Chord, a tech startup led by former Glossier execs, raises $15M to expand its headless eCommerce platform
Delivering great content to online users is no longer about just implementing responsive design, companies also want their content to be easily distributed over different communication channels: websites, web and mobile applications, and connected objects.
Most websites today still use traditional content management systems (CMS) that were introduced 20 years ago. However, legacy CMSs are built with a monolithic legacy architecture that is difficult to maintain, often slow, and vulnerable to hackers while most modern CMS lack flexibility and the ability to be customized. This is the problem headless CMS solves by making content management easy, fast, and secure for everyone. It’s called “headless” because the front end is not part of the CMS.
The term “headless” gets its name from the idea of chopping the “head” (the front end, i.e. the website) off the “body” (the back end, i.e. the content repository). Headless e-commerce separates the front- and back-ends of e-commerce websites and applications, which allows brands greater flexibility and faster page loads.
It’s against this backdrop that former Glossier executives Bryan Mahoney (CEO) and Henry Davis ( chairman and COO) realized that the technical infrastructure they had both developed together for the pioneering direct-to-consumer (DTC) company had the power to revolutionize the e-commerce business.
In 2019, they decided to launch a new e-commerce startup called Arfa to help online businesses solve a fundamental problem in commerce: access to the most sophisticated technology that doesn’t require a massive and costly team to build and operate. In March 2021 during the announcement of its $18 million fundraise, the company rebranded to Chord, a name which Davis said reflects the startup’s new mission of “exclusively focused on our technology offering,” instead of just the “lunch of its own direct-to-consumer brands.”
Fast forward almost two years later, the New York-based Chord announced it has closed a $15M in Series A extension to expand its product’s data capabilities and to support the product’s availability to larger customers. The round was co-led by new investor Bright Pixel Capital and existing investor Eclipse, with new investors GC1 Ventures, TechNexus Venture Collaborative, and Anti Fund VC joining existing investors Imaginary Ventures, Foundation Capital, and White Star Capital as participants.
Chord’s technology stack, which combines headless commerce and data infrastructure, does not require a massive and costly team to build and operate. Chord’s infrastructure also integrates into a brand’s system and is pre-configured and instrumented for best-in-class data collection and modeling, as well as synthesized insights.
“The next wave of brands and startups deserve powerful, enterprise-grade technology that can be managed by a small, focused team,” says Bryan Mahoney, CEO & Co-Founder at Chord. “Brands need easy access to the accurate data and key features that modern commerce requires, minus the vast expense and operational pain to attain it. We’re giving them the freedom and ability to work on their companies – building, growing, and perfecting them – without stressing over the technical side. We are excited about the fact we’ve brought together new investors like Bright Pixel Capital and GC1 with our existing partners who believe in our vision. This gives us the financial strength to grow and support more brands.”
The funding will be used to expand the product’s data capabilities and to support the product’s availability to larger customers. One of many steps in achieving this includes the launch of their ML-powered data infrastructure, which allows brands to make critical decisions based on an understanding of how key customer metrics will change over time.
“At Bright Pixel Capital, our goal is to identify distinctive and industry-changing opportunities across industries like retail, cyber and digital infrastructure,” says Miguel Bagulho, Investment Director at Bright Pixel Capital. “Chord’s ability to uplift commerce brands with a unique product, backed by a top-tier management team, were the critical factors which led us to select it as our long-awaited investment in headless commerce. We’re excited to be working alongside Chord as they enter their next phase as a business and continue growing for years to come.”
Chord’s software also democratizes access for the next wave of brands and startups with best-in-class technology and data by giving them tools that don’t require them to hire huge tech teams.
“Since inception, Eclipse has been on a mission to invest in and build companies that transform physical industries,” said Lior Susan, Founding Partner at Eclipse. “Chord’s commerce-as-a-service platform makes more sophisticated, comprehensive commerce, and data infrastructure solutions available that modern commerce requires. Eclipse believes the Chord team is building the technical infrastructure that will revolutionize e-commerce and we look forward to continuing our partnership to help make their vision a reality.”