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Chicago-based Raise.com, a marketplace where consumers can buy and sell gift cards for cash, has raised $18.1 million in funding, according to a new SEC filing. The company declined to comment on who invested in the latest round, but has raised $4.5 million in earlier seed and angel rounds, we’re told.
The filing doesn’t reveal the investor lineup, listing only Raise.com founder George Bousis and board members Jason Pritzker (Yapmo founder) and Jeff Cantalupo (Listen.co founder and CEO). AngelList shows a few of Raise.com’s seed rounds, and reveals that Lon Chow of Apex Venture Partners is a prior investor.
Raise.com is one of the fastest-growing startups in the Chicago region. While we were able to reach founder George Bousis today to confirm the raise, the company prefers to keep a low profile when it comes to disclosing its funding details, and instead wants to focus only on growing its – what we hear to be – profitable business.
Raise.com itself is a spinoff from Chicago-based CouponTrade, a couponing and deals site founded in 2010 by Bousis and co-founder Bradley Wasz. In February of this year, the gift card side of that business became what’s now known as Raise.com, a domain name it took the company months to secure.
“It became a challenge from a consumer standpoint, to understand how gift cards, coupons and deals went together,” says Bousis. “We pretty much decided that because our motto was ‘Give Yourself a Raise,’ that the best natural name for the new gift card-only focused company would be ‘Raise,’ itself,” he says.
The company started in Bousis’ living room, tethering off his iPhone for the first six months, around two and half years ago. Today, it has grown to over 50 full-time employees, and is now aggressively hiring.
In its sights is the massive ($115 billion) gift card industry in the U.S., where roughly 20% of gift cards’ value sits unused every year. In addition, there’s some $200 billion in merchandise credit from store returns, which is another currency Raise.com can buy and sell.How Raise.com Works
Today, the company offers a peer-to-peer marketplace for discounted gift cards, e-gift cards and store credit, ranging from everyday retailers like Walmart, Target, or Whole Foods to high-end brands like Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus or Gucci. The site offers discounts on over 500 stores at the moment.
“People can expect to save anywhere from 5% to 40% or more on everyday purchases across a variety of brands,” says Bousis. “We want people to think of shopping on Raise before they spend money at any store. Emotionally, we want them to always feel like they got a raise when they use our website,” he adds.
On the website, users can buy gift cards, or sell those they already have for cash, including physical cards, e-gift cards and merchandise credit with a minimum balance of $10. The cards can even be partially used and do not need to have an even balance to be listed.
To begin, verified sellers simply create an account, enter the required info like retailer, serial number, and PIN. For each sale, Raise.com takes a flat 15% commission, and they charge an extra $1 per physical gift card sale. Physical gift cards account for around 10% of the company’s sales. The site will cover shipping and handling fees, and provides prepaid shipping labels as needed. Sellers are then paid by check or PayPal, as specified. Buyers and sellers are protected by a 100% money back guarantee.
The company encourages sellers to discount their cards by at least 5%, but the actual price is up to the seller, as long as it’s not more than the gift card’s value. In the works is a gift card pricing tool which will calculate the best price, as well as a way to access your purchased gift cards through a scannable barcode you could show the cashier via your smartphone.
Since there’s no sales tax, shipping costs, or processing fees associated with buying these gift cards, for savvy shoppers, buying a card on Raise.com is like getting free money. This has made the site popular with a number of coupon bloggers, like the well-known Southern Savers and Hip2Save, for example, which have touted the site in recent months.
The company will use the additional funding for growth, marketing and advertising, and hiring – it’s adding around three people per week right now. But Raise.com is not yet ready to go international, as it wants to secure the U.S. market first.
[Image credits: Raise.com; flickr]
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
As we previously reported, Amazon has launched its grocery-delivery service in San Francisco today.
The service was previously available in Seattle and Los Angeles, but has now extended to the San Francisco Bay Area.
AmazonFresh costs $299/year and promises fresh produce, meats, dairy and more delivered on the same or next day. Prime membership is automatically included.
