Some of the biggest Amazon aggregators, Thrasio and Perch, have valuations in the billions of dollars. In July, they were among the many companies in the space attending the Prosper Show, a popular conference for Amazon sellers.
The marketing and recruiting dollars were flowing as they sought to lure sellers to join them.
“People giving away a Tesla, just a lot of talk on the commissions if you’re able to bring in a deal, and just to be honest, it’s like the talk of the town,” said Casey Gauss, a vice president at Thrasio, which has raised $1.75 billion and acquired more than 125 Amazon brands since it was founded in 2018.
CNBC ranked Thrasio, whose investors include Oaktree Capital and Upper90 Capital, 22nd on the 2021 Disruptor 50 list.
Following the success of Thrasio and others, the number of aggregators has grown rapidly in the past few months. There are now at least 69 Amazon aggregators based in at least 12 countries, and they’ve raised more than $7 billion collectively since April 2020, according to Marketplace Pulse.
“Micro brands have been taking off for a long time and I think it’s getting to this tipping point,” said Chris Bell, who founded Perch in 2019. Perch has raised $900 million, from investors including Spark Capital and Tectonic Ventures, and acquired more than 70 brands.
Bell sees a few likely reasons why the momentum has picked up so dramatically.
“I think there was a confluence of Amazon‘s marketplace becoming more mature and kind of hardening, if you will, around the edges to make it more trusted,” he said. “And then the pandemic and I think just a lot of people noticing that this was possible, and coming after it.”
Aggregators give venture capitalists a foothold in the mom-and-pop world of Amazon sellers, which until now has largely been dominated by individual entrepreneurs and brands. Usually the aggregator buys out the seller and then tries to boost sales with large-scale marketing and software solutions.
“The brands that we’re acquiring, they don’t have experts in literally every kind of field that we are able to: from [search engine optimization] to copywriting and creative,” Gauss said. “We’re able to put all of these brands through this checklist and make sure that we’re optimizing them far better than the average seller can.”
Some aggregators, like Heyday, are focused on a smaller number of acquisitions with high potential. Heyday has raised $250 million and acquired 16 brands. Backers include Desjardins Capital and Innovobot.
“We’re not looking to acquire 100 brands,” said Chas Woodward, head of business development at Heyday. “We’re looking to take our brands and 10x them. We think an attractive statistic is the ability to identify, underwrite, acquire and then truly drive growth and improvement to the brands that already exist.”
Amazon acknowledges that a new trend is underway, but the company still sees a prominent role for the entrepreneur.
“We expect the majority of sellers and brands will remain independent and continue to use our store for its scale and reach,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement.