and we’ve previously covered more generalist startups doing this at scale for companies, such as Plan A Earth out of Berlin.

But there’s clearly an opportunity to get deep into a vertical sector and tailor solutions to it.

That’s the plan of Vaayu, a carbon tracking platform aimed specifically at retailers. It has now raised $1.57 million in pre-seed funding in a funding round led by CapitalT. Several Angels also took part, including Atomico’s Angel Program, Planet Positive LP, Saarbrücker 21, Expedite Ventures, and NP-Hard Ventures.

Carbon tracking for the retail fashion industry, in particular, is urgently needed. Unfortunately, the fashion industry remains responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, which ads up to more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
 
Vaayu says it integrates with various point-of-sale systems, such as Shopify and Webflow. It then pulls in data on logistics, operations, and packaging to monitor, measure, and reduce their carbon emissions. Normally, retailers calculate emissions once a year, which is obviously far less accurate.

Vaayu was founded in 2020 by Namrata Sandhu (CEO) former Head of Sustainability at fashion retailer Zalando, as well as Anita Daminov (CPO) and Luca Schmid (CTO). Vaayu currently has 25 global brand customers, including Missoma, Armed Angels, and Organic Basics. 
 
Commenting on the fundraise, Namrata Sandhu, CEO, Vaayu, said: “We have only nine short years left to achieve the UN’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and as the third-largest contributor to global emissions, retailers need to take action – and fast. Vaayu is here to help retailers measure, monitor, and reduce their carbon footprint at scale across the entire supply chain – something that I know from my own experience can be complex and expensive. 
 
Speaking to me over a call, Sandhu told me: “Putting the focus on retail basically allows us to automate the calculation, which means in three clicks you can get your carbon footprint right away. That then allows us to really accurate data, and with that, we can basically do reductions specific to the business but using software, rather than any kind of manual intervention or a kind of ‘intermediate’ state where you need to put together an Excel sheet. Because we focus on retail we can automate the entire process and also automate the reductions.”

“We are delighted to be backed by female-led CapitalT who understood us and our vision right from the start. We look forward to developing Vaayu further in the coming months so we can reach as many retailers as possible and help put the brakes on the impending climate crisis,” she added.

Janneke Niessen, founding partner, CapitalT commented: “We are very excited to join Vaayu on their mission to reduce carbon emission for retailers worldwide. The Vaayu product is very scalable and its quick and easy implementation allows for fast adoption. We are confident that with this experienced team, Vaayu will soon be one of the fastest-growing climate tech companies in Europe and the world.”

#berlin, #carbon-footprint, #ceo, #cto, #europe, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #retail, #shopify, #tc, #united-nations, #webflow, #zalando

TikTok wants you to send video resumes directly to brands to land your next gig

A new pilot program from TikTok would inject a little LinkedIn into the youthful video-based social network.

TikTok announced that, starting today, it will invite users to submit video resumes to participating companies, including Target, Chipotle, Shopify, Meredith, NASCAR and the WWE. The company encourages applicants to show off their skills in a creative way while tagging the content with the hashtag #TikTokResumes.

The pilot program is TikTok’s latest effort to streamline the relationship between brands and creators, giving both even more reason to invest time and cash into the platform.

“#CareerTok is already a thriving subculture on the platform and we can’t wait to see how the community embraces TikTok Resumes and helps to reimagine recruiting and job discovery,” TikTok Global Head of Marketing Nick Tran said of the pilot.

TikTok resumes sample page

The new pilot program will be discoverable through the dedicated hashtag and on standalone site tiktokresumes.com, which also has some tips for applying and sample videos. On that site, anyone can browse job listings by employer and fill out a short questionnaire, attaching their video link. And yes, for better or worse, pointing potential employers to your LinkedIn profile is still encouraged.

TikTok views the new pilot as a “natural extension” of its college ambassador program, which recruits students to serve as on-campus representatives promoting the social network’s brand. The pilot program will accept TikTok resumes through July 31.

