Etsy buys tech marketplace Grand St. as it eyes potential IPO

by Harrison Weber on April 23, 2014

Etsy is acquiring creative gadget shop Grand St. for an undisclosed sum, the firm announced today.

Grand St., which raised $1.3 million in April 2013, has spent the past two years evolving from a standard ecommerce shop into a product incubator

This news arrives as whispers of an Etsy IPO grow.

Here’s Etsy chief Chad Dickerson’s announcement post:

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re acquiring Grand St., the marketplace for creative technology, subject to closing conditions. Grand St. connects independent hardware makers with passionate buyers, harnessing a wave of innovation happening outside the mainstream consumer electronics industry. What unites Etsy and Grand St. is a shared vision of the way making is changing, and we’re excited to learn from their community. The team behind Grand St. — including co-founders Amanda Peyton, Joe Lallouz and Aaron Henshaw — will join Etsy but continue to operate the Grand St. marketplace in the near term.

As we’ve seen here at Etsy, shoppers are increasingly interested in unique and innovative goods, especially when they know and can be involved in the story behind the product. At the same time, it’s becoming easier than ever for independent makers and designers to bring ideas to market and find a global audience. Grand St. gets this — that’s why we’re such a good fit.

A curated marketplace, Grand St. addresses indie hardware makers at different stages in the development cycle. Their pre-orders feature showcase products that are not yet widely available, but will be soon. Their beta feature lets makers get direct feedback from buyers on products that are still evolving. And their shop feature is for consumer-ready products that are 100% functional and currently shipping, with guaranteed customer satisfaction.

Grand St. strives to enable small designers and maker teams to find a legitimate path to market, just as Etsy’s goal is to empower our sellers to start and grow their independent, creative businesses. We are so excited to continue making this progress together.








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Silicon Valley heavyweights are helping underprivileged teens make iOS games

by Kia Kokalitcheva on April 23, 2014

Silicon Valley heavyweights are helping underprivileged teens make iOS games
Image Credit: Jeremy Rossmann

MakeGamesWith.Us, a company that teaches mostly high school and college students how to make iOS games, has just pooled together its first scholarship fund.

The cash will bring underprivileged teenagers to SF and NYC for the summer to learn how to code.

500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and incubuator Y Combinator, among others, are chipping contributing to the fund, which currently totals $40,000.

MakeGamesWith.Us is also contributing $10,000 in tuition discounts, and crowdfunding platform Crowdtilt is waving its fees for admitted students who need to raise funds through its site.

MakeGamesWith.Us (MGWU) provides iOS game instruction in two main ways: online instruction and full-time summer camps based in the Bay Area and New York City. The scholarship fund will help some students in financial need attend this summer’s camps.

“I was the only female coder in my entire class”

During a conversation with VentureBeat, MGWU cofounder Jeremy Rossmann said that attending camps such his company’s is expensive and inaccessible for many students.

Furthermore, certain avenues such as crowdfunding aren’t very successful for students from poorer areas. It’s nearly impossible for them to gather money from people in their communities.

In other cases, a lack of role models means a lack of inspiration.

“We visited something like 30 school over the past few weeks. Something we’ve heard over and over again from the girls is that they don’t see people like them in the upper ranks of the tech world,” Rossmann said.

For that reason, some of the fund contributors have requested that their portions sponsor students of specific underrepresented backgrounds.

“500Startups believes in improving access to technology education for aspiring developers and entrepreneurs of all colors, ages, genders, and geographies. We are proud to help MakeGamesWith.Us provide great opportunities for people to learn mobile development and ship their first product. 500Startups is particularly psyched to help women and non-U.S. citizens get access to the program too!” McClure said in a statement.

“The MGWU Summer Academy is a remarkably effective way to get young people programming (who doesn’t love video games?) and I am very excited to sponsor a woman of color for this year’s program. If the tech industry is going to reach its maximum potential, it’s going to need makers from all backgrounds and experiences!” Ohanian said in a statement.

Ohanian requested that his scholarship contribution specifically help female students in the program, and two have already been selected to received help from this new fund.

Zolnamar Dorjsembe is from Mongolia. After teaching herself programming online, she has already created an educational app to teach Mongolian children English. Lexi Gadsby is a high school sophomore who, after accidentally stumbling into her school’s computer science department, has been involved in several local technology communities and is already working towards her associate’s degree in computer science and computer engineering through a local community college.

This isn’t Ohanian’s first investment in web development education.

“I’ve backed companies like MGWU and Codecademy and General Assembly because I’m so very bullish on webdev education (both online and offline) because that’s exactly how I learned — only the resources I had in middle school and high school were a joke compared to what’s available today,” he said in an email to VentureBeat.

Make With Us

Rossmann stressed that this is only the beginning for MGWU. The company plans to raise “as much [scholarship money] as [it] possibly can” and eventually add video streaming of its summer camps to reach as many students as possible.

And it also won’t stop at game-making. It will eventually become “Make With Us” and will teach even more web development skills.

“We want to build our own introductory curriculum. Right now the perception is that computer science is this thing that’s for gaming, geeks, and guys” said Rossmann. He and his cofounder want to show teens that it’s so much more and that it will play a huge role in an increasing number of fields.

Because of this new scholarship, the company has extended its application deadline to May 3 for this summer’s camps.

Founded by Ashutosh Desai and Jeremy Rossmann, MakeGamesWith.Us graduated from Y Combinator’s Winter 2012 class. The team spends some of its time volunteering to teach week-long workshops in middle schools and sponsoring events such as HSHacks, a hackathon organized by and for high school students.

 








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