When Eric Doty was a kid in the 1990s, like many kids his age, he was an avid sports card collector. He lost interest in the hobby as a teenager, but he got back to it a few years ago and started buying and selling cards regularly online.
Doty, a veteran of product and game design and marketing, enjoyed the business, although he noticed that the websites he used were outdated and could be technologically refreshed and appeal to the masses. This led him to found Loupe, a sports card collecting app launched in October 2020.
Loupe today announced that it has raised $ 12 million in funding in a Series A round led by Forerunner Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm specializing in seed and seed investments. Other investors include DJ Skee, a music producer and DJ, and Nat Turner, an entrepreneur who was part of a group that in February acquired Collectors Universe Inc.
In January, Loupe raised $ 3 million in a funding round led by Upfront Ventures, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm. Doty does not disclose how much the latest round values ââthe company or how much sales it generates, but does claim that revenue is increasing by 50% on a monthly basis. The company plans to use the funding to increase staff and invest in the app.
Magnifier does not yet have a traditional marketplace like eBay or other collectible tech startups where people can post their cards and offer them for sale. Instead, all transactions on Magnifier are done through a live stream.
The company aims to operate feeds every day between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time, providing buyers with ample opportunities to purchase items. The average sale is around $ 100, but it can range from $ 10 to $ 25,000.
âWe are looking for other ways to expand our offerings, but for now, to buy you have to be in a live broadcast,â Doty said. âI like that right now we’re focusing on the very social aspect of the hobby. You don’t make these purchases in a vacuum. You interact with the seller, you interact with other buyers. I believe it elevates the experience of being a social shopping experience.
Kirsten Green, who founded Forerunner Ventures in 2010, said she was drawn to Magnifier in large part because of Doty’s passion for the product and the app’s live streaming capabilities. Forerunner, which raised a $ 500 million fund last year, has invested in market and retail companies as well as ShopShops, a live streaming platform in the United States and China.
Although direct online shopping is still in its infancy in the United States, with an estimated annual turnover of $ 1 billion, Green expects the market to grow in the years to come and is approaching the popularity observed in China, where it represents a market of 170 billion dollars. She is confident Doty can help Loupe capture some of this growth because he knows the industry well.
Prior to founding Loupe, Doty worked as a product manager at Mobcrush Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif., Tech company specializing in live streaming for mobile games, acquired in March by Super League Gaming.
âI think there are a lot of opportunities for (direct shopping) to be a big part of the business landscape in general and even more a part of the digital and social landscape,â Green said. âWe are really interested in this trend at large. Loupe felt like a great articulation of this opportunity.
Green added that she was impressed with the community Loupe has built on the buyer’s and seller’s side. Anyone can sign up to purchase items through the app, but Magnifier is selective when it comes to sellers, focusing on established businesses that can offer a regular selection of cards throughout weeks and months, not just one-off sales.
Sellers include businesses that have physical stores or a large online presence including Monmouth Cards from Monmouth, NJ, Fresh Pullz from Peabody, Mass. and Lab 20 Sports Cards of St. Paul, Va. Magnifier provides businesses with cameras and other technologies. to stream anytime and set it up so that buyers only have to press two buttons on the app to purchase the cards, making it easier to process sales.
Sellers don’t have to pay to access Magnifier, but Magnifier takes a share of each sale, although Doty doesn’t reveal the exact percentage.
âWe couldn’t have picked a better time to launch with a pandemic because many of these stores were experiencing lower foot traffic and lower overall revenues,â Doty said. âWe were able to give them the opportunity to create a strong online presence through Loupe. “
He added, âWe focus heavily on companies that are making something big in the sports card market, and then we layer all of our tools to help them grow their business. “
While Magnifier almost exclusively sells sports cards, it sometimes offers sports memorabilia, PokÃ©mon cards, comics, and other collectibles. The company could expand into other areas of collectibles, but Doty expects sports cards to remain the priority.
âI worry if we diversify too quickly, we wouldn’t be serving (buyers and sellers) as well as we are today,â Doty said. âWe were born in the sports card space, we are all sports collectors and we invest the majority of our efforts in growing this hobby. “