Of the participating brands listed on the new site, many openings are just for regular ol’ jobs, like NASCAR seeking a sales rep and Target hunting for hourly warehouse workers to cover the night shift. (Should we really be encouraging unemployed people to jump through more hoops to land gigs like this?)

Some listings are more tailored to the TikTok skill set, like an opening at All Recipes for on-camera talent to teach viewers how to make fluffy biscuits or a supervising social producer role at Popsugar.

The traditional resume hasn’t changed much over the years — list the stuff you did, keep it on one page — but any brand hiring a social media manager or any other kind of content creator could be well served by TikTok’s latest creator economy experiment.

#ambassador, #bytedance, #computing, #linkedin, #nascar, #pilot, #shopify, #social, #social-media, #social-network, #software, #target, #tc, #tiktok, #wwe

Shopify drops its App Store commissions to 0% on developers’ first million in revenue

Following similar moves by Apple, Google, and more recently Amazon, among others, e-commerce platform Shopify announced today it’s also lowering its cut of developer revenue across its app marketplace, the Shopify App Store, as well as the new Shopify Theme Store. The news was announced today alongside a host of other developer-related news and updates for the Shopify platform at the company’s Unite 2021 Conference, including updates to Checkout, APIs, developer tooling and frameworks, among other things.

Shopify says its app developer partners earned $233 million in 2020 alone, more than 2018 and 2019 combined — an increase that can likely be attributed, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid shift to e-commerce that resulted. Today, there are over 6,000 publicly available apps across the Shopify App Store, and on average, a merchant will use around six apps to run their business.

Now, Shopify says it will drop its commissions on app developer revenue to 0%, down from 20%, for developers who make less than $1 million annually on its platform. This benchmark will also reset annually, giving developers — and, particularly those on the cusp of $1 million — more earning potential. And when Shopify’s revenue share kicks in, it will now only be 15% of “marginal” revenue. That means developers will pay 15% only on revenue they make that’s over the $1 million mark.

The same business model will apply to Shopify’s Theme Store, which opens to developer submissions July 15.

As the two stores are separate entities, the $1 million revenue share metric applies to each store individually. The new business model will begin on August 1, 2021 and will be made available to developers who register by providing their account details in their partner dashboard.

Shopify says the more developer-friendly business model will mean a drop in company revenue, but says it doesn’t expect this impact “to be material” because it will encourage greater innovation and development.

The changes to Shopify’s App Store follow a shift in the broader app store market around developer commissions.

Last year, amid increased regulatory scrutiny over how it runs its App Store, Apple announced it would reduce the App Store commissions for smaller businesses under a new program where developers earning up to $1 million per year would only have to pay a 15% commission on in-app purchases. Google and Amazon have since followed suit, each with their own particular spin on the concept. For example, in Google’s case, the fee is 15% on the first million the developer earns. Amazon is still charging a higher percentage at 20%, but is tacking on AWS credits as a perk.

Apple and Google, in particular, hope these changes can help shield them from antitrust investigations over their alleged app store monopolies, while also giving developers a better reason to participate in their own slice of the app economy.

Outside of mobile, Microsoft this year agreed to match the 12% cut on game sales that Epic Games takes on its Windows Store, as a means of increasing the pressure on its rivals. With the larger update to the new Windows 11 Store, it will allow developers to use their own payment platforms, while keeping its commission at 15% on apps.

To date, much of the momentum in the market has been focused on lowering the cut of app and games sales. Shopify’s app platform is different — it’s about apps that are used to enhance an e-commerce business, like those that help with shipping and delivery, marketing, merchandising, store design, customer service and more. These are not consumer-facing apps, but they are still marketed in an app store environment.

While the changes to developers’ businesses is the big news today from Unite 2021, that’s not to diminish from the host of updates Shopify announced related to its larger platform.

