Kara Swisher

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A-List Experiences Startup IfOnly Nabs $12 Million in Funding From Some More A-Listers, Including Yahoo’s Mayer

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IfOnly, the San Francisco-based startup headed by longtime entrepreneur Trevor Traina, has raised a total of $12 million in funding to expand its “marketplace for experiences” offerings.

The site, which is focused on offering events with top “luminaries” in sports, cooking and entertainment, is an expansion of the $3 million in funding IfOnly had announced previously from a group of tech luminaries. That included Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, investor Yuri Milner, Nextdoor’s Nirav Tolia, SurveyMonkey’s Dave Goldberg, Zynga’s Mark Pincus, Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman, investor Owen Van Natta and Jawbone’s Hosain Rahman.

This Series A round for IfOnly converts those angel investors, but adds an even higher-wattage one: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

And — oh, yeah — the more formal moneybags, including New Enterprise Associates, Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, American Express Ventures, the Advance/Newhouse arm of Conde Nast and Allen & Co.

“What I want to do is build the experience economy and this funding will allow us to put it in place,” said Traina in an interview. “People are rethinking what’s important to them and we think people want to share stories more than things.”

He said IfOnly is trying to develop a “multi-dimensional platform,” with experts that curate and manage the experiences it offers at a fixed price. There is also a charitable element to each offering, with at least 10 percent of an experience fee donated to the luminary’s 501(c)3 charity of choice. So far, the donations have been closer to 70 percent, said Traina.

IfOnly makes money by taking at least 20 percent of the gross.

I am not sure I like the word “luminary” in any context, but it’s pretty descriptive of what’s going on here — essentially, you get to do some shoulder-rubbing with the jet-setter of your choice if you cough up the dough.

IfOnly has offered experiences with celebrities — including Kobe Bryant, Richard Branson, Andre Agassi, Joe Montana, Madonna, Shakira, Greg Norman and Alice Waters — doing a wide range of things, from private dinners prepared by well-known chefs to Napa Valley tasting tours with winemakers to offering signed memorabilia to back-pass events at concerts. You can also create what IfOnly is calling customized “dream experiences.”

Sign me up for twerking lessons with Miley Cyrus! Throw in the all-dude board of Twitter and I will sign over my house.

Most of these special events are reserved for those who are members, but the general public can get in on it, too. (By the way, if you put “allthingsd” in as a member code, you’ll get in — cue the old Groucho Marx joke about clubs here.)

While some are very expensive — such as a day with boxer Sugar Ray Leonard — others are not, such as a $100 caramel collection from famous chefs.

To guard against dissatisfaction on the consumer side and perhaps bad encounters with fans on the luminary side, Traina noted that there would be a review system in place, rating both sides of the equation.

Traina, well known on the San Francisco social scene, is also a longtime Internet entrepreneur. He sold CompareNet to Microsoft in 1999, StepUp to Intuit in 2006 and DriverSide to Advance Auto Parts two years ago.

The board of the new company is also fancy, including Traina, One Kings Lane co-founder Alison Pincus and Clear Channel Entertainment Enterprises president John Sykes.


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