Grabr, a peer-to-peer marketplace that pairs travelers with international shoppers, has raised $8 million in a series A round of funding led by Foundation Capital, with participation from a number of angel investors, including Facebook executive Javier Olivan and Square’s product engineering lead, Gokul Rajaram.
Founded out of San Francisco in 2015, Grabr is essentially a platform that connects travelers with people in other countries who are looking to buy a specific item. If there is an article of clothing or a book that’s only available to buy in the U.S., for example, someone living in London can request the item from a California local who is scheduled to travel to the U.K. capital. Or vice versa.
People typically travel with hand luggage, but if they have a free checked baggage allowance, they could put it to use and even earn back the value of their ticket by transporting goods on someone’s behalf.
Grabr had previously raised around $6 million in funding, and with another $8 million in the bank the company said it plans to introduce “major product updates and new features,” as well as making some new hires.
“Grabr’s mission is to bring the world to your fingertips by creating a community of shoppers and travelers, where travel becomes more affordable and adventurous,” said Grabr cofounder and CEO Daria Rebenok. “Trust and security are the pillars of the Grabr mission. Above all else, Grabr is committed to creating a community of like-minded people who believe in making the world more global, one purchase at a time.”
Though most consumers in the U.S. and Europe are accustomed to procuring goods with free or cheap shipping, not all markets are well-served by ecommerce platforms such as Amazon — goods often have markups or expensive shipping fees attached. Indeed, Amazon has local retail websites serving fewer than 20 markets in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. And though Amazon does offer international shipping to other countries, it may be prohibitively expensive. This is just one reason Grabr’s service could meet a major demand — by turning travelers into couriers, it bypasses expensive fees.
What Grabr also does is build on the growing presence of “digital economy” marketplaces. Companies such as eBay, Amazon, and Airbnb have created billion-dollar businesses by connecting buyers with sellers, while Uber has built on this concept to become a transport and logistics powerhouse that can be re-appropriated for any transport needs.
“By matching international shoppers with existing travelers to provide them with products from abroad, Grabr has created the first social logistics platform in the vein of Airbnb or Uber,” added Foundation Capital partner Charles Moldow.