Among the updates are: the debut of Online Store 2.0, a more flexible and customizable update to Shopify’s Liquid platform (its templating language), which Netflix was the first to test; investments in custom storefronts for faster response times; a new React framework for building custom storefronts called Hydrogen; a way to host Hydrogen storefronts on Shopify called Oxygen; support for more Metafields for products and product variants and custom content that’s built on top; speedier Spotify Checkout; Checkout Extensions (customizations built by developers); easier and more powerful Shopify Scripts; a Payments Platform for integrating third-party payment gateways into Checkout; updates to its Storefront API; and more.

The company today also shared a few more business metrics, noting, for instance, that last year over 450 million people checked out on Shopify, totaling $120 billion in gross merchandise volume. It said its Shopify partners — which include app developers, theme builders, designers, agencies and experts — earned $12.5 billion in revenue in 2020, up 84% year-over-year, and 4x the revenue of Shopify’s own platform.

#amazon, #api, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #aws, #computing, #developer, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #epic-games, #google, #itunes, #microsoft, #microsoft-store, #microsoft-windows, #shopify, #software, #spotify, #windows-store

Co-op raises $5.8M to help online merchants land customers for less

Ask anyone looking to sell online about their customer acquisition costs compared to a few years ago, and you’ll hear a tale of woe. Channels that were once a cost-effective ground for acquiring customers, like various social networks, have become increasingly pricey real estate. Facebook’s recent broaching of the $1 trillion market cap threshold attests to the fact.

But co-op wants to shake up how online sellers find new customers, and it wants to do so with a spirit of collaboration at a discount. The startup announced a $5.8 million round today that closed earlier this month, evidence that it has found backers for its model that has already collected 500 brands.

That final figure matters because co-op is an almost uniquely collaborative company. Brands that sign up to be part of co-op include its technology on their post-purchase page, allowing for other, related items to be shown to customers who just finished buying something. By including the widget, a company’s product will be shown on the post-purchase page of another company.

That sounds anti-capitalist at the very least, which wouldn’t work in a venture-backed world. So, what’s the twist? The post-purchase page widget shows three or four products, giving it extra inventory that it can sell to its partnered brands. Presto, revenue.

The company’s founder and CEO, Conner Sherline, told TechCrunch that his startup can deliver advertising space at around half the cost-per-action of Facebook and other channels; how the economics of its model scale as more brands join will be fascinating to watch.

The startup also offers software tooling, including a post-purchase survey feature that costs 5 cents per order for customers to leverage.

Sherline’s startup appears to be growing quickly. When it raised pre-seed capital last July, it had around 20 brands onboarded to its service. Today, the company is adding another 50 to 100 each month. At that rate, it could reach 1,000 brands in total by the end of the year, barring any deceleration in its ability to attract new brands to its network.

The startup’s early progress attracted Sugar Capital to lead its latest round, which also saw participation from Bessemer Venture Partners and online e-commerce giant Shopify. The Shopify check is interesting; co-op already exists on the Shopify app store, for example. TechCrunch will keep an eye out for more integrations between the two companies, something that could turbo-charge the startup’s growth.

There are a number of places for co-op to expand into. Sherline told TechCrunch in an interview that its collaborative network is the first thing that the company is working on. But with lots of sales data and a wealth of partners, co-op could build out partner networks aimed at other parts of the e-commerce sales life cycle pretty easily, we reckon.

Regardless, the company now has a multiple of the $1.6 million that it had raised before. Let’s see how quickly it can scale its brand base with the new funds.

#bessemer, #co-op, #ecommerce, #shopify, #tc

Tapcart, a ‘Shopify for mobile apps,’ raises a $50 million Series B

Shopify changed the e-commerce landscape by making it easier for merchants to set up their websites both quickly and affordably. A startup called Tapcart is now doing the same for mobile commerce.

