The Internet has enabled the seamless flow of commerce in an unprecedented fashion. But where transactions go, so do bad actors. We currently estimate online fraud to be a $40B problem, and it’s just getting worse. The few rarified Internet giants like Google & Amazon have built large dedicated teams and sophisticated technology solutions to combat fraud. But what about everyone else? Even our largest commerce and marketplace investments at Spark suffer from fraud and have turned to third parties for help.
I am thrilled today to announce that Spark Capital is leading a $18MM Series B financing of Sift Science, the world’s most advanced fraud prevention platform. Sift Science empowers online merchants with real-time, large-scale machine learning via an easy to integrate API that unlocks deep customer insight and helps businesses large and small prevent fraud on their sites.
Sift launched it’s first machine learning as a service product just over a year ago, and today analyzes more than $1.5 billion of transactions and 600 million events each month. They have grown their customer base over 50x in the past year and today power fraud prevention across the globe for high-growth businesses like Airbnb, Uber, JackThreads, Kickstarter and HotelTonight. With an API that can be integrated in a day, a real-time fraud console, and plugins for Shopify and Magento, Sift is simply the easiest and best fraud prevention service on the planet.
One of the most exciting things about Sift’s machine learning platform is that it continues to get smarter and better as more customers join the Sift network. Each customer brings unique data to the platform that Sift utilizes to identify and weed out bad actors wherever they may appear. In true Internet form, everyone on Sift’s network benefits from everyone else’s collective data and intelligence.
Sift Science is a new style of SAAS business, utilizing easy to integrate APIs for distribution, leveraging a freemium business model and benefitting from terrific network effects at scale. We’ve made a number of investments in this area at Spark and will continue to look for more.
Over the past number of years, there’s been an ad-hoc explosion in ‘pop-up’ retail spaces. We’ve also seen the emergence of meaningful brands being built online that are finding in-person experiences to be massively additive to their businesses. As our world becomes ever more digitally connected, I believe we are increasingly yearning for complementary in-person experiences that are uniquely rich, fresh, integrated and responsive.
I’m thrilled today to announce Spark Capital’s Series A investment in Storefront, the world’s leading marketplace for short-term retail. Storefront makes it easy for any brand, business or artisan to find a space to showcase, market and sell their wares without any of the burdensome, expensive and long-term commitments of the typical lease. Some more details on Storefront’s terrific early progress here.
Whether you’re an Etsy seller, Warby Parker, an aspiring art gallerist, or Samsung launching a new phone, Storefront can help you find the right space for your needs.
On the flip-side, Storefront allows property owners to maintain freshness and flexibility with their spaces while providing higher yields. It also opens up spaces that would have never before been considered easily short-term rentable such as shop-in-shops, street fair booths, restaurants spaces and subway kiosks to name a few.
The seamless connection of online and offline experiences is a big deal, and Storefront is poised to help lead this charge. I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Erik, Tristan, Ron and the terrific Storefront team as they execute on this ambitious vision.
In it’s simplest form, Skillshare is a community marketplace for offline classes. In it’s ultimate incarnation, Skillshare has the potential to become a truly democratized learning platform.
With Skillshare, we are partnering with a team and platform that is rethinking how education should be delivered and who should deliver it. This is no small task, but Mike, Malcolm & company are certainly up for the challenge.
Michael and I have been building our relationship over the past number of years. I have been consistently impressed by his integrity, clarity of vision and fantastic product instincts. All of these qualities shine through in even this first iteration of Skillshare.
In many ways, Skillshare taps into some of the most important web and mobile trends we are observing today.
Firstly, I’ve made no secret of my love for marketplace businesses. The web was built to connect people and Skillshare does so in one of the most important ways possible. Enabling the teacher and student in each and every one of us is a noble endeavor.
The idea that each of us has something of value to share is a profound one as well. Unlocking this ‘knowledge inventory,’ similar to how Airbnb unlocks latent real estate inventory, is a powerful idea and source of previously untapped supply.
I am also increasingly fascinated by businesses that leverage online platforms to drive offline experiences. Building vibrant online communities that facilitate rich in-person interactions is something I believe the web and mobile devices will do increasingly well over time, making these interactions ever more important parts of our social behavior.
