As several marketplace unicorns prepare IPOs, a VC digs into the data


The end of 2020 will be marked by a series of high-profile consumer technology IPOs. Among the companies on file are several marketplace businesses including home rental giant Airbnb, food delivery service DoorDash, grocery delivery company Instacart and the online shopping platform Wish.

Poshmark, a social commerce platform in which Menlo Ventures invested early, has also filed to go public. While the public market will soon assign value to these marketplace businesses, the dominance of these businesses underscores the strength of the marketplace business model. It’s interesting then, to dig into the numbers to understand the state of marketplace businesses today.

What to make of 2020?

Typically, we’d spend most of our time analyzing the most recent data. But, it will surprise no one that 2020 is an outlier. Thankfully, we don’t need to throw the data out. There are some interesting insights. The pandemic impacted businesses broadly, some boomed while others went bust. How the marketplace category fared varied from business to business, depending on the category.

The large public marketplaces continued to perform. If we look at the top 20 publicly traded marketplaces, we see that their combined market cap increased ~63% in 2020. This growth rate is lower than the ~99% growth of the 20 public SaaS leaders.

Not surprisingly companies like the video meeting platform Zoom and Shopify, a commerce platform that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products, benefitted from new dynamics introduced by the pandemic.

If we look at the top 20 publicly traded marketplaces, we see that their combined market cap increased ~63% in 2020.

Similarly, some of the largest public marketplaces, like Amazon, Etsy and Delivery Hero were boosted by changes in consumer behavior including spikes in online shopping and delivery.

Acquisition efficiencies increased with increased demand from consumers and merchants that resulted in favorable growth plus EBITDA pairing.

Take Etsy as an example: In the last quarter, it grew at a whopping 128% YoY compared to 32% the year before with EBITDA margin of 30% versus 15% from the year before.

But where some marketplace categories were propelled by COVID-19 tailwinds, categories like travel and fitness struggled against the headwinds created by the pandemic. This is where we saw some exciting innovation from startups — which tend to be more nimble than their public counterparts — adapted to the new normal. Take Classpass, which was originally conceived as a platform to connect gym goers with the right studio/fitness classes.





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