The company, which has referred to itself as the “Shopify for mobile apps,” today powers the shopping apps for top brands, including Fashion Nova, Pier One Imports, The Hundreds, Patta, Culture Kings, and thousands more. Following a year of 3x revenue growth, in part driven by the pandemic, Tapcart is today announcing the close of a $50 million round of Series B funding, led by Left Lane Capital. Having clearly taken notice of Tapcart’s traction with its own merchant base, Shopify is among the round’s participants.

Other investors in the round include SignalFire, Greycroft, Act One Ventures and Amplify LA.

Tapcart’s co-founders, Sina Mobasser and Eric Netsch, have worked in the mobile app industry for years. Mobasser’s previous company, TestMax, offered one of the first test prep courses on iOS, while Netsch had more recently worked on the agency side to create mobile and digital experiences for brands. Together, the two realized the potential in helping online merchants bring their businesses to mobile, as easily as they were able to go online with Shopify.

Tapcart’s founders Sina Mobasser and Eric Netsch at their Santa Monica HQ

“Now, you can launch an app on our platform in a matter of weeks, where historically it would take up to a year if you wanted to custom build an app,” explains Mobasser. “And you can do it for a low monthly fee.”

Tapcart’s platform itself offers a simple drag-and-drop builder that allows anyone to create a mobile app for their existing Shopify store using tools to design their layout, customize the product detail pages, integrate checkout options, include product reviews, and even optionally add other branded content, like blogs, lookbooks, videos (including live video) and more. Everything is synced directly from Shopify to the app in real-time, so the merchant’s inventory, products and collections are all kept up-to-date. That’s a big differentiator from some rivals, which require duplicate sets of data and data transformation.

Tapcart, meanwhile, leverages all of Shopify’s APIs and SDKs to create a native application that works with Shopify’s existing data structures.

Image Credits: Tapcart

 

This tight integration with Shopify helps Tapcart because it doesn’t have to focus on the e-commerce infrastructure, as the way things are structured around inventory and collections are roughly 90% the same across brands. Instead, Tapcart focuses on the 10% that makes brands stand out from one another, which includes things like branding, content and design. Its CMS allows merchants to create exclusive content, change the colors and fonts, add videos and more to make the app look and feel fully customized.

Beyond the mobile app creation aspect to its business, Tapcart also helps merchants automate their marketing. Through the Tapcart platform, merchants can communicate with their customers in real-time using push notifications that can alert them to new sales, to encourage them to return to abandoned carts, or any other promotions. The marketing campaigns can be automated, as well, which helps merchants schedule their upcoming launches and product drops ahead of time. The company claims these push notifications deliver click-through rates that are 72% higher than a traditional email or SMS text because of their interactivity and branding.

Image Credits: Tapcart

The platform has quickly found traction with SMB to mid-market enterprise customers who have reached the stage of their business where it makes sense for them to double down on customer retention and conversion and optimize their mobile workflow.

“Our sweet spot is when you have maybe a couple hundred customers in your database,” notes Netsch. “That’s a perfect time to now focus less on the paid acquisition portion of your business and more on how to retain and engage those existing customers, [so they’ll] shop more and have a better experience,” he says.

During the past 12 months, over $1.2 billion in merchant sales have flowed through Tapcart’s platform. And in 2020, Tapcart’s recurring revenue increased by 3x, as mobile apps grew even faster during the pandemic, which had increased consumer mobile screen time by 20% year-over-year from 2019. Mobile commerce spending also grew 55% year-over-year, topping $53 billion globally during the holiday shopping season, the company says. Tapcart’s own merchants saw mobile app orders at a rate of more than once-per-second during this time, and it believes these trends will continue even as the pandemic comes to an end.

Today, Tapcart generates revenue by charging a flat SaaS (software-as-a-service) fee, which differentiates it from a number of competitors who charge a percent of the merchant’s total sales.

Image Credits: Tapcart

With the additional funding, Tapcart plans to focus on its goal of becoming a vertically integrated mobile commerce suite of tools, which more recently includes support for iOS App Clips. It will also soon release an upgraded version of its insights analytics platform and will offer scripts that merchants can install on their mobile websites to compare what works on the site versus what works in the app.

