Online auction house for ‘exceptional’ items Catawiki has just announced it has raised a Series B funding round of EUR10 million from a group of investors led by tier one VC Accel Partners. The syndicate led by Accel also includes German company builders (similar to Rocket Internet) Project A Ventures, Arthur Kosten (Booking.com) and Willem Sijthoff (FD).
Dutch Catawiki differentiates itself from its larger and better known online auction site Ebay by a pure focus on exceptional objects. The objects center around collectables and arts, with categories ranging from something as basic as stamps to antique cars or weaponry. Furthermore it runs curated weekly auctions, with the items grouped in specific collectible categories.
Given its business model Catawiki’s process is more hands-on than that of do-it-yourself Ebay. The startup currently employes 42 auction specialists, out of a total of 70 employees. The auctioneers vet, curate and at times provide value estimates for the items on sale.
The startup was founded in 2008 by Rene Schoenmakers and Marco Jansen, as a tool to manage their own collections – talking about scratching your own itch for a successful startup idea. The two developed a way to catalogue their comic collection, not dissimilar from Wikipedia, hence giving birth to the name Cata (catalogue) wiki (Wikipedia). The company added the auction model as recent as 2011 and tried it with real auctioneers, leading to its current success.
The firm’s current fund raise from Accel follows a profitable 2013, in which the company booked revenues of c. EUR10 million. Through the EUR10 million investment by Accel Partners – the first the top tier venture capitalist has done in the Netherlands – Catawiki now hopes to increase its rate of growth. It already operates in Belgium, Germany and France, and will use the investment to expand to other European countries.
Investors in the earlier funding of Catawiki include Dutch micro VC Peak Capital. Fund manager Thijs Gitmans stresses how big of a step this is for the Dutch ecosystem: “Accel Partners has never invested in the Netherlands before. It fits the larger picture that Dutch tech startups are getting increasingly competitive versus foreign startups, which gets underscored by the investments and takeovers taking place in the Netherlands by parties that would not look at opportunities in our country before.” Gitmans also mentioned today’s deal is a great success for the Dutch state’s SEED Capital arrangement: “Investing in young tech startups is very risky, which still scares away investors. People usually forget that funds like Peak Capital can only exist and contribute to the Dutch startup ecosystem thanks to the support of the SEED Capital arrangement by RvO (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland).”
Photo by Pieter van Marion (creative commons via Flickr)