Last Updated on October 26, 2021 by Ewen Finser
The Amazon FBA space is heating up, with billions of dollars pouring into roll-ups.
Many solo operators or smaller boutique brands may be thinking it’s a good time to sell. It’s certainly a good time to consider it!
It’s tempting to treat all of these Amazon aggregators the same, but the truth is they have various nuances worth considering as a seller (or investor). I created this page as a frequently updated resource to analyze (and track) the latest players in the space. If I’m missing a group, let me know in the comments!
What Makes a Good Amazon Acquisition for FBA Aggregators?
Let’s discuss some of the common attractive features FBA aggregators look for. Just because you are selling on Amazon, doesn’t necessarily make you a good target (although, it’s the Wild West so even problematic Amazon businesses may find a buyer).
NOTE: These are common features; many aggregators may have unique criteria or exceptions to these rules of thumb. I’ve tried to highlight any of these exceptions in the lists below.
- Fulfilled by Amazon: This one might seem obvious, but some Amazon businesses are not necessarily fulfilled by Amazon (FBA), instead opting for custom 3PL or internal fulfillment solution. Most of the aggregators appreciate the scale and flexibility (and coveted “Prime” qualified status) of FBA and limit their dealflow to FBA businesses specifically.
- Proprietary Brands: While some aggregators may consider white label FBA sellers, most want some unique moat (however slight) around the products. This could be a robust marketing and branding distinction, but ideally also includes some proprietary or custom angle that isn’t easily replicated by competitors or upstarts.
- Margins: While the exact criteria may be aggregator specific, they certainly want to see profitable FBA brands with healthy margins. 15% is a good baseline, although the best multiples are reserved for 30% margins.
- Durable Trends: Most aggregators are not looking for a fad, instead preferring stable verticals or growing macro trends.
- Repeat Customers: A highly engaged, repeat customer base is a key indicator of product market fit, something that greats a moat around your Amazon business.
- High Star Ratings: While some aggregators have “methods” to increase ratings, a 4+ star rating is typically important.
- Multiple SKUs: Some aggregators prefer multi SKU businesses, with the ability to cross-sell within a category. At the very least, having a brand that CAN expand into ancillary niches is key.
- Primarily Amazon Sales: Some aggregators have other competencies, but actually prefer Amazon concentration (at least 75%). While multichannel sales may objectively indicate a higher quality business, most of the aggregators are still “one trick ponies”.
- Ethical Tactics: Black hat tactics have been in the news recently, so aggregators are spending more time on diