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“When we took a look at the patio furniture industry, we saw an opportunity because no one typically recalls a specific brand of outdoor furniture, just where they purchased it,” Jiake Liu, co-founder and CEO of Outer, told Crunchbase News.
Liu and his co-founder, Terry Lin, didn’t know each other prior to starting Outer in 2017. They met on LinkedIn, and quickly bonded over creating a unique shopping experience.
Three years later, the Santa Monica-based company is going after a global outdoor furniture market valued at $18 billion in 2019. Of that, U.S. consumers account for approximately half, Liu said. More people staying home during the global pandemic helped Outer’s sales jump 1,000 percent over last year.
Including the new funding, Outer has raised approximately $15 million in total investments since its inception in 2017. This includes the $4.3 million seed round in June 2020.
As part of the investment, Sequoia’s Vice President Jiajia Zou is Outer’s newest board member. Joining Sequoia in the Series A were existing investors, including Mucker Capital, Social Starts, Unlock Venture Partners, Overtime VC and Plum Ventures, as well as a large group of angel investors, including Harry’s co-founders Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeffrey Raider.
“We immediately recognized that Jiake and Terry’s focus on product details would lead to a portfolio of truly innovative and quality products,” Katz-Mayfield said in a written statement. “They think through every inch of a product, down to the screws and fabric yarns, and address problems that are hidden in plain sight, such as covering cushions with their clever OuterShell. Their attention to detail truly differentiates Outer from all other outdoor furniture products on the market.”
The funding came at an opportune time, Liu said. The company plans to expand from a single product company, initially sofas, to more products. Outer recently launched a rugs collection, but is also exploring other products, such as lounge chairs and accessories.
In addition, rather than building brick-and-mortar showrooms, the company is tapping into crowdsourcing with a plan to grow its Neighborhood Showroom locations to more than 1,000 in 2021. Neighborhood Showrooms feature “backyard sanctuaries,” created by Outer buyers, that the company is using to show off ways customers have incorporated Outer products, he said.
Since the company launched its products in May 2019, Outer has increased its revenue 11 times by 2020 and tripled its workforce in the past nine months.
Going forward, the company intends to focus on new products as well as continuing its conscientiousness around environment protection, using more than 1 million recycled plastic bottles to create the sofas and rugs, Liu said.
“We are growing rapidly, and we field interest in funding and decided to strike while the iron was hot,” Liu added. “In thinking about future product development, we are unique about what we are doing. We decided to turn our customers’ backyards into an ‘Airbnb meets showroom.’ We started with 100 showrooms and now have 500 in 49 states. We are really trying to pour gasoline on the fire with a goal of 1,000 showrooms by July.”
Photo of founders Jiake Liu and Terry Lin, as well as the inset photo, are courtesy of Outer.
Blogroll illustration: Li-Anne Dias