As retailers try to crack the code on engaging online shopping, Whatnot, a livestream e-commerce platform, has raised $20 million in Series A funding. Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, led this funding round, with participation from Y Combinator, Wonder Ventures, Operator Partners, Scribble Ventures, Steve Aoki and Chris Zarou, according to a release Thursday.
The company plans to use the funding to hire more staffers and enter into new categories, including comic books, vintage video games and hardware. Whatnot currently facilitates live sales and card breaks for collectibles like Pokemon cards, sports cards and Funko Pops, according to a press release.
Though the company didn't give exact figures, Whatnot said it has thousands of sellers and tens of thousands of buyers using the platform. Some merchants are on the verge of earning more than six figures, and a majority of shoppers return to the app, the company said.
Aiming to serve a niche, Whatnot plans to expand into more collectible categories with the new funding and emphasize the community element of collecting.
In its announcement, Whatnot cited the success of livestream shopping in China, which has grown to become a multibillion market. The company noted that, though other companies are testing out livestream commerce features, it aims to be the main app where a community of customers consistently return to shop.
Whatnot joins other platforms like Instagram and Amazon in the livestream commerce space. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing brands to connect with customers from afar, retailers are increasingly experimenting with livestream commerce. As with other online shopping platforms that fall outside the transactional experience of traditional e-commerce, livestream shopping still has some things to work out.
"Many of our biggest and most popular sellers have thriving communities on other platforms, but had to find work-arounds to actually buy and sell the pieces their fans were asking for," Whatnot co-founder Logan Head said in a statement. "Inspired by our own experiences buying and selling collectibles online, Whatnot creates a space that turns online shopping into entertainment, helps people connect live over the things they love, and is purpose-built to make it easy to foster both community and commerce."