Gander closes $4.2M seed round to 'humanize' online shopping

E-commerce platform Gander announced today the closing of a $4.2 million seed round co-led by Harlem Capital and Crossbeam Venture Partners.

The seed adds Gander founder Kimiloluwa Fafowora, 26, to the growing list of Black women who have raised $1 million or more in VC funding — a feat no more than 250 have hit. Fafowora told TechCrunch that the idea for Gander came from her own desires as an online shopper looking for an easier way to conceptualize the items she sought to buy.

"A lot of the elements that are really helpful for bringing products to life don't really exist online," Fafowora said.

To fix that, in late 2021, she launched Gander, which collects and embeds user-generated video content into retail sites so shoppers can see what a product looks like in real life. Gander also has a creator marketplace, which gives brands direct access to the video content. Fafowora hopes to increase hiring on her sales and engineering teams with the fresh capital and focus on further scaling the company.

"We've built our product in such a way that we get important data that will help e-commerce brands just humanize their stores in a way that makes them accessible as possible," Fafowora continued. "That helps the customer feel happy as possible for shopping."

A hit with investors

Fafowora enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business with an acute understanding of wanting to humanize online shopping. While the pandemic kept her studies virtual, she multitasked research, product experimenting and networking.

Her product gained much traction after its launch and has already secured some high-profile clients, though she declined to share names. Gander's success is showcased by the fact that it took less than three months to close its $4.2 million seed. In fact, Fafowora said fundraising wasn't top of mind early in the year. But the word of her company started to spread and soon investors flooded her with offers.

"Before we knew it," she recalled, "we had term sheets."

"A lot of the elements that are really helpful for bringing products to life don't really exist online." Kimiloluwa Fafowora, founder of Gander

Fafowora met Harlem Capital managing partner Henri Pierre-Jacques and Crossbeam managing director Ryan Morgan through other investors. She said the two recognized the need for her product and understood the vision of where she wanted to take the company.

"As the e-commerce landscape has grown over the past few years, brands have needed to find ways to connect and communicate with customers authentically," Morgan said in a press release. "Not only does Kimiloluwa have a unique understanding of the needs and appetites of the modern consumer, but she also has experience scaling e-commerce brands, which has led her to develop a solution to better the communication between online brands and consumers."

Pierre-Jacques added to that. "We are big investors in e-commerce enablement tools and see Gander as the evolution for user-generated content for brands," he said in the release.

Additional funding came from Boon Fund and a collection of venture scouts and angels.

This is only the beginning

Gander is a full-circle moment for Fafowora. She always wanted to start a business and hails from an entrepreneurial family. The idea of crafting her own future while helping others appealed to her, but for the longest time, she couldn't decide on how to achieve that dream.

The light bulb lit up while she was working as a strategist to help scale consumer brands. Often, she walked away feeling as if something was missing from their online strategies. She figured someone should do something about that.

After graduating from Stanford this Sunday, Fafowora plans to focus on scaling her company with hopes of helping brands more easily reach shoppers while also leaning into using creators to interact with consumers to help them with buying decisions.

"This is all part of her dream to help usher in a new era of e-commerce," she said, adding "collecting and embedding video content is just the beginning."