Media & Entertainment

Fast-growing livestream shopping platform Whatnot acquires Pastel Labs, hires VP of engineering

Comment

Image Credits: Whatnot

Livestream shopping platform Whatnot has come a long way from being run out of a garage in Phoenix to now a 120-person company, valued at $1.5 billion, that’s expected to grow to over 300 people by year-end as its business explodes. To aid on that front, Whatnot is making two key hires, one of which involves the acquisition of Pastel Labs, a company founded in 2020 by Jeff Chang, previously the technical lead for Pinterest’s growth team and a well-known growth advisor. Chang has now become Whatnot’s head of Growth, as a result of the all-stock deal that’s considered more of an “acqui-hire” as it doesn’t involve IP. In addition, Whatnot is announcing the hire of the former head of Growth and Product Engineering for Lyft, Ludo Antonov as VP and head of Engineering.

Whatnot co-founder and CEO Grant Lafontaine characterized the Pastel Labs deal — which was finalized in December, but not yet announced — as being in the five to 10 million-dollar range. Pastel Labs had been a small, five-person team that was building experimental products, including a software-as-a-service product designed to capture user video testimonials and an edtech marketplace for online tutoring.

Image Credits: Whatnot

Lafontaine had originally gotten to know Chang through Y Combinator, the accelerator program Whatnot participated in just before COVID hit in winter 2020. In the early days, the startup — which largely focused on reselling collectibles like Funko Pops — couldn’t raise money as people were instead focused on the pandemic, not frivolity. Whatnot even had to relocate from LA to Phoenix for a time. But the team kept building, understanding that live and social commerce in the U.S. market was in the early stages, and still had a lot of potential.

“[Chang is] actually one of the people at Y Combinator who teaches growth,” notes Lafontaine, describing Chang as one of the top people in the world in terms of knowing “how to scale a company, grow it and the mechanisms for doing that.” Chang had already advised Whatnot on some of its growth problems in the past, he notes. And as they talked more, Lafontaine saw how some of the things being developed at Pastel Labs could be better applied at Whatnot, which had just seen 60x growth over the past year.

Whatnot raises another $150M for its livestream shopping platform, evolves into a unicorn

At Whatnot, Chang will focus on scaling the seller side of its marketplace, which is today focused on collectibles like sports and game cards, toys, comics, vintage games and, more recently, other enthusiast categories like sneakers, vintage fashion and vinyl records. He’ll also work on building up the buy-side of Whatnot’s business, and figuring out the mechanics needed there to continue to scale — whether that’s advertising or sharing tools, or anything else. Chang will lead the growth team, which is now a half-dozen employees and planning to expand.

Antonov, meanwhile, has previous experience at a number of top tech companies like Lyft, Pinterest and Hulu, and will now run Whatnot’s engineering team.

Image Credits: Whatnot

“Ludo has, one, helped build world-class engineering teams — from the growth team at Pinterest, which was one of the best growth teams in the world — to running a couple hundred-person product and growth engineering team at Lyft,” praises Lafontaine. “His background is just about as perfect as it gets for Whatnot. He’s worked in video. He’s worked at content and Pinterest, and he’s worked in a marketplace at Lyft.”

4 trends that will define e-commerce in 2022

Whatnot, he adds, encompasses all three — it’s a content platform, marketplace and video platform.

Together, the new hires will help to guide the still expanding startup in the months to come as it navigates into new areas, which now includes NFTs, and as it tackles other challenges, like scaling, low-latency environments or building out discovery systems that rely on real-time data. In the year ahead, Lafontaine says Whatnot will continue to expand outside of collectibles and other enthusiast categories. The team also plans to add new consumer-facing features and more seller tools.

“Jeff and Ludo both bring a wealth of experience as leading growth and marketplace engineering teams, where they not only married both content and commerce but displayed the chops for scaling a company to hundreds of millions of users,” said Lafontaine. “We couldn’t be more excited to have both Ludo and Jeff join Whatnot.”

More TechCrunch

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.