Loupe, A Sports Cards Collecting App, Raises $12 Million In Series A Funding | #sports | #elderly | #seniors
When Eric Doty was a child in the 1990s, like many kids his age, he was an avid collector of sports cards. He lost interest in the hobby as a teenager, but he got back into it a few years ago and began buying and selling cards online on a regular basis.
Doty, a veteran product and game designer and marketer, enjoyed the trading, although he noticed the websites he used were outdated and could use a refresh when it came to technology and appeal to the masses. That led him to found Loupe, a sports cards collecting app that launched in October 2020.
Loupe is announcing today it has raised $12 million of funding in a Series A round led by Forerunner Ventures, a San Francisco venture capital firm that specializes in early-stage 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 had raised $3 million in a seed round led by Upfront Ventures, a Los Angeles venture capital firm. Doty would not disclose how much the latest round values the company at or how much it generates in sales, but he claims revenue is growing at a 50 percent clip on a monthly basis. The company plans on using the funding to increase staff and invest in the app.
Loupe does not yet have a traditional marketplace like eBay or other collectibles technology startups where people can post their cards and offer them for sale. Instead, all of the transactions on Loupe are conducted via live streaming.
The company aims to have streams operating each day between 10 a.m. and 4 a.m. Eastern Time, giving buyers plenty of opportunities to purchase items. The average sale is about $100, but that can range from $10 to $25,000.
“We’re looking at other ways to expand our offerings, but right now to purchase you need to be in a live stream,” Doty said. “I do like the fact that right now we’re focusing on the very social aspect of the hobby. You’re not making these purchases in a vacuum. You’re interacting with the seller, you’re interacting with other buyers. I believe that elevates the experience of being a social purchasing experience.”
Kirsten Green, who founded Forerunner Ventures in 2010, said she was drawn to Loupe in large part due to 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 marketplace and retail companies as well as ShopShops, a live streaming platform in the United States and China.
Although live online shopping is still in its infancy in the U.S., with an estimated $1 billion of annual sales, Green expects the market to grow in the coming years and approach the popularity seen in China, where it’s a $170 billion market. She has confidence Doty can help Loupe capture some of that growth as he’s familiar with the sector.
Before founding Loupe, Doty had worked as the head of product at Mobcrush Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif., technology company focused on live streaming for mobile games that was acquired in March by Super League Gaming.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for (live shopping) to be a big part of the commerce landscape in general and even moreso part of the digital and social landscape,” Green said. “We’re really interested in that trend broadly. Loupe felt like a great articulation of that opportunity.”
Green added that she was impressed with the community Loupe has built on both the buyers and sellers sides. Anyone can sign up to purchase items through the app, but Loupe is selective when it comes to sellers, focusing on established businesses that can offer a regular selection of cards throughout the weeks and months, not just one-off sales.
The sellers include companies that have physical stores or a large online presence, including Monmouth Cards of Monmouth, N.J., Fresh Pullz of Peabody, Mass. and Lab 20 Sports Cards of St. Paul, Va. Loupe provides the companies with cameras and other technology to stream anytime they want and sets it up so that buyers only need to push two buttons on the app to purchase the cards, making it easy to process sales.
Sellers do not have to pay to access Loupe, but Loupe takes a cut of each sale, although Doty would not reveal the exact percentage.
“We couldn’t have picked a better time to launch with a pandemic as a lot of these stores were running into lower foot traffic and lower revenue overall,” Doty said. “We were able to give them an option to build a strong presence online through Loupe.”
He added: “We focus heavily on businesses that are bringing something big to the sports cards market and then we layer on all of our tools to help them grow their business.”
While Loupe sells almost exclusively sports cards, it does sometimes offer sports memorabilia, Pokemon cards, comic books and other collectibles. The company could expand into other areas of collectibles, but Doty expects sports cards will remain the priority.
“I do worry if we diversify too quickly, we wouldn’t serve (buyers and sellers) as well as we are today,” Doty said. “We are born in the sports cards space, we’re all sports collectors and we’re investing a majority of our efforts in growing the hobby.”