The tide is rising for live streaming services, and just as this is lifting apps, other kinds of streaming startups are seeing a boost as well. Today, Auctionata, a Berlin startup that broadcasts online live auctions for fine art and collectibles, announced that it raised €42 million ($45 million) in a Series C round of funding from a group investors led by MCI Management and including Hearst Ventures.
Auctionata plans to use the money to expand its service to new geographies and new categories.
“Since the launch of the weekly live stream auctions in May 2013, Auctionata has grown considerably and has successfully positioned itself among the global leaders for online auctions of art, antiques and luxury collectibles,” Auctionata’s founder and CEO Alexander Zacke said in a statement. “In the future Auctionata will focus on efficient growth and thereby lay the ground for both organic and non-organic category and geographic expansion.”
New auction areas will include musical instruments, memorabilia (think ‘original Mickey Mouse ears’ and old baseball cards), architectural and garden pieces, diamonds, and real estate.
It also plans to put investment into categories that it already offers like watches, classic cars, wine, jewelry, design, contemporary art, fine art, antiques and Asian art; and also into the tech behind its live stream auction format.
Live streamed auctions have been a long-held ambition among many in the art world. Such a format has the potential to open the physical floor and all the bidding hype that comes with it to a much wider audience, and with that raising the bids for items on the block.
But early attempts at live streamed events failed to meet their estimates (so to speak…), complicated by slow broadband speeds, and much more. So while sites like eBay flourished in the category of real-time bidding for items, the live action spectacle that went along with that remained firmly offline, with the only way for bidders not present in the auction room to get in on the action by calling in by phone.
But the advances we’ve seen in streaming technology, network connectivity, people’s computing devices, and — perhaps most of all — what we as consumers have come to expect have changed all that.
Even leading auction companies like Sotheby’s –which was burned in the past from a middling JV with Amazon back in 1999 — is trying again, just this month announcing that it would team up with eBay for live streamed auctions. Christie’s, too, offers a live format, although tellingly I couldn’t get the link to work today when I tried to visit it.
In that context, Auctionata’s boat may be rising at just the right time, but with a lot of competition, too. The startup itself is growing, albeit from a small base. In 2014 it had net sales of €31.5 million ($34 million) in 2014, with €12.5 ($13.5) million in the first quarter of 2015.
And like its much larger counterparts Sotheby’s and Christie’s, it is also not just an online business. It currently calls on 300 experts across 40 countries to vet objects before they get listed, with full offices in Berlin and New York and smaller offices in London, Zürich, Rome and Madrid. All of this, too, will need investment to grow.
The opportunity, however, is one that investors are willing to bid on.
“We are excited to back Auctionata’s ambitious growth plans,” said Sylwester Janik, a partner at Warsaw-based MCI Management, in a statement. “The company is an excellent example of what we look for in our investments: a disruptive business model combined with a high quality team and a leadership with strong industry experience.”
Other investors in this round, addition to MCI and Hearst, include Kreos Capital from London and Yuan Capital from Hong Kong, as well as existing investors Earlybird, e.ventures, Kite Ventures, Raffay Group, TA Ventures, Bright Capital, REN Invest and Holtzbrinck Ventures.