eporta: Building a platform to change the way an industry transacts
We are pleased to announce our participation in eporta’s $8m Series A round, led by San Francisco based VC, Canvas Ventures.
eporta, founded by Aneeqa Khan, is more than just an online space connecting buyer and seller. Through its software and services, eporta has begun to power business and trade relationships for a growing number of leading suppliers of interiors products such as Tom Dixon, Flos and Artemide.
Interior designers, architects and developers now use the marketplace to source furniture across styles and with little regard to geography; it is becoming essential to them, and has turbo-charged the way they work.
It is no surprise, then, that eporta has become the largest online community for design trade professionals and businesses sourcing products from around the world. Ten thousand members strong and seeing increasing growth across the world, the platform has truly struck a tone in an industry in great need of more transparency and efficiency in its procurement processes.
I first met Aneeqa Khan in late 2014 when she had just left Zoopla Property Group, where she had helped to lead the very successful IPO. I was introduced by my former colleague Lawrence Barclay who told me that she was an entrepreneur we needed to track. At the time, the business that would become eporta was just forming in her mind but, as Lawrence predicted, I was impressed by her and made a mental note to keep in touch.
A year or so later we reconnected and eporta was up and running. This time it was Ben Stanway, CEO of www.moneyboxapp.com, another of our portfolio companies who suggested that we should talk. Once again he was right.
I was impressed both by the progress and the team she was building and instantly connected with where Aneeqa was trying to go. Her vision for a frictionless interior furnishings and fittings marketplace made perfect sense in a market that still relies so heavily on paper, phone and fax to do business. We led a seed round in the Autumn of 2016 alongside others including Samos, Talis and Local Globe. At the time it was the fastest we had ever moved from first meeting to term sheet.
It is a testament to her dynamism as an entrepreneur and the hard work of her team to have made it to this next milestone, attracting a lead investor from the US — and not just any investor: Paul Hsiao, founding partner of Canvas Ventures led NEA’s investment in Houzz and remains on the board there. Houzz is the most valuable tech business at the intersection of design and commerce. I am delighted that Paul have joined us on the eporta board as the business enters the next stage of its growth.
That Aneeqa chose to raise her Series A from Paul and Canvas clearly shows the ambition for eporta: to carry a proposition made, tried and tested in London, across to the US and the world. This is already happening, (eporta is trading in 85 countries) but this new round of funding enables that to go to the next level.
Over the coming months, eporta plans to double the size of its existing team, build out its international presence and expand into several new product categories such as kitchen and bathroom fittings.
The unstoppable rise of the marketplace
Take a quick glance at the Oxford Capital Ventures portfolio and you can see that we are keen on marketplaces. Dominant marketplaces have fabulous business characteristics — huge longevity and high margin driven by their network effects — the phenomenon whereby the platform becomes incrementally better and more valuable for its participants with each supplier or customer that joins.
Digital marketplaces have found a place in many industries now and these industries have been getting progressively larger and larger. The story that eBay was founded to help people buy and sell Pez dispensers is a popular urban myth but while not strictly true, it is undeniable that the original eBay platform was designed to enable people to trade small, personal useful or collectible items. Now we have online marketplaces where consumers routinely complete significant transactions for cars or even property and where businesses have moved their supply chain in search of greater efficiency.
But not all marketplaces are created equal and some require a bit more than just a simple trust platform to create network effects in their industry. Supply, demand, trust and transactions are all key. When we first invested in eporta they had huge supply, good demand, emerging trust and a low level of transactions.
Start early, work hard
The motto is a clear articulation of our investment strategy, and our initial investment in eporta was very much an example of that strategy in action.
We are here to back incredible founders like Aneeqa, those who are taking risk at the early stage of market-changing or market-making businesses. We are here to stand behind founders who work tirelessly to build, test and refine propositions that change the way people do business, like eporta has done for the global design industry. Finally, we are here to back progress in businesses like this one, with ambitions that span beyond the visible horizon.
Congratulations eporta, Aneeqa and team!