Ecommerce companies are some of Los Angeles hottest startups.
Companies like GOAT, an online marketplace for sneakerheads, are reeling in cash in a white-hot market. GOAT raised $195 million in a late-stage funding round in June, more than doubling its valuation to $3.7 billion. Tapcart, a Shopify-based mobile app, raised $50 million in a Series B funding round also in June. Popshop Live, a livestream shopping platform, announced a Series A round of funding in July that valued the company at $100 million. Italic, an online retailer that sells luxury goods at cost, had a $26.9 million infusion of cash through an early stage funding round in April.
Venture capitalists poured $384 million into ecommerce companies so far this year, according to PitchBook data, with more money being spent so far in 2021 than all of 2020.
In Los Angeles, where there has always been a healthy amount of ecommerce startups, there's an emerging new evolution with more innovation in the marketplace, investors say.
We asked the region's top VCs in our dot.LA sentiment survey to identify the top L.A.-based ecommerce companies. Here's what they told us, ordered by how often each was mentioned.
Founded in 2015, GOAT has ascended the ranks of L.A.'s startup scene. GOAT hit unicorn status in late 2020, and just about doubled its valuation to $3.7 billion by June this year.
The marketplace platform lets shoe collectors sell and resell shoes and other luxury items. The company sold over $2 billion in merchandise in 2020.
Started by a pair of sneakerheads from UCLA, the company has become a leader in the rising industry of sneaker sales that is projected to rise from $2 billion in global worth to around $30 billion by 2030.
Founded in 2017, Santa Monica-based Tapcart is hoping to ride the wave of online and mobile ecommerce. Its software allows companies to transition Shopify-based stores into mobile apps, and boasts features that drive customer retention.
Tapcart raised $50 million in June. Founded by Eric Netsch and Sina Mobasser, apps created using the SaaS-based service processed over $1.2 billion in sales over the past year.
"The pandemic really just reassured the path that the world was already on," Netsch has told dot.LA. "We knew that mobile was taking the world by storm far before the pandemic happened."
A sudden shift in pandemic-related restrictions lured companies to Popshop's livestreaming platform, allowing Popshop to reach a $100 million valuation by July.
Popshop's app allows stores to livestream from their websites and promote their product. Sales are made directly through the app. The company took inspiration from the Chinese market, where livestream vending platforms was successful, and is hoping the model translates to the U.S. market.
Petra Griffith, managing director of Wedbush Ventures, said she named Popshop Live as one of the most interesting ecommerce companies (that she does not invest in) because of its dynamic founder, Danielle Li.
"I think a lot about commerce and the future of commerce," she said. "You see the popularity in Asia, [where you] have influencers and video and live interaction, kind of like a live QVC that you can interact with is I think is really compelling."
Launched in 2014 as an online-only, direct-to-consumer brand, Parachute began as a high-end bedding company. Since then it has expanded into other home goods products and has opened brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S., including one in Venice and another in Silver Lake.
Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO, launched Parachute's first mattress line in 2019, and the company has created a following among millennials with its bedding and bath linens made from high-quality materials.
Kaye said Parachute's home goods products fared "extremely well" during the pandemic as people spent money to "refresh" or redecorate their living spaces or moved into new homes.
"As a digitally native brand, we were able to meet our customers where they are. We have been very lucky to connect with new and existing customers to offer products as well as services designed to help them enjoy their home," Kaye said in an email.
Founded in 2018, Italic is a subscription based, direct-from-manufacturer company. The Los Angeles-based startup partners with manufacturers that work with big-name luxury brands to offer the same type of goods without the cost of branding.
CEO Jeremy Cai said he doesn't see Italic as a traditional ecommerce company because it takes nearly no inventory risk, but rather makes money when customers buy products, using that to pay the manufacturer and taking a cut of it. He said the business is more oriented toward technology, operations and product development, rather than sales and marketing.
"I think the excitement around our business is that we're fundamentally doing something different from a business standpoint and that we have pretty deep customer loyalty," Cai said.
While Italic is membership based, Cai said the company plans to allow customers who aren't members to make purchases later this year.
"In my mind, the future is really like a bifurcation of value-driven shopping and branded shopping," he said. "What we're mostly focused on is driving value on the product side to the customer."
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As the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed small businesses, some struggling companies turned to livestreaming-based ecommerce business Popshop Live to stay afloat.
Now, Popshop Live wants to prove that ecommerce via live streaming is here to stay.