I became interested in investing in Svpply for my favorite reason — I fell in love with the product.
Svpply is a platform where people curate and share products that they love and follow other users and stores whose taste they appreciate. And it’s fast becoming my favorite way to shop. The site is clean and beautiful, the products are always new and interesting and the community keeps it incredibly vibrant and inspiring.
The first eCommerce revolution was about translating offline activities to the web. This next wave is about redefining the shopping experience in a way that leverages the web’s unique social capabilities and the omnipresence of sophisticated mobile devices. It’s about creating a more social, more connected, more interesting and simply better way to shop.
If you enjoy products and the thrill of the find, I encourage you to sign up and start Svpplying. I promise you won’t stop.
I’ve always put tremendous stock in my relationships with people. People are the lifeblood of our world, and strong relationships form the basis of all meaningful human interaction — families and friendships, business partners and colleagues, investors and entrepreneurs.
I am therefore especially pleased today to announce Spark Capital’s investment in Work Market – the latest company from serial entrepreneur Jeff Leventhal.
I have known Jeff for a number of years, and over that time we have built a great personal and professional relationship. So when it was time for Jeff to start his next venture, working together felt as natural as could be.
WorkMarket, as it sounds, aims to be an efficient market for employers to find, deploy and manage workers as they need them. I’ve written previously about the power of marketplace businesses, and Work Market is addressing the largest market of them all – the people market.
Jeff has been working in the labor marketplace space for almost two decades, having previously built multiple successful companies. The passion and energy Jeff brings to this area is intoxicating, and we are thrilled to be a part of it.
Speaking of relationships, we are also incredibly fortunate to have our friends at Union Square Ventures along with us on this journey and specifically Fred Wilson who will be joining me on the company’s board.
Please visit WorkMarket.com for available job opportunities if you’d like to join us as well.
The technology & gadget category has rightfully been core to the web from it’s inception. Naturally, the early web participants were tech enthusiasts and the web flourished with sites oriented around their needs.
Like in many of the early web verticals however, innovation has not always kept up. gdgt is attempting to bring the best of what the social, user-driven web is all about to this incredibly large category.
At the core of gdgt are real user profiles, gdgt lists and user contributed content. Connecting people with relevant user created content when they are looking to make a purchase or need help with gadgets they already own is where the power of gdgt lies. Ultimately it’s a place where the hard-core gdgt geeks and casual consumers can meet to share information, get advice and help make purchase decisions.
We at Spark are lucky enough to be in business with two of the web’s true gadget pioneers and a phenomenal group of investors. We’re just at the beginning of this journey and very excited for what lies ahead.
Today we announced Spark’s investment in Aviary (www.aviary.com) – a pioneering suite of digital creation and editing tools in the cloud. With this investment, we join a terrific team of existing investors including Bezos Expeditions and a prominent network of angel investors who continue to be engaged in the business.
Aviary’s business is exciting on two primary fronts. Firstly, Aviary is fundamentally democratizing digital creation by bringing free browser-based tools to a previously desktop software dominated market. The software as a service model has been proven over and over again in multiple markets (Salesforce, NetSuite, Google Docs, Flickr, Vimeo, DropBox, etc.) and it is sure to extend to the creative marketplace. And the Freemium business model is continuing to prove itself across a number of these businesses as well as many others.
We are also in the very early stages of an emerging digital economy. I’ve said before that I expect the digital goods market to grow substantially over the coming years and mirror the market for offline goods in many ways. We recently reached the $1B threshold of digital goods sold, and it’s still incredibly early. Aviary provides the manufacturing capacity for this digital economy. Their toolset and open API empower the market for creation, allowing users to participate in the creation as well as consumption of digital goods. This completes the circle necessary to exponentially increase the number of creators and collaborators contributing to the digital goods marketplace and ultimately drive the velocity of the digital economy.
What I’m most excited about though is having the opportunity to work with Avi, Michael, Iz and the rest of the terrific Aviary team. The products they’ve built to date are nothing short of fantastic. And they’re just getting started…