When I first wrote about Whatnot in February of last year, they were just getting started. Aiming to be the GOAT of collectible toys, they were focusing first on being the go-to trusted spot for buying and selling authenticated Funko Pop figurines.
A few months later, as they expanded into categories like pins and Pokémon cards, the company started to build out a live shopping platform — think of something along the lines of a TV shopping network, but swap out the studios and camera crews for folks at home with iPhones selling to an audience of fellow collectors. The concept had already proven popular in China and was starting to gain traction amongst buyers of collectibles in the U.S. But a good chunk of those U.S. livestreams were happening on Instagram Live, which isn’t really built for things like bidding or handling payments after a sale occurs. Whatnot saw a gap in the market and wanted to fill it.
It seems that move is working out well for the team. At the end of 2020, Whatnot raised a $4 million seed round; just a few months later, building on the momentum of its live shopping platform and looking to expand into many more categories of collectibles, it has raised another $20 million.
The company tells me that this Series A round was led by Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz, and backed by YC, Wonder Ventures, Operator Partners, Scribble Ventures, Steve Aoki and Chris Zarou.
Whatnot continues to offer a more traditional, nonlivestreamed selling platform — but co-founder Grant LaFontaine tells me about “95%” of the team’s focus is on the livestream side of things.
“People really come to us for the live, but then they’re like, ‘Eh, I don’t want to sell across 10 different platforms’ so we give them the tools to be a one-stop shop,” he says.
As I wrote back in December, one increasingly popular type of livestream on Whatnot is the “card break”, wherein:
Users pool their money to buy an entire box of trading card packs — often boxes that are no longer being produced and can cost thousands of dollars to obtain. Each user gets a number, each number tied to a pack (or packs) within the box. Each pack is opened on the livestream, its contents sent to the (hopefully?) lucky owner tied to that pack’s number.
So why raise more money? LaFontaine tells me it’s to help them expand into more categories, fast. The company currently focuses primarily on Pokémon cards, Funko Pops, FigPins and sports cards, but they mention things like comic books, video games and vintage hardware as natural fits. Diving into a new category means building up a community for it, convincing trusted sellers to hop on their platform and marketing to the right buyers to make it worthwhile. In time, LaFontaine tells me, the team expects to cover 100+ categories.