Grocery delivery seems to be a hobby for Amazon, which is looking to be your one-stop shop for online shopping. Today, Amazon is the digital incarnation of what Target was for brick-and-mortar.
By offering groceries, Amazon can loop customers into a subscription for something they need regularly. The hope is that each visit results in a wandering eye and extra purchases from Amazon’s never-ending catalog of products.
Right now, AmazonFresh competes with Instacart, which today launched in Boston, and Walmart in the grocery deliver vertical.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to try out AmazonFresh, head over here and sign up.
Grocery-delivery service Instacart today launched in Boston, its third market after the Bay Area and Chicago. The company said it will serve the entire Boston metropolitan area within the next few months. That rate of expansion is normal for the firm, which took its time spreading out over the greater Bay Area, and is currently continuing to cover more of Chicagoland.
Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta told TechCrunch that Boston’s high population density, large economic base, often inclement weather, and stats as the 10th largest metro area in the United States were deciding factors in the city’s selection. At launch, Instacart will only support Shaw’s. Instacart’s usual mix of Whole Foods and Costco and so forth will be added shortly.
Geographic expansion has thus far treated Instacart well. Its operations in Chicago are growing 100 percent monthly. In Boston, according to Mehta, day one orders are strong given that the service launched with a note to people in the area who had asked to be informed when it went live in their city.
Instacart’s business in the San Francisco Bay Area continues to grow at around 10 percent weekly.
The company intends to land in more cities by the end of next year, so if you are jealous of Boston, hold fast. As I reported previously:
The company plans to be in 10 markets by the end of 2014. All of Chicagoland, or the Bay Area count as single markets in the firm’s thinking, so by the end of next year, a sizable chunk of the United States population should have access to Instacart’s service. I’m guessing the Seattle area, LA, the New York City sprawl, and so forth. Maybe Boston, and some place in Texas. The company declined to be specific, unsurprisingly.
The company has assembled an internal launch team to support its goal of reaching new markets.
While Instacart is growing quickly, a giant looms. This morning, Amazon launched AmazonFresh, its own grocery-delivery service in San Francisco, the home market for Instacart. Amazon has scale and buying power that Instacart can only imagine.
However, Amazon’s dive into the San Francisco market is at once modest, and pricey. According to the USA Today:
Amazon said Wednesday that AmazonFresh will be offered as a free 30-day trial in select parts of San Francisco. After that, customers have to sign up for Prime Fresh, which costs $299 a year.
And Instacart continues to run the risk of peeving its retail partners. The company had to remove Trader Joe’s from its platform after the grocery chain began barring its shoppers from entry.
TechCrunch will check in with Instacart to see how it’s performing as a market in a few weeks. If Boston follows Chicago and sees rapid order growth, Instacart’s model is probably attractive enough to land in as many cities as the company hopes to in the next year.
Top Image Credit: Flickr
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Twitter just announced a new feature that it calls “broad match for keyword targeting.” Supposedly, this will allow advertisers running keyword-targeted campaigns to reach users who are using synonyms, alternate spellings, or “Twitter lingo.”
When Twitter announced keyword targeting in April, Senior Director of Revenue Products Kevin Weil told me that the goal of the program was to make tweets (as opposed to the “interest graph” of who you follow) a “first-class citizen” in Twitter’s ad targeting, and to allow advertisers to reach users at the right moment, i.e., when they’re actually discussing a relevant topic.
By adding these broad match capabilities, Twitter can presumably do all of that while also exposing a given campaign to a broader audience. As you can see in the graphic to the left, a coffee shop that wanted to target “love coffee” could also reach users who were tweeting about how much they “luv coffee” or “love lattes”.
At the same time, Twitter says advertisers can structure their campaigns so that they’re not too broad:
Just like on other keyword advertising platforms, if the coffee shop sells lattes but not espressos, they can use the “+” modifier on the broad matched terms to prevent broadening. Targeting “love + latte” will match to users who Tweet “luv latte,” but it won’t match to users who Tweet “luv espresso”.
Amid rumors of a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook and a potential $200 million funding round, turns out that ephemeral messaging sensation Snapchat has actually raised $50 million in Series C funding.
