Investment Round: Fanatics, Mapbox, Onfido and 21Buttons

Investment Round is our fortnightly update on which firms have secured new funding, which areas are seeing the most financing, and who is putting up the cash that enables these companies to keep pushing the capabilities of mobile marketing further.

Sports eCommerce Specialists Fanatics Close $1bn Round

Time to break out the sports analogies, because eCommerce retailer Fanatics has just scored a touchdown, sunk a hole-in-one and hit the bullseye, netting $1bn (£761.6m) in investment in a funding round led by SoftBank Group’s Vision fund. The Florida-based company runs online sales for the NBA and NFL, and is set to bring in around $2bn in revenues this year.

Fanatics’ business is largely based in the US, where it licences merchandise and handles eCommerce sales on items such as sports jerseys and replica uniforms. The new round of funding, which values the firm at $4.5bn, will reportedly go towards helping the company expand in international markets, especially Asia, where it will leverage SoftBank’s expertise.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of the global opportunity,” said Doug Mack, chief executive of Fanatics. “Soccer is the world’s number one sport, and then there’s cricket. You’ll see us extend our rights to international leagues. It will definitely grow many-fold from there.”

The NFL and Major League Baseball also took part in the funding round, and in addition to international expansion, the firm is looking to hire more engineers, data scientists and designers. The company’s fast clothing manufacturing methods have been cited as one of its major strengths, and it is hoping to maintain that advantage by continuing investment in technology.

Mapbox Secures $164m to Expand Location Services to VR, AR and more
The explosion of mobile over the past 10 years has given birth to a huge industry focused on location and mapping, enabling marketers and developers to tap into key contextual information about their audience and provide them with richer, more engaging services. Mapbox is one of those mapping providers, and the firm has just closed a $164m funding round to help it compete with giants like Google and Here.

The Series C round takes Mapbox’s total funding to around $228m and its post-money valuation to somewhere in the region of $500m, based on a $203m valuation in 2015. The latest round of investment was led by Softbank Vision Fund, just like Fanatics, and also involved existing investors like Foundry Group, DBL Partners and DFJ Growth.

Mapbox’s platform powers apps and services used by around 300m people, but the company is not content to rely on smartphones alone, and is planning on expanding into AR, VR and automotive mapping. Last year, the company launched Mapbox Drive, an SDK for autonomous cars, and CEO Eric Gunderson has said that the business is less focused on ‘mapping’ now, and more on how real-time location data flows between the sensors now found in everything from smart home thermostats to self-driving cars.

Onfido Raises $30m For Identity Verification
Crane Ventures has led a $30m Series C funding round in support of identity verification provider Onfido, with Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and other existing investors also taking part in the round. The injection of capital, which brings Onfido’s total funding to date to $60m, will be used to help the firm take its identity verification technology to a global audience.

Onfido’s machine learning technology enables companies to automate checks on over 600 document types across 192 countries, detecting anomalies automatically and using human experts to verify outliers. As firms like Square, Zipcar and Revolut make increasing use of automated security checks, Onfido’s technology enables high-growth companies to enable identity verification at scale, seamlessly onboarding customers while reducing the risk of fraud.

“The world is moving online, but the means to carry out identity verification is frozen in time in an offline world,” said Husayn Kassai, CEO and co-founder of Onfido. “Millions of people who don’t have a credit history – or just have a thin one – are unable to access everyday services. With our identity verification technology, those underserved people can access online services they need, and businesses can gain access to a whole new group of trusted customers.”

21Buttons Completes Series A Round to Power Social Commerce App
Social commerce app 21Buttons enables fashion influencers to share their wardrobe with followers, who can then purchase the clothing and accessories they see, share them with friends or bookmark them for later. The firm has just finished a Series A funding round, bringing in $10m from Kibo Ventures, JME VC and a number of existing investors.

The company was founded in 2015 by Marc Soler and Jaime Farres, former consultants at Mckinsey, and is looking to tap into the wider influencer marketing trend that has emerged over the past few years, as firms like Instagram and Pinterest add ‘buy buttons’ to their platform. The Barcelona-based company will use the new funding to grow its user base in the UK, where it recently launched, and fuel further expansion.

“Users become influencers themselves, and the platform remunerates those who generate quality user-generated content,” said a 21Buttons spokesperson. “Most top fashion influencers in their geographies are already using 21Buttons to share their looks with their audience.”