The Fascination, an online marketplace which showcases up-and-coming, mission-driven brands, has raised $1 million in seed funding to support the growth, design and development of the platform, the company announced on Tuesday. The Fascination was founded by DTC mattress brand Leesa's founders, David Wolfe and Matt Hayes, and features over 150 DTC brands.
The platform allows shoppers to read thorough product reviews and news, browse and find new brands, and purchase best-selling products, the company said.
New investors and members in this seed round include 20 founders and CEOs of digital businesses. Since its late 2020 launch, the company has grown to feature Allbirds, Warby Parker, Brooklinen and various other emerging DTC brands, per the press release.
As DTC brands look for ways to grow outside of their own websites, The Fascination is hoping to solve that problem and help customers discover like-minded brands through a marketplace approach.
The Fascination seeks to help customers "cut through the clutter" to find quality products from mission-driven brands. CEO David Wolfe "hated the way Amazon commoditizes products by offering cheap lookalike alternatives alongside premium products," according to a statement, and also knew that reviews were important to purchasing, both of which helped form the idea for The Fascination.
"Our brand partners have really embraced us because they love being sold alongside brands they admire in other categories," The Fascination's co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Matt Hayes said in a statement. The proposition is also good for consumers, as it allows them to find the DTC brands they know all in one place, along with discovering new ones, Hayes added.
It's a similar ethos to an effort that a group of brands put together during the pandemic. Dubbed the Mission Brand Alliance, the group of purpose-driven companies collaborated on a holiday catalog last year to promote their products together and communicate their missions to potential customers, hoping to drive traffic to each other's sites.
As The Fascination carves out its share of the online marketplace ecosystem, other brands and retailers have created their own platforms to showcase DTC brands. Brooklinen, a DTC bedding company, debuted its "Spaces by Brooklinen" marketplace in 2019 to highlight partner brands, including furniture brand Floyd and plant brand The Sill. Similar concepts are being explored in physical locations as well, as companies like For Now seek to provide brick-and-mortar space for multiple DTC brands at once. Neighborhood Goods has positioned itself as a department store of sorts for emerging brands, and in mid-May, the company unveiled The Marketplace, an in-store concept stocked with up-and-coming CPG brands.
Another avenue for growth, DTC brands have sought out partnerships with traditional retailers like Target and Walmart, as well as Nordstrom, which has partnered with a range of DTC brands including Bonobos, Thinx, Away and Everlane.