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Posts Tagged ‘Spark Capital’

Article fom GigaOm.

In today’s crowded world of e-commerce, it’s not easy to make a name for yourself. New niche sites pop up constantly, while big players such as Amazon are work to undercut the growing competition by spreading into new territories and offering low prices and lots of perks. Meanwhile, the brick-and-mortar retail giants game such as Walmart are getting savvy to e-commerceand investing more and more in building strong online operations.

That’s why it’s particularly impressive that Wayfair, a relatively little known e-commerce company that deals in home furnishings and decor, is set to make more than $500 million in top-line sales for 2011. I talked recently with Wayfair’s CEO Niraj Shah to get details on how the company quietly built a half-billion-dollar-per-year business, and where it plans to go from here.

Start small and widespread, consolidate later

Wayfair as it stands today was founded by Shah and his business partner Steve Conine nine years ago as CSN Stores. At its inception in August 2002, CSN operated a single website, racksandstands.com, which sold storage and home entertainment furniture. Gradually CSN expanded its holdings to include number of individual sites that sold other kinds of home and lifestyle goods, with domain names such as strollers.com and cookware.com. By 2010, CSN had slowly but surely grown to more than 600 employees, and its family of more than 200 websites was bringing in $380 million in annual sales. All this time, CSN had not taken a dime of institutional capital.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Shah and Conine decided to consolidate CSN’s operations under one brand name of Wayfair and take the business to the next level by raising outside funding. In June 2011 Spark Capital, Battery Ventures, Great Hill Partners and HarbourVest Partners pitched into a $165 million funding round. Wayfair now operates under three brands: Wayfair.com, which sells a variety of mid-range home goods; AllModern, which sells higher-end brands such as Alessi and Herman Miller; and Joss & Main, a flash sales site for designer home goods.

Beating out brick and mortar

The consolidation and rebranding is serving Wayfair well. The company now has nearly 1000 staff and a catalog of more than 4.5 million items from 5000 brands. Now it’s closing out its best year ever, with 2011 holiday season sales 30 percent higher than they were in 2010. Cyber Monday 2011 was the best single day of sales in the history of CSN/Wayfair, with an average order size of $143 per customer.

So what’s next? According to Shah, the company is looking at some pretty big players as its competition. And the most pressing competitors are more traditional physical retailers, not other online companies. “We were really focused on online competitors when we started, but over time as we’ve grown we’ve found that our competitors really include Walmart, Target, and folks like that,” Shah said. “We tend to win if someone is looking at our site along with another site. But if people just go directly to a brand they already recognize, like Target, then we may not get the chance to win that business.” That’s exactly why Wayfair has decided to focus on building up its own brand recognition right now, Shah says:

“Right now the home market is a little over half a trillion dollars in the United States, but only about 5 to 6 percent of that is online, and it’s a highly fragmented market within that. That’s all starting to really come online, so we want Wayfair to emerge as a household name. We want to seize the opportunity to be the go-to brand for home decor online.”

The road to an IPO

Ultimately, Shah says that Wayfair plans to return its shareholders’ $165 million investment with an eventual initial public offering. But he also noted that Wayfair’s investors are quite patient, especially seeing that the company was operating with comfortable profits well before outside money was brought in.

“In general for tech companies it seems to be a good time in the market to go public. But part of why we never took investment capital early on is that we didn’t want any time pressure regarding an exit,” Shah said. “If your business is going well you still try to time an IPO well, but it’s not like you’re going to miss a ‘window.’ We could see being publicly traded in five years’ time, but it’s not a big priority now.” In the near-term, he says, Wayfair’s focus is on international expansion and boosting its brand worldwide.

To me, it seems likely that Wayfair could become an attractive acquisition target for Amazon as it proceeds toward an IPO — Amazon has been known to snap up niche competitors with big price tags before, such as its $540 million acquisition of Diapers.com owner Quidsi. Whatever happens, Wayfair will certainly be a company to watch in the months ahead.

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Here is a good Techcrunch article about Foursquare.

“A months long fundraising process for Foursquare is in its last stages, we’ve heard from multiple sources, and Andreessen Horowitz looks to be preparing to check-in to Foursquare to take an investor badge.

The company has delayed committing to new venture capital as they considered buyout offers – negotiations went deep with both Yahoo and Facebook, and possibly Microsoft. The Yahoo discussions ended weeks ago, and Facebook passed on an acquisition earlier this week, we’ve heard.

That means the company is raising that big new round of financing. And a slew of venture capitalists, including Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Spark Capital and First Round Capital were all rumored to competing heavily for inclusion despite the $80 million or so valuation, say our sources.

Andreessen Horowitz, despite rumors that they were pulling out of discussions with the company weeks ago over concerns that too much information was leaking to the press, is the last venture capitalist standing. The fact that founding partner Marc Andreessen is on the board of directors of Facebook, a key partner or competitor of Foursquare, may be the factor that put them over the top.

Existing investors OATV and Union Square Ventures will also participate heavily in the new round, we’ve heard. In the meantime they’ve likely already loaned additional capital to the company.”

