Despite saying it was ‘doubling down’ to become a ‘mainly Series A’ VC in Europe, Balderton Capital’s latest investment is at the seed stage. The London-based VC has led a £1.3 million round in UK car buying platform carwow. Episode 1 Ventures, and Samos Investments also participated, along with angel investors Alex Chesterman (founder of Zoopla Property Group), Simon Murdoch, and Doug Monro.
Aiming to reduce the friction involved in buying a new car, London-based carwow allows consumers to compare offers online and buy directly from “trusted” dealers that are registered with the platform, specifically avoiding the arduous but otherwise necessary requirement to haggle over price.
It does this with what is essentially a reverse marketplace: users “build” the car they would like to buy — specifying make and model/features etc. — and then receive offers direct from dealers. They can then quickly compare offers by price, location of the dealer, reviews of the dealer and what’s actually in stock. It’s then up to the buyer to decide whether to contact a dealer based on their offer, either by anonymous messaging through the carwow platform or by giving the dealer a call.
Carwow says it’s seen “rapid growth” since launching in May last year, citing £30m worth of cars being bought via the platform to-date. Founder James Hind says funding will be used to help establish the brand in the UK, but also to “accelerate” its international expansion.
Rob Moffat, who led the investment for Balderton Capital, will join carwow’s board. In a statement he comments: “We were impressed by both the universally positive feedback from users but also from dealers who use carwow and benefit from a new marketing channel, generating large volumes of sales. We believe carwow’s powerful online platform will revitalise the new-car market which, to date, has experienced very little innovation.”
Most recently, Balderton Capital itself has made headlines mainly for its recruitment of two new partners, and speculation over when it might close a new fund. In October last year, Daniel Waterhouse left Wellington Partners to join Balderton as a General Partner, and in January this year Suranga Chandratillake, founder of IPO’d internet media company blinkx, also joined as a General Partner, returning home after a 10-year stint mostly based in the Valley.