In an effort to expand its consumer base and grow its stable of designers and brand partners, online marketplace Dering Hall has raised $1.4 million in seed financing from Lerer Ventures, Softbank Capital, Hearst Corporation and other investors.
Founded in October 2011 by entrepreneur and Waterworks CEO Peter Sallick and interior designer Steven Gambrel, the site's mission is to connect the high-end home design market to the trade and to consumers through product and portfolio search.
All participants, including manufacturers, artisans, designers, architects, pay a monthly fee to host content, which includes portfolio images, products in an environment, and related press material. Dering Hall then amplifies the content by writing about it and bringing it to life through its marketing tools and resources.
"We're finding there's an important story to be told about the design community. We want to surround the design buyer with not only product information but services and editorial," said Sallick, CEO of Dering Hall.
An announcement tool enables designers to have a mini blog on Dering Hall, and users may interact with designers and "follow" their updates. The site will introduce several new features including an expanded designer search tool and functionality to support more editorial content.
Dering Hall soon will be announcing several collaborations with design centers and industry organizations nationwide. "Part of our idea to partner with design centers is to show people what's inside and create incentives to drive people into the showrooms."
With some of the investment funds, Dering Hall has doubled its staff size to 10 employees. A west coast and an east coast/UK designer relations representative will analyze regional markets and focus on growing the site's list of participants, which currently stands at 300 designers and brands. Other new hires are focused on marketing and editorial, industry partnerships, user experience/site development, and content/account management.
Gambrel remains a board member and influencer on developments of the site. "He is so good at helping us to understand what makes sense for the designer and relationship for designer and product company," said Sallick.
So, how is it working so far? "We've heard so many great stories — everything from an interior designer finding an architect to collaborate on a billionaire's home, to a product designer finding showroom representation for her line. For us, it's really about being a partner for the design community."
According to investor Kenneth Lerer, Managing Director of Lerer Ventures, “Dering Hall combines the best of design with all that technology has to offer consumers and those in the design community. We’re excited that our investment will help fuel its continued across-the-board expansion and help further position the site as unique in the industry.”
Lerer Ventures is known for content/commerce sites in the lifestyle space such as WhoWhatWear, Refinery29, Thrillist and Buzzfeed. Softbank investments include Gilt Groupe, The Huffington Post and Associated Content.