China’s Alibaba Group has made a $15 million investment in 1stdibs, the fast-growing luxury e-commerce site that links dealers with well-known interior designers and their affluent consumers to shop for vintage design, jewelry, couture and fine art.
The Series C funding round was not expected, but Alibaba approached the New York-based 1stdibs as a strategic investor to help its efforts in Asia.
The company, which has been in business for 13 years, has raised $117 million from big-name investors — such as Benchmark, Index Ventures and Spark Capital. This funding has largely taken place since the 2011 appointment of former DoubleClick CEO and Google exec David Rosenblatt as CEO.
The 1stdibs marketplace was founded in 2001 by Michael Bruno, who had the goal of bringing the Paris flea market — famous for its one-of-a-kind items — to the Internet.
Since he arrived, Rosenblatt has brought in an experienced online retail team from companies like eBay and American Express, rebuilt the site’s infrastructure and converted the listings-only, subscription business to a mixed offering. Rosenblatt noted that traffic has doubled in the last six months and that buyer registrations and leads generated have increased significantly. As transactions have increased, he noted that the average purchase price is now over $2,000.
International expansion has also been high on his list, adding on dealers across Europe especially of late. Rosenblatt said 1stdibs will use the new investment to further expand its global buyer and dealer numbers and to accelerate its mobile efforts. It currently has about two million unique visitors a month.
“Its really as simple — one of things that drew me to company is the global marketplace,” said Rosenblatt about the Alibaba funding, noting one-third of its business is now outside the U.S. and growing quickly on both the supply and demand sides. “And, in the long run, China and, by extension, Asia should be the biggest market in the world.”
While there is no plan to operationalize its China business — currently, the Chinese are largely individual buyers — Rosenblatt said he will be relying on Alibaba’s experience as 1stdibs moves into these markets.
“We are well capitalized, but we need the expertise and experience they bring,” he said.
“The 1stdibs team is exactly the kind of entrepreneurs we love to support: A great vision and strong sense of mission for their company,” said an Alibaba spokesperson. “We look forward to working together for years to come.”