Published On: Wed, Apr 8th, 2020

Mobile website builder Universe raises $10M from GV as it ventures into commerce

A startup that has framed itself as an Instagram for websites is now squaring adult opposite Shopify as it nabs new appropriation from Google’s try collateral arm.

Brooklyn-based Universe has usually sealed a $10 million Series A from GV. The appropriation turn was good in a works before a COVID-19 pestilence took reason stateside; nevertheless, CEO Joseph Cohen really sounded relieved to have all signed.

“Hopefully, it’ll take some weight off their shoulders that competence have been there otherwise,” pronounced GV ubiquitous partner M.G. Siegler, who led a understanding and is holding a chair on their board.

Universe, an Instagram for building mobile websites, nabs appropriation from YC

When a group launched out of YC dual years ago, a initial aim was to be a go-to brief integrate for immature people and creatives to hang in their Instagram bios. The mobile app authorised users to emanate really simple alighting pages, permitting them to form adult some text, toss adult photos and arrange their origination opposite a integrate of web pages.

As a startup matures and looks to home in on a some-more strong business model, they’re now looking to build an impossibly low-friction commerce platform. Users can supplement a offered “block” to their site, supplement a photo, outline and cost and afterwards start usurpation orders.

“We’ve left from a alighting page builder to a bone-fide website builder,” Cohen told TechCrunch in an interview.

Universe is going after what Cohen calls “very tiny businesses.” This could be an artist offered prints, a yoga instructor charging for Zoom classes or one of their latest customers, a rancher offered live bait. “These are people who don’t work during desks,” Cohen says.

Shopify has been one of a biggest tech success stories of a past several years, though Cohen sees weaknesses for Universe to gain on. Shopify is “complex and not mobile-first,” he says. Universe not usually doesn’t need a developer to implement, it doesn’t seem to need someone that’s quite tech-savvy.

The cost of morality for a finish user is a large cut for Universe. At launch, a association isn’t holding a commission for a initial $1,000 of a customer’s revenue, though will take a 10% cut thereafter, a series that’s particularly multiples aloft than a rates of competitors.

Cohen acknowledges that if a business succeeds, this can be a poignant responsibility for them, one that competence pull them to another platform. He contend that he wants to figure out a indication that can assistance his startup “grow and scale” with their customers, though he didn’t offer adult any sum on what that competence demeanour like.

The group is still operative with giveaway and paid “pro” tiers that offer modernized facilities like analytics. Commerce facilities will be accessible for both tiers.

Universe has lifted $17 million to date. Other investors embody Javelin Venture Partners, General Catalyst and Greylock Partners.


We chatted with GV’s M.G. Siegler about shutting this understanding and how his purpose as an financier has shifted given a stream predicament took hold. You can review that talk on Extra Crunch.

GV’s M.G. Siegler on portfolio management, predicament fundraising and his latest investment

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