Heads up investors. If you missed out on WedPics’ previous two funding rounds, here’s your chance to get in before the crowdsourced wedding photography app hits a million weddings around the world (up from 400,000 today).
December 5, 2014
How WedPics Got a Silicon Valley Lead, a Draper & a ‘Shark’ in Series B
A look behind the curtain of WedPics $4.25M raise.
Monday is the kickoff of a $250,000 raise on AngelList. Accredited investors anywhere can put as little as $1,000 into the company and get to share in WedPics’ promised success. Plus, you get the chance to invest with a ‘Shark.’ Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran organized the syndicate.
The $250K raise will add to the $4.25 million in funding that WedPics announced yesterday, bringing its total funds raised to nearly $7 million since launching the platform in 2012. It’ll be the first experiment in crowdfunding for the startup.
Says WedPics CEO Justin Miller: “It’s just a neat opportunity to gain some more exposure and a neat investment story.”
You might have heard rumors of a WedPics-Shark Tank connection earlier this year. Miller responded to an email entitled “Shark Tank Loves WedPics” (which he thought was a joke) and made the show’s final round. But previous conversations with Shark Tank founder Mark Cuban in 2013 disqualified him from participating—producers feared a perceived conflict of interest.
The Corcoran connection happened entirely separate of that. Her team reached out to Miller minutes after he added a WedPics profile to AngelList this year. He’d hoped to fill out the round, but didn’t expect such a quick—and high-profile—response.
But the series of events fits perfectly in Miller’s WedPics growth story. Constant fundraising, research, relationship-building (in and outside the Triangle) and persistence are what Miller attributes to raising one of the largest rounds of a consumer app startup in the Triangle.
Here’s how the rest of the deal happened:
Lead investor Bullpen Capital became a Miller target after hours of research in 2013. Miller knew he needed a bullish and risky investor because little venture capital goes into wedding startups. And Bullpen typically provided bridge funds between rounds.
“They weren’t the type of investors that asked how you will make money,” Miller said. “They are the type of investor that sees metrics and says, ‘These are good but we want to see 400,000 become 1 million next year. How do we do that?”
Triangle Angel Partners’ Whitney Rowe and friend (a California marketer he met through Twitter) Shane Barker made the connection to Bullpen’s Paul Martino and James Conlan, in hopes of bringing them into last year’s series A round. But Bullpen’s response for nearly a year was no—the timing wasn’t right.
But as with any interested investor, Miller added them to his monthly email updates. And as the company scaled exponentially each month, Bullpen took notice. Six months ago, the investors reached out and quickly after hopped on a plane to Raleigh.
One of the most intense moments of their due diligence was a phone call in June, in which Miller was probed by a dozen people, including a high-up engineer at Facebook and marketer at Twitter and other Silicon Valley investors. Miller admits to being a bit freaked, but in the end, saw the importance of the moment.
“It was a great experience because they brought all these insights into one discussion and helped to validate us to them (Bullpen),” Miller said.
Bullpen also brought in an impressive angel investor in Jocelyn Goldfein, a former director of engineering at Facebook who led native mobile app development at the company, and Venture51, an early stage investment firm in San Diego focused on mobile and e-commerce.
OCA Ventures is also new to the round, a connection made by investors and advisors Scot Wingo (CEO of ChannelAdvisor), and Lister Delgado of Idea Fund Partners. OCA received several emails about WedPics within 24 hours, prompting managing director Jim Dugan to email Miller one Saturday in October and ask to invest. He flew down days later and the deal was done.
And local angel investor Mark Easley introduced Miller to Silicon Valley investor (and heir of the legendary Draper family of VCs) Adam Draper at Raleigh’s Cryptolina Bitcoin Expo in August. Miller was convinced he wouldn’t fit in Draper’s “wheelhouse”—the fourth generation venture capitalist is focused on bitcoin and cryptocurrency startups at his Silicon Valley accelerator Boost VC. But after receiving two months of Miller’s email updates, Draper made a commitment to invest as an angel in the round.
Miller explains the entire fundraising process as a “very intertwined experience.”
“We leveraged our existing investors—TAP, Idea Fund, Great Oaks and angels like Scot Wingo—and they were able to reach out to their networks and start connecting me, and then those networks would connect me to their networks. It proved to be exactly what I needed.”
WRAL TechWire has the scoop on how the money will be spent. But Miller gave me a bit more detail on some WedPics strategy.
Hiring will definitely happen. But marketing and international growth will be a big focus. Though brides and grooms in 188 countries have used the app— even grabbing large chunks of marketshare in countries like the U.K., Australia, Chile and Ireland—WedPics hasn’t spent $1 on marketing outside the U.S.
Miller expects to create localized versions of the app to grab even more share in those international markets. There are also discussions of a photo app that could be used for other occasions, like babies, bat or bar mitzvahs, birthdays and other special events.
Revenue will continue to grow too. Two photo printing channels have led to $350,000 in revenue this year.
“The monetization will be layered in, but ultimately, It’s still a user acquisition focus for us.”