Updated 12:50 p.m.
Teespring has raised $20 million for — get ready — T-shirts.
Why might a T-shirt company attract such a hefty round of venture capital, you may be asking?
Well Teespring has built a platform that makes it extremely easy for any individual or organization to create and sell custom T-shirts. But it’s not just for T-shirts — eventually, the company hopes to make it possible for companies to rally customer support for many kinds of products, though T-shirts are the only product available through the platform right now.
“Our goal was simple: If we could remove every risk, cost, pain point, and compromise from selling online, we could simplify e-commerce down to what truly matters — having a great idea and people who are willing to support it,” Teespring said in a blog post. “We envision a world where selling is a meritocracy, where the best ideas rise to the top. Where the only thing between you and launching your own brand is finding your audience.”
On Teespring, you basically set up a crowdfunding campaign, but instead of offering rewards or pre-orders of a finished product, you offer T-shirts. You can design a tee on the site, choose a price, and set a sales goal. Teespring handles manufacturing, delivery, and customer service.
Supporters of your cause can buy pre-ordered T-shirts and will only be charged if the goal is reached.
The idea of selling custom shirts to raise money has been around for decades. However these efforts often result in boxes upon boxes of leftover, unsold T-shirts. The pre-order approach means that only T-shirts that are wanted are created, eliminating excess supply (and cost) from the process.
That approach, naturally, might be applicable to many other kinds of goods.
Co-founder Walker Williams explains how the idea came about in a video published by Andreessen Horowitz.
“T-shirts are to Teespring what books were to Amazon,” Williams said in the video.
“It is just the starting point, and it is a great showcase and a test bed for how to be a new world e-commerce company,” Andreessen Horowitz partner Lars Darlgaard said in the same video.
Of course, the company still has to live up to those claims. For now, it’s still just a fancy T-shirt vendor.
Teespring was founded by Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton at Brown University, as a Kickstarter for T-shirts. The company then went through Y Combinator and said it is growing fast. The founders said that more campaigns are launched per day than it had per month a year ago and that its top sellers are generating seven figure salaries.
Andreessen Horowitz led this first round of funding.
Competitors include CustomInk, which raised $40 million in November, and Threadless, which recently closed its physical store and laid off a quarter of its staff.
TeeSpring is based in Providence, Rhode Island.
Updated 12:50pm with more detail on Teespring’s ambitions to become a general-purpose e-commerce platform.