DIY Site Draws Investors as It Expands From Sewing to Soldering

Courtesy Paivi Kankaro

Nora Abousteit founded Kollabora, which sells patterns and material for knitting and sewing projects.

Knitting, sewing and jewelry-making may not seem like the height of geekdom, but that hasn’t stopped one e-commerce site from attracting the attention of some influential technology investors.

New York-based Kollabora, a website that sells patterns and supplies to help hobbyists create scarves, blouses, bracelets or one of the other 700-plus projects, recently raised $1.8 million in a round led by Khosla Ventures. Collaborative Fund and Allen & Company also invested in the round, which is expected to close at $2 million.

Kollabora (pronounced “col-LAB-or-uh,” a play on “collaborate”)  is trying to tap into the growing “maker” movement, a trend fueled by do-it-yourself enthusiasts who want to build physical things, be they robots, iPad cases, or in this case, earrings. The website has 16,000 users, mostly women.

But the geeks will have their day. In the first half of next year, Kollabora will expand into electronics, offering schematics and parts, as well as woodworking and home decor, said Nora Abousteit, founder of the company.

“We’re going into anything that people make,” said Abousteit, who raised $580,000 in an earlier round from Dave McClure, who runs the seed fund 500 Startups, Josh Auerbach, the chief financial officer of Digg-owner Betaworks, and Eric Wahlforss, the SoundCloud co-founder.

Before Kollabora, Abousteit helped start BurdaStyle, which sells sewing patterns, though no physical materials. The site, owned by German publishing giant Hubert Burda Media, has amassed nearly 800,000 members. Through this success and organizing Europe’s DLD tech conferences, she made connections in the tech industry, including with Vinod Khosla, the longtime venture capitalist.

“She’s in what I call the alpha-geek circles,” Khosla, whose firm led the last round, said in an interview. “The maker movement is pretty hot. Crafts isn’t in our wheelhouse, but bringing communities online definitely is.”

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