When I first wrote about Whatnot in February last year, they were just getting started. They aimed to be the GOAT for collectibles, and they first focused on being the best place to buy and sell authentic Funko Pop figures.
A few months later, as they expanded into categories such as pins and Pokémon cards, the company began to develop a live shopping platform – think of something in line with a TV shopping network, but replace the studios and camera teams for people at home with iPhones like sells to an audience of fellow collectors. The concept had already proved popular in China and began to gain traction among buyers of collectibles in the United States. But a good portion of the American livestreams happened on Instagram Live, which are not really built for things like bidding or handling payments after a sale happens. Whatnot saw a gap in the market and wanted to fill it.
It seems that moves work well for the team. By 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 wanting 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 supported by YC, Wonder Ventures, Operator Partners, Scribble Ventures, Steve Aoki and Chris Zarou.
Whatnot continues to offer a more traditional, non-live streaming platform ̵
“People really come to us for live, but then they’re like, ‘Eh, I do not want to sell on 10 different platforms, so we give them the tools to be a one-stop shop,'” he says.
As I wrote back in December, an increasingly popular type of livestream on “Whatnot” is “short break”, where:
Users collect their money to buy a whole box of trading card packages – often boxes that are no longer produced and can cost thousands of dollars to obtain. Each user is given a number, each number is tied to a packet (or packages) in the box. Each package is opened in livestream, the content is sent to the (hopefully?) Lucky owner tied to the package number.
So why raise more money? LaFontaine tells me that it’s quick to help them expand into more categories. The company currently focuses primarily on Pokémon cards, Funko Pops, FigPins and sports cards, but they mention things like cartoons, video games and vintage hardware that naturally fit. Diving into a new category means building a community for it, convincing trusted salespeople to jump on the bandwagon and marketing to the right buyers to make it worthwhile. Over time, LaFontaine tells me, the team expects to cover 100+ categories.