Co-founder Evan Spiegel has confirmed with TechCrunch that the $50 million was from a single investor, with no secondary offering. However, there is no word on who that investor might be, or whether or not it was a previous investor.
Spiegel did say that the money will go toward growing the business.
The SEC filing reveals nothing.
Rumors have been swirling recently that Snapchat was looking to raise $200 million, potentially from Tencent, at a valuation north of $3 or $4 billion. Spiegel has mentioned Tencent, and its chat subsidiary WeChat in particular, as an interesting company to learn from.
However, it’s now confirmed through court documents and TechCrunch’s inside sources that Tencent has already invested in Snapchat, likely during the Series B round. But that doesn’t mean that Tencent isn’t solely responsible for this latest round, either.
According to Crunchbase, this $50 million puts Snapchat’s total investment at no less than $123 million, and without a revenue stream in sight. And honestly, it doesn’t seem to matter right now.
Snapchat announced recently that it sees over 400 million snaps sent per day, which is more than Facebook’s daily photo uploads.
Though the company doesn’t publicly disclose numbers, it is rumored to have around 30 million monthly active users. However, TechCrunch has confirmed that Snapchat actually has more than that.
Previous investors include Light Speed Ventures, who led a small seed round, Benchmark and SV Angel, who joined Lightspeed and invested $12.5 million in Series A, as well as IVP and General Catalyst, who contributed to a massive $60 million Series B round in June. Word on the street is that the last round was actually closer to $80 million, with $20 million going toward founder liquidity.
If, like me, you’re old enough to remember the original Pets.com, then this funding story will make you smile. The iconic pet supplies online retailer, not to be confused with new owner PetSmart, sits alongside Boo.com and Webvan in Dot Com history. Folklore has it that Pets.com, which went from IPO to liquidation in 268 days, was selling its wares for one-third the price it paid for them, and that’s before taking into account the huge advertising spend. Oh, how things have changed…
Enter Petsy.mx, Mexico’s “premier petcare e-commerce retailer”. Hoping to make a land grab in the burgeoning Mexican e-commerce market, the young startup has announced a modest seed round. It’s raised $1 million, led by Venture Partners, with participation from Capital Invest, and Dila Capital, as well as unnamed angel investors. Money, Petsy says, that will be used to fund its growth and product development.
Launched in June 2013 with the aim of bringing “US-style” customer service to the Mexican e-commerce market, Petsy.mx sells a wide variety of pet care products, including premium dog and cat food brands such as Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. Like a lot of e-commerce activity in Mexico and the wider LatAm region, it looks to be gunning for something close to first-mover advantage.
“Mexican pet owners suffer from a lack of retail options, both brick and mortar and online, when seeking the best products for their pets,” says Toby Clarence-Smith, Petsy.mx’s co-founder, in a statement. “We want to solve this problem while offering fantastic customer service at all times. Our goal for Petsy.mx is to play a central role in the Mexican pet community, as both a partner and an advocate.”
E-commerce in Mexico seems to be quite a hot space right now, probably because its burgeoning nature means that, for the time being, competition is limited compared to maturer markets. In traditional e-commerce, timing is everything. Move too early, and the market is too small. Move too late, and incumbents make the barriers to entry that bit higher. To that end, Petsy is talking up an increase in the number of debit and credit cards in Mexico, and the government’s active role in supporting the Internet sector.
Of course, in emerging markets like Mexico, Rocket Internet, the hugely well-funded German e-commerce incubator, is the elephant in the room. As an example, Rocket’s ‘Amazon of Latin America’, Linio, picked up $50 million in funding last month from the likes of JP Morgan Asset Management, Investment AB Kinnevik, the Tengelmann Group, Summit Partners, and Rocket Internet itself.
Perhaps counteracting (or complementing) the Rocket effect, however, local startup activity more broadly is also on the increase. Initiatives like 500startups’ presence in the region, with its 500 Mexico City accelerator, are proof that the local startup scene is maturing. Meanwhile, VCs, such as Spain’s Seaya Ventures, are becoming a lot more bullish about the LatAm market, not least Mexico.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.