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Here is a interesting article from WSJ Online.

“Twitter Inc.’s $100 million funding round drew considerable attention for its massive size, but it’s not the largest venture deal so far this year. That round actually tied for the fourth largest, according to data compiled from Dow Jones VentureSource.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 venture capital rounds through the third quarter. The deals are impressive considering the cloud hanging over the venture industry. Besides Twitter and another dot-commer, Facebook Inc., these companies range from massive clean-technology projects and health-care plays to wireless equipment makers and, in one case, a waste-collection service.

#1 Solyndra Inc., Fremont, Calif. – $286 million

The solar panel maker is on the federal government’s hot-list, receiving a $535 million loan guarantee in September to build a second manufacturing plant and create hundreds of jobs. That loan encouraged venture firms to invest at least another $198 million in Solyndra. (The company announced that amount in September though a spokesman told VentureWire the round’s total was even higher.) Argonaut Private Equity, an investment vehicle for Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, led the round. Others participating in the round weren’t disclosed, although Solyndra’s investors include CMEA Capital, Redpoint Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, U.S. Venture Partners and Virgin Green Fund, which together have invested more than $600 million. Solyndra plans to finish building its plant in Fremont by the end of next year and ship its first product in early 2011.

#2 Clovis Oncology Inc., Boulder, Colo. – $146 million

In May, Domain Associates, New Enterprise Associates and others bet $146 million that former executives of cancer-drug company Pharmion Corp., which sold for $2.9 billion last year, will repeat that success with newly formed Clovis Oncology. Also participating were Pharmion investors Aberdare Ventures, Abingworth Management, ProQuest Investments and Versant Ventures, and newcomer Frazier Healthcare Ventures. Like Pharmion – which raised $145 million in venture capital and convertible debt before going public in 2003 – Clovis will acquire cancer therapies, develop them through to regulatory approval in the U.S. and Europe, and market them.

#3 Small Bone Innovations Inc., New York – $108 million

The orthopedic device company, founded in 2004, has developed a portfolio of products for thumb, hand, wrist, elbow, foot and ankle surgeries. The STAR Ankle total joint replacement system, one of Small Bone’s flagship products, received Food and Drug Administration clearance in May. The $108 million Series D round, which closed in April, included new investors The Family Office of Bahrain, Goldman Sachs & Co., Khazanah Nasional Brhd. and Malaysian Technology Development Corp. and existing investors 3i Group, Axiom Venture Partners, NGN Capital, TGap Ventures and Trevi Health Ventures. Executives told VentureWire they expect Small Bone to reach profitability in 12 months, and unlike many medical device companies which become acquisition targets, could grow into a full-fledged company in its own right.

#4 (Tied) A123 Systems Inc., Watertown, Mass. – $100 million

The electric-car battery maker’s initial public offering last month captured investors’ imagination – and wallets – with a vision of a future where power is stored intelligently and deployed efficiently in a world of lower carbon emission. Before the IPO, A123 Systems gathered $100 million in Series F funding in June from investors Gururaj Deshpande, General Electric Co., North Bridge Venture Partners and Qualcomm Inc. A123 also received a $249.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy grant, the second-biggest awarded as part of a $2.4 billion program to start up a domestic battery industry. The company, which has a deal to supply Chrysler Group LLC with batteries for planned electric vehicles and hybrids, is said to be in the late stages of negotiations for another DOE loan worth as much as $235 million.

#4. (Tied) Facebook Inc., Palo Alto, Calif. – $100 million

Facebook recently reached an important milestone for an Internet company, becoming cash-flow positive as it also grabbed its 300 millionth member. Will an IPO be coming soon? Executives won’t say, but the company’s investors are counting on a spectacular exit at some point given how much money they’ve invested over the years. One of the newest investors is Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian Internet investor that put $100 million into Facebook in July while also paying another $100 million to buy out shares of any selling employees.

#4 (Tied) Open Range Communications Inc., Greenwood Village, Colo. – $100 million

One Equity Partners committed $100 million to Open Range at the start of the year to help it roll out wireless broadband and Internet services in rural America by the end of the year. The deal followed a $267 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Utilities Program. Founded in 2004, Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Open Range hopes to reach more than six million Americans in 546 underserved and rural communities across the U.S. lacking access to traditional DSL or cable broadband service providers. Open Range plans to use WiMAX technology to enable access to its planned wireless service with a simple plug-in device.

#4 (Tied) Twitter Inc., San Francisco – $100 million

At a $1 billion valuation, Twitter’s $100 million fourth round proved the Web messaging company is here to stay, at least longer than some thought. The funding came from some unlikely sources, including T. Rowe Price Group, better known for its retirement funds than venture capital investing, Morgan Stanley, which invested from its asset management business, and Insight Venture Partners, a growth-equity investor that doesn’t typically put money in pre-revenue companies. Other investors in Twitter include Benchmark Capital, Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, which didn’t reinvest in the latest round reportedly because the deal priced the firm out. Now the pressure will be on for Twitter to live up to the hype.”

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