Valued at $100 million, the company announced a Series A round of funding Thursday. Popshop declined to disclose how much it raised in the funding round, though TechCrunch reported the funding was around $20 million.
The round was led by Benchmark and included TQ Ventures, Mantis VC and Access Industries.
Popshop Live also hired former Instagram and Instacart executive Bangaly Kaba to lead platform growth and former head of Uber Eats Jason Droege to lead expansion, the company announced.
Founded in 2019, Popshop is one of several Los Angeles-based startups competing in the emerging livestreaming ecommerce world that includes talkshoplive, a streaming service for celebrities, and Whatnot, a streaming service for collectibles.
"Livestream commerce is not just a trend in China and through the pandemic," said Popshop Live board member Matt Cohler in announcing the raise. "It is an emerging multi-billion-dollar phenomenon whose growth is accelerating every day."
The company sees itself as a combination of online commerce with the experience of in-person shopping. Customers can scroll through live feeds of merchants selling items, interact with sellers and purchase items through Popshop's app. The startup claims that traditional brick-and-mortar sellers are shifting their focus to its platform, after seeing higher sales and rates of customer convergence.
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As COVID-19 vaccinations continue and restrictions slowly lift, consumers and companies alike are confronting an entertainment industry changed by the pandemic.
Creators, technologists and investors are working hard to understand today's evolving demand and meet it creatively. It is hard to overestimate the impact of the pandemic on entertainment. Movie theaters remain dark, concerts are cancelled or postponed and many TV and film sets are still on hold.
Entertainment providers have become more creative in developing effective business solutions — including filming TV shows from home, making movies available online and offering virtual concerts. In some cases, they have ended up reaching a larger audience than in the pre-pandemic era.
Since the timeline for the vaccine rollout is uncertain, it is critical that investors look at which startups best understand today's consumer demand, and which are in a good position to grow their business as the pandemic begins to ease.
At Pegasus Tech Ventures, we've been keeping an eye on some of the trends shaping the entertainment and technology worlds. Here's what we see emerging in the future of the industry.
Short Form Video Has a Social Life
Consumers around the globe are looking for new ways to express their creativity and reach out to friends and followers through short-form videos. We've seen the pandemic expand this trend dramatically. According to a recent consumer survey by TheSoul Publishing, 84% of audiences said they spend more or the same amount of time watching short-term videos during the pandemic than ever before.
The startup Triller has gained the attention of such consumers, in part due to the well-known names of its investors and celebrity endorsers, including Snoop Dogg, The Weeknd and Lil Wayne. As TikTok has been banned in many countries around the world, Triller — a Pegasus Tech Ventures investment — enabled users to develop music-driven, short-form content. It is a good example of an innovative startup that has the right platform and content to meet what consumers are looking for today. Having its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles helps reassure users about their privacy and security.
Hollywood Talent Is Meeting Technological Know-How
As the pandemic drags on, continuing the shutdown of TV and film shoots as well as live events, it's become clear that Hollywood's future is inextricably tied to technology. We have our eye on startups that combine the work of technologists and creatives to launch innovative brand experiences for pop culture audiences. As a result of the pandemic, consumer expectations have risen and we look for startups that meet these expectations.
Caravan – founded in partnership with Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency – is one such company. The startup studio has a mission of identifying gaps in culture and entertainment, where the company can offer next-generation media experiences. It's tapping into a trend of direct-to-consumer market growth and building on its unique connection to celebrities, including musician Carrie Underwood, who recently launched her Fit52 platform with the company. Keep an eye out for new products from Caravan.
Combining Engaging Entertainment with Easy-to-Use Ecommerce
While online shopping was already a rapidly growing industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the shift from physical stores to ecommerce. Consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44% year over year, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates.
Popshop is an innovative platform that works to take advantage of this consumer trend, combining the engaging features of a Triller or TikTok with the easy-to-buy ability from a QVC or the Home Shopping Network. It's one of several such startups in this space, including talkshoplive and WhatNot. What sets PopShop apart is its interactive and easy to use interface that enables its users with unique shopping experiences. Generation Z and millennials are looking for a fun and convenient shopping experience — giving the company an opportunity to grow in the U.S. and abroad.
It's more challenging than ever to predict winners and losers in the entertainment industry. Smart investors should understand today's consumer trends and which startups are in the best position to service market demands. Another key factor to consider is their founders' expertise, connections and passion – since an amazing team is the most likely to succeed despite unpredictable headwinds.