Mason, a two-year-old startup that helps sellers run their own online stores without having to depend on e-commerce behemoths and their exorbitant commissions, has just received the backing of American venture capital firm Accel. The Palo Alto-headquartered VC firm led a seed funding round along with Ideaspring Capital, and participation from Lightspeed India Partners, Mana VC, Gaingels, Core91 and VH Capital.

The round enabled Manson to pocket $7.5 million in total, which the startup intends to use to increase its customer base by setting up its marketing, sales, customer success and partnerships teams. It also plans to increase and make changes in its content entrepreneurs to help them learn about solving challenges in their e-commerce journey.

With e-commerce gaining traction over the years, thanks to the popularity and penetration of smartphones and the internet, as well as a pandemic-induced boost, brands and sellers have gained access to a wide range of customers that they could not have otherwise accessed. However, today, much of the e-commerce market is dominated by a handful of enterprises – Amazon and Flipkart, among them – making it difficult for sellers to have a strong online presence of their own.

Granted, many such sellers can establish themselves and sell their products on Amazon, but that would force them to pay exorbitant amounts to the e-commerce platform – both the referral fees on each sale (ranging between 8-15% of the sale) and the Individual and Professional Plans that brands need to buy – they enable Amazon to collect $0.99 (for the Individual Plan) and $39.99 (for the Professional Plan) every time they sell an item.

Thus, many sellers, especially small and medium-sized ones, are looking for a way to build and run their own online stores – their own apps – without having to shell out preposterous amounts of money as commissions. This is where Mason, the brainchild of Barada Sahu and Kausambi Manjita, comes in, and with its self-serve, no-code store merchandising toolkit, help brands and retailers alike to build and successfully run their online stores without needing an enormous engineering team.

“We are changing the game,” said Manjita. “Most brands are left with no option but to sell at marketplaces like Amazon and pay 35c for every dollar simply because running a profitable standalone direct-to-consumer store is just too hard. By democratising access to a complex tech stack, from data-driven merchandising, to sales automation, to personalisation, we are helping more entrepreneurs to stay independent.”

“In order to build a truly scalable outcome, the team is on a journey to create a self-serve platform wherein e-commerce brand owners could create, communicate and grow,” Accel partner Subrata Mitra said in a statement. “An upside to this: it allows them to go global.”

Mason’s model is a freemium one – retailers and brands can avail its services for free in the beginning, and then based on usage, pay an amount to the startup to continue running their online stores, but Mason does charge them 1% of the total sales. Additionally, it offers ModeMagic, a Shopify plugin that helps sellers to get started.

Today, the startup claims to have over 1000 customers and power more than 8000 brands across the world. Its reach includes India, Singapore, Japan, and South-East Asia, but North America remains one of its strongest markets. It currently has a team of 40, and a significant portion of its workforce is based out of Bengaluru.