Later this year, Tapcart plans to launch a full marketing automation product that will allow brands to automate and personalize their notifications even further. And it plans to invest in market expansions to make its product better designed for mobile, global commerce.

The funding will allow Santa Monica-based Tapcart to hire another 200 people over the next 24 months, up from the 70 it has currently. These will include new additions across time zones and even in markets like Australia and Europe as it moves toward global expansion.

Shopify’s investment will open up a number of new opportunities as well, including on product, engineering, business strategy and partnerships. It will also help to get Tapcart in front of Shopify’s 1.7 million global merchants.

“There’s still quite a lot of merchants that need better mobile experiences, but have yet to really double down on the mobile effort and get something like a native app,” notes Netsch. “There’s a lot of different ways and methods that merchants are experimenting with mobile growth, and we’re trying to offer all of the best parts of that in a single platform. So there’s tons of expansion for Tapcart to do just that with the existing target addressable market,” he says.

“We believe brands must be where their customers are, and today that means being on their phones,” said Satish Kanwar, VP of product acceleration at Shopify, in a statement. “Tapcart helps merchants create mobile-first shopping experiences that customers love, reinforcing Shopify’s mission to make commerce better for everyone. We look forward to seeing Tapcart expand its success on Shopify with the more than 1.7 million merchants on our platform today.”

 

#apps, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #funding, #marketing, #marketing-automation, #merchants, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-commerce, #mobile-shopping, #mobile-technology, #online-shopping, #recent-funding, #santa-monica, #shopify, #startups, #tapcart, #tc

Creator tools startup Spore raises $1M to build closer bonds between influencers and their fans

Few spaces have grown hotter in the past year than the creator economy has, but for all of the new tools available to those starting a podcast, newsletter or storefront, most players have been more focused on building out their own platform opportunity rather than selling full independence to creators.

Spore wants to transform the creator web experience into a Shopify-like basket of tools that users tap into to connect with their audience across a variety of mediums. Spore CEO Austin Hallock is looking to compete with other creator giants for the “link in bio” real estate on social media sites with a white-label option that uses a creator’s own URL, selling an easy-to-build hub focused solely on connecting personalities with their fans.

With Spore, users can manage their audience, communicate with them and analyze what is and isn’t working.

The platform allows for blasting out newsletter updates, podcasts or texts while embedding functionality like storefronts or Discord-like chat feeds into their sites to keep the interactions going 24/7. Creators can also use the tool to convert free subscribers to paying ones, managing the payments flow while also building flows to allow creators to send certain content to their paying fans.

The small startup has raised a $1 million pre-seed round led by SignalFire with additional participation from Justin Kan & Robin Chan’s GOAT, Canaan, Lenny Rachitsky, Nathan Baschez, Justin Waldron and Dave Nemetz, among others.

Spore’s creator platform backend

It’s the first lead investment for former TechCrunch editor Josh Constine in his role at SignalFire (full disclosure: I used to work closely with Josh). Constine started using Spore to build out a site for his regular show on Clubhouse, fellow investor Justin Kan also grew familiar with the team by building out a website for his podcast and YouTube channel.

“I chose Spore as my first lead investment as a VC because it solves creators’ biggest problems by giving them their own white-labeled website they control, and combining all the best content, communication, analytics, and payment tools so creators can spend their time making art instead of being web developers,” Constine tells TechCrunch.

Spore is certainly a small-scale operation at the moment with 4 full-time employees, though they’re hoping to grow their team with this raise. All of these features are in their early MVP stages, but Hallock wants his company to continue building out its utility to creators so that they can build a direct connection with their fans, one that isn’t obfuscated by algorithms..

“We definitely want to give creators ownership,” Hallock tells TechCrunch. “Today, you’re promoting your Linktree page or Patreon rather than just promoting your own brand… We don’t want it to be about Spore.”

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