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Catawiki

Fast-Growing Online Auction Site Catawiki On How It’s Spending Its $82 Million

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Catawiki may not yet be a household name outside of Europe, but the Accel-backed online auction house is one of the region’s fastest growing startups. In fact, according to founder and CTO Marco Jansen, speaking on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt London conference this afternoon, the company has seen 45,000% growth in revenue over the past four years.

No, that’s not a typo. But is sure is one heck of a vanity metric. (The data comes from Deloitte’s “Fast 500” EMEA rankings for 2015, in case you’re curious.)

In addition, the Amsterdam-headquartered startup this summer raised $82M (€75M) in Series C funding led by Lead Edge Capital, with follow-on from prior investors Accel, Project A Ventures as well as former Booking.com execs, including former CMO Arthur Kosten.

The size of the round made it one of the largest ever for a Dutch internet company, Catawiki claims, and followed a period of growth where revenues increased by 300%, and it had been selling 15,000 lots per week.

Jansen talked today about what it’s been like growing his company, which focuses on sales of “exceptional objects” and collectibles, like comics, video games, art, antique cars, jewelry, stamps, coins, and even fine wine and whisky.

Originally the site began as a way for collectors to organize their items – the name being a mashup of “catalog” and “wiki,” he told TechCrunch, but today the site’s main focus is on its auctions.

While Catawiki clearly has a large rival in eBay, it has also been working to differentiate itself from the auction industry giant. For example, all its auctions start at just one euro, there’s no option to just “buy it now,” and while buyers may need to meet a seller’s reserve price, the idea is bring back the fun that comes with bidding on items online.

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“A lot of excitement has gone from eBay,” said Jansen. “People are going to Catawiki because they want to have the excitement of bidding again,” he explains, detailing why the startup is attracting a growing audience.

Auctions are also structured in a way that recalls their offline counterparts. Experts employed at the startup vet the items by examining photos, the product descriptions, and the sellers’ expectations in terms of price. And when the auctions start – on Friday afternoons, after being announced via an email – they are moderated by live auctioneers.

While initially auctions were on collectible items, the site has expanded over the years to offer items of broader interest – like cars, wine or whisky. One of the priciest things sold on its site was a 165,000 Euro Porsche Roadster, while one of the oddest was a lock of Napoleon’s hair, apparently.

Now that Catawiki has a sizable investment at its disposal, the question for the founder was what comes next?

Jansen says the two largest tasks ahead of Catawiki is expanding its marketing efforts, and growing its now 300-person team. Specifically, the startup has 30 engineers and wants to reach 100 by next year. That will require convincing a number of developers that Amsterdam is, as Jansen says, “a great place to live,” but also home to a viable tech scene.