Innovación: Funko sees big future in pop culture collectibles

Sometime soon, drivers rolling down Wetmore Avenue in downtown Everett may see colorful, 8-to-10-foot statues of Spider-Man, Batman and other familiar characters looming over them from a skybridge and the ledges of an adjoining building.

They’re part of the plan for the new headquarters of Funko, the Everett-based pop-culture collectibles company that‘s been growing rapidly and has its eyes on a potential initial public offering of stock.

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“We want you to drive by the building and say: ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before,’” said Brian Mariotti, Funko’s president and CEO.

Since its founding in 1998 as a nostalgia-tinged bobblehead company based in a Snohomish home, Funko has grown into a $400 million business, annually producing some 100 million vinyl figurines, action figures, bobbleheads and other collectibles. All are made under licenses from some of the biggest names in pop culture, among them Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

Along the way, Funko has become a force in the surging pop-culture collectibles market, selling fans stylized, adorable versions of characters from their favorite movies, TV shows, comic books and more.

It’s amplified collectors’ enthusiasm by cultivating community, both through in-person gatherings and regular interactions with enthusiasts on online forums and social media.

“Funko identified a trend in pop culture as a whole, and then aggressively went after being a bigger player in that,” said Mariotti, 49, whose office is lined with shelves full of colorful figures, most from his personal collection and familiar to those raised on after-school and Saturday-morning cartoons.

Mariotti says the company expects to log $425 million in sales this year, soaring from $274 million last year, $107 million in 2014 and $40 million in 2013. He said the privately owned company is “highly profitable” but wouldn’t be specific.

Funko’s products, manufactured primarily in China and Vietnam, are designed in Everett. They’re also marketed and shipped from the city, where the company has 380,000 square feet of warehouse space spread among three buildings.

Funko figures are now sold at big-box stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, mall specialty stores like GameStop and Hot Topic, online retailers including Amazon, and numerous small comic-book shops.

The company’s employee count has jumped from about 175 a year ago to some 300 now, and it’s still hiring for jobs ranging from accountant to designer.

Early next year, Funko plans to move from its current 30,000-square-foot headquarters in an Everett business park to the downtown Everett space, three times that size, that most recently housed Trinity Lutheran College.

There, the company will open its first retail store, currently planned for 10,000 square feet, with an additional 2,000 square feet for a museum. On the outside, among the other oversized Funko-ized figures will be company mascot Freddy Funko.

The company has been making other big moves lately. In recent months, it hired its first chief operating officer from Payless ShoeSource, a chief information officer from Microsoft and a general counsel from Inrix, the Kirkland traffic-data and automobile-technology company.

It also added board members who bring big-league corporate experience and connections: Charlie Denson, the former president of Nike Brand, which oversees Air Jordan and a host of other Nike operations; and Adam Kriger, former senior vice president and chief strategy officer for McDonald’s.

Lea más en: Seattle Times


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