Queenly’s marketplace for formalwear gets millions in round led by A16z

Queenly, a resale marketplace for formalwear, announced on Friday that it has grown its seed round to $6.3 million in a financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Connie Chan. The financing event brings Queenly’s total venture raised to date at $7.1 million.

Queenly sees itself as a “StockX” for formalwear, but has its own hold on the resale market for luxury goods. The startup gets consumers to list their used dresses – whether it be from weddings, proms, or pageants – on the platform to sell at a discounted price to others. Sellers then make about 80% of the listed price when a dress is sold, while buyers get a unique dress that wouldn’t have been worn gain anyways.

In a statement, A16z’s Chan said that she experienced “firsthand how unique but underserved the formalwear market is by technology.” The investor noted how fit is less important because people often rely on alterations, but uniqueness matters. She also credited the experience that the Queenly co-founders Trisha Bantigue and Kathy Zhou both have at pageants, which has made its way into the end-product.

Sure enough, the co-founders have put much of their energy into an algorithm designed to help buyers find the best dress for them, with search capabilities that are meant to be more inclusive of size and skin color than competitors like retail stores and Poshmark.

“These are just some things that we know because we’re women, and we know how to build this product for women,” Zhou said in a previous interview. “As opposed to if this was a male founder, they would not know that that would even be something that women would search for.”

The resale marketplace comes with its own challenges, the biggest of which can often be quality assurance. For dresses priced at $300 or less, Queenly gets proof photos of condition and then allows sellers ship directly to buyers. Dresses above $300 are routed through the company’s own operation, where a qualiy assurance team more closely checks for the condition of the dress.

Queenly graduated from Y Combinator in Winter 2021, in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the lack of in-person events, the co-founders said that they had half a million in sales, thanks to Zoom weddings, Twitch pageants and socially-distant graduations. Queenly also got small fancy dress businesses, looking for a digital solution to get ubuyers, to list their inventory on the site.

The growth helped the startup raise while still in the accelerator, landing $800,000 from investors including Mike Smith, former COO of Stitch Fix, Thuan Pham, former CTO of Uber, and Kelly Thompson, former COO of Samsclub.com and Walmart.com. The company then closed the first bit of its seed round at $2.3 million, bringing on Dragon Capital along with other investors.

Now, three months later, Queenly has extended that seed round by a few million. The company declined to disclose its new valuation or sales volume, but did say that number of dresses on Queenly’s platform have grown from 50,000 in February to 60,000 now, in July. Queenly also landed a partnership, per Forbes, with the Miss USA organization, which will help grow its footprint through contestants uploading their dresses to the platform. Of course, dresses aren’t synonymous with sales – but with millions more, the startup could be equipped to turn that reach into real dollars.