It appears that the online auction house winning the startup funding war is the one you've never heard of: Auctionata. The Berlin-based startup, which has only been in business for a year, just raised $20.2 million in second round funding from five different Russian and German VC firms. This round comes just four months after Moscow-based Bright Capital pledged $2.5 million last December.
Funding-wise, this infusion of cash puts Auctionata miles ahead of its art startups like Artsy ($7.25 million) and Artspace ($12.2 million), as well as Paddle8 ($4 million), which as an online auction site, is theoretically a direct competitor. With so much money, it seems like the company might be attempting to align itself more with a model like Heritage Auctions, which does $800 million in annual sales, much of which comes from Internet bidding.
The company was cofounded by web-company veteran Georg Untersalmberger and former eBay powerseller Alexander Zacke. Zacke told the website Benzinga, “I come from a family of art collectors and auctioneers that goes back to the late 19th century. I started my first antiques business when I was 18, so that was 29 years ago.” He went on to become the largest antiques powerseller on eBay.
Auctionata sells in three different ways: weekly auctions on Fridays, sporadic theme auctions, and an online shop where items can be purchased for a fixed price anytime. While sales are made online, the action unfolds in a TV studio set up as a “sales room,” which is broadcast via live feed. Auctionata has representatives on five continents and says it has 250 specialists worldwide. The company's website boasts that “there’s no item of value our experts can’t value.”
Perhaps more interesting is the authenticity guarantee that comes with each purchase. Auctionata's website notes, “If arbitration proves a purchased item is not genuine, the buyer can return it to Auctionata within a period of 25 years (starting from the date of delivery) to receive a full refund.” (The fine print, however, notes that in the case that you think your work might be a fake, the auction house will commission a “certified, impartial expert” to rule on authenticity, a practice which seems not all that favorable to the buyer.)
According to the company, it “will be the first German online fine art and auction house to sell an original watercolor by Egon Schiele (his famed Reclining Woman)” on June 21, and bids will start at $1.5 million.