Livestream shopping platform Whatnot has come an extended from being run out of a storage in Phoenix to now a 120-person firm, valued at $1.5 billion, that’s anticipated to develop to over 300 individuals by year-end as its enterprise explodes. To help on that entrance, Whatnot is making two key hires, one of which includes the acquisition of Pastel Labs, an organization based in 2020 by Jeff Chang, beforehand the technical lead for Pinterest’s progress workforce and a widely known progress advisor. Chang has now turn out to be Whatnot’s Head of Growth, because of this of the all-stock deal that’s thought-about extra of an “acqui-hire” because it doesn’t contain IP. In addition, Whatnot is asserting the rent of the previous Head of Growth and Product Engineering for Lyft, Ludo Antonov as VP and Head of Engineering.
Whatnot co-founder and CEO Grant Lafontaine characterised the Pastel Labs deal — which was finalized in December, however not but introduced — as being within the 5 to 10 million-dollar vary. Pastel Labs had been a small, five-person workforce that was constructing experimental merchandise, together with a software-as-a-service product designed to seize consumer video testimonials and an edtech market for on-line tutoring.
Lafontaine had initially gotten to know Chang via Y Combinator, the accelerator program Whatnot participated in simply earlier than Covid hit in winter 2020. In the early days, the startup — which largely centered on reselling collectibles like Funko Pops — couldn’t elevate cash as individuals have been as an alternative centered on the pandemic, not frivolity. Whatnot even needed to relocate from L.A. to Phoenix for a time. But the workforce stored constructing, understanding that dwell and social commerce within the U.S. market was within the early phases, and nonetheless had loads of potential.
“[Chang is] actually one of the people at Y Combinator who teaches growth,” notes Lafontaine, describing Chang as one of the highest individuals on this planet in phrases of understanding “how to scale a company, grow it and the mechanisms for doing that.” Chang had already suggested Whatnot on some of its progress issues previously, he notes. And as they talked extra, Lafontaine noticed how some of the issues being developed at Pastel Labs might be higher utilized at Whatnot, which had simply seen 60x progress over the previous 12 months.
At Whatnot, Chang will concentrate on scaling the vendor facet of its market, which is right now centered on collectibles like sports activities and sport playing cards, toys, comics, classic video games, and, extra just lately, different fanatic classes like sneakers, classic vogue, and vinyl data. He’ll additionally work on build up the buy-side of Whatnot’s enterprise, and determining the mechanics want there to proceed to scale — whether or not that’s promoting or sharing instruments, or anything. Chang will lead the expansion workforce, which is now a half-dozen staff and planning to broaden.
Antonov, in the meantime, has earlier expertise at a quantity of high tech firms like Lyft, Pinterest, and Hulu, and can now run Whatnot’s engineering workforce.
“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.”
Whatnot, he provides, encompasses all three — it’s a content material platform, market, and video platform.
Together, the brand new hires will assist to information the nonetheless increasing startup within the months to return because it navigates into new areas, which now includes NFTs, and because it tackles different challenges, like scaling, low-latency environments, or constructing out discovery programs that depend on real-time knowledge. In the 12 months forward, Lafontaine says Whatnot will proceed to broaden exterior of collectibles and different fanatic classes. The workforce additionally plans so as to add new consumer-facing options and extra vendor instruments.
“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,” mentioned Lafontaine. “We couldn’t be more excited to have both Ludo and Jeff join Whatnot.”