Last February, we introduced the a16z Marketplace 100, a ranking of the largest consumer-facing marketplace startups and private companies. The series was a hit, spurring debate about the evolution of marketplaces and promising new consumer categories.
Then COVID turned into a pandemic.
The past year has been a gut-punch for many marketplace categories. Ticketing marketplaces found their businesses drastically diminished when events were canceled around the world. As schools were shuttered and many businesses enacted work-from-home policies, childcare marketplaces scrambled to adopt new safety precautions and stay afloat. Even the #1 marketplace last year, Airbnb, grappled with shutdowns, cancellations, and refunds.
As 2020 drew to a close, however, many marketplaces proved to be extraordinarily resilient—a testament to the flexibility of the model. In a year when in-person interactions were heavily restricted and unemployment went through the roof, marketplaces allowed people to access the products and services they needed and, in many cases, monetize their own talents, services, and resources. From food and alcohol delivery to games, online education to outdoor getaways, marketplaces like UrbanSitter, Instacart, Valve, Outschool, and Hipcamp helped us weather a difficult year.
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