CSN Stores, Bootstrapped No More, Takes In $165M from Battery, Spark, Great Hill, HarbourVest

6/21/11Follow @gthuang

So much for becoming a billion-dollar company without taking venture capital. But I guess we saw this coming.

Boston-based CSN Stores, an online retailer and bootstrapped success story, has raised a first financing round of $165 million from Battery Ventures, Great Hill Partners, HarbourVest Partners, and Spark Capital. The news was reported in the Wall Street Journal. No valuation details were given, but it’s safe to say the company is riding the wave of high valuations for Internet firms—though this one has some stuff behind it.

CSN Stores owns more than 200 websites that sell home goods such as cookware, furniture, strollers, and luggage. The company was founded in 2002 and has been profitable almost since inception. CSN made $380 million in revenue in 2010, an increase of more than 50 percent over the previous year, and as of April was on pace to grow by another 50 percent this year. It has more than 750 employees and plans to have over 1,000 by the end of this year. The firm is led by CEO Niraj Shah and chairman Steve Conine, both founders.

I had been hearing rumors about a big financing round for the company since early spring. Back in April, Conine acknowledged, “There’s a question about whether it’s strategically smart to bring on institutional money at some point. Having an institutional investor advise you along the way and have skin in the game could be beneficial.”

So now it sounds like the plan is to go big—really big—and to do a rebranding for a much broader market. As CSN Stores gets larger, its main competition could come from huge retailers like Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Sears, as well as smaller niche stores selling home goods. We’ll see how it fares against the bigger competitors, and whether CSN ends up taking a page out of Amazon.com’s playbook and branching out into selling different kinds of goods than its original focus.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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