E-commerce marketplaces are big businesses. It was estimated that some $3.2 trillion was spent globally on the top marketplaces in 2021, with those like Taobao, Tmall and Amazon accounting for over 60% of the activity, according to research firm Digital Commerce 360.
With that number expected to grow 14% per year, Nautical Commerce wants to provide tools to retailers, B2B businesses and brands of any size so they can build their own multivendor marketplace, in as little as 90 days and without expensive custom software, to compete with the mega marketplaces.
Prior to starting the company in 2020, founder and CEO Ryan Lee was with Apple and helped them launch Apple Pay. He explained that marketplaces can take 2 to 3 years to get off the ground and multiple millions of dollars, depending on the site.
When building them, companies typically string together their tech stack with apps and software that were intended for that kind of business. And even companies with large development teams and budgets have failed at launching or scaling a marketplace.
“We bring together all the stakeholders, like vendors, sellers, drop-shippers, affiliates, channels, and influencers without needing to replatform,” Lee told TechCrunch. “This makes marketplaces a very viable decision economically because it’s now approachable. We also do it in a phased approach to de-risk the project and make sure that we have very clear milestones to deliver economic value as fast as possible.”
As we learned this week with Shop Circle’s fundraise and others, like Upgrade, Fashinza and Faire, the number of companies providing e-commerce infrastructure exploded over the past 2 years as everyone did more shopping online.
Though Lee would not disclose revenue figures, he said Nautical grew significantly over the past 6 months, going from zero revenue “to a very specific number.” It also added new customers internationally that span industry verticals like fashion, health, automotive, home goods, sustainable goods and manufacturing.
Then came the investor interest. Earlier this year, London & Partners and Dealroom.co reported that $51 billion of venture capital was invested into U.S. digital shopping companies in 2021, up from $23 billion in 2020. Globally, that was $140 billion last year compared with $68 billion the year prior.
Nautical Commerce is also now buoyed by $30 million in a new Series A investment, and the company plans to use the funds on technology development and to expand into new markets. It will also grow its engineering, product, customer success and sales and marketing teams, planning to add at least 40 new employees over the next 18 months.
The round, which gives the company about $33.2 million in total funding, was led by Drive Capital, with participation from Accomplice Ventures and Golden Ventures.
Next up, the company will continue onboarding the pipeline of about 30 new marketplaces and creating awareness in industries that Nautical wants to focus on and help digitize, Lee said.
As part of the investment, Drive’s Masha Khusid joins the Nautical board of directors.
“E-commerce is becoming more distributed and single-vendor platforms were not built for this multi-vendor future,” Khusid said in a statement. “Ryan and his team built the only multi-vendor e-commerce platform and are serving a huge need in the market. We’re impressed by what Nautical has already accomplished and are proud to enable them to deliver on their mission to democratize marketplace technology.”
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