Well-known VC names are giving big dollars to a t-shirt company. Seriously.
Teespring, a company that, from the outside, looks like a Kickstarter for custom t-shirt designs, is announcing today that it has raised a whopping $35 million in new funding from Khosla Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
Anyone can create a t-shirt through the service (uploading or creating a design on the spot), pick out fabrics and other features, receive a quote for the wholesale price of each shirt (depending on quantity goals), set a campaign deadline (or not), and set a sale price.
So far, Teespring has had all sorts of folks use the service, from school organizations to sports teams to startups selling swag to fans. Some people have even built their own businesses out of Teespring campaigns.
Capturing the moment
When cofounders Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton were in college and found out that a beloved local dive bar was closing down, the two decided to commemorate the bar and put together a simple one-page website to crowdfund t-shirts for the bar’s fans.
The duo’s simple t-shirt crowdfunding website model became as big of a hit as the shirts themselves, with other students and organizations reaching out and asking the two to make them a shirt as well, and so Teespring was born.
”T-shirts happen to be the most universal way to deliver messages,” Williams, the company’s chief executive, told VentureBeat. He added that while social media is exciting and energetic, it’s also fleeting – t-shirts are not.
And if you think about it, a t-shirt is even better than a picture: You can wear it and remind yourself of that moment or message all day. It’s memorabilia you can experience. That’s probably also why Teespring is not the only company to crowdsource t-shirt designs – Customink and Threadless, for example, are also in the t-shirt business.
More than a t-shirtÊ
While Teespring certainly looks, feels, and behaves like a Kickstarter for t-shirts, Williams doesn’t view it that way. ”Teespring is not a crowdfunding platform whatsoever,” he said.
Instead, he said, the t-shirts are just the way his company helps entrepreneurs (or at least, folks with an entrepreneurial spirit) build a brand or achieve whatever they’ve set out to do.
”Teespring doesn’t have anything to do with t-shirts; it’s about bringing a great idea to market,” he said.
Naturally, the question then is, what will Teespring expand into beyond t-shirts – and when – but Williams declined to comment, saying pnly that ”2015 is going to be an exciting year.”
The company recently opened a new factory in Kentucky (it gets all of its printing, packaging, and shipping done in the U.S., though the fabric is sourced from other places around the world for cost reasons), creating about 350 new jobs. Something tells me that it’s not just to print more t-shirts (Williams actually hinted at that back in January when Teespring raised $20 million).
Williams also said that the company views its business as ”the democratization of e-commerce” and wants to be ”the commerce layer of the Internet” by helping its customers (remember, the entrepreneurs) have access to its manufacturing pipeline and e-commerce tools. While these are some pretty lofty goals, it’s likely this vision, along with all the details of future plans Williams declined to share, that convinced Andreessen Horowitz to put in more money, Khosla Ventures to come onboard, and Khosla partner Keith Rabois to join the company’s board.
Teespring was founded in 2012 and has offices in San Francisco and Providence, Rhode Island. The company was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2013 batch. Previous investors include Fritz Lanman, Fuel Capital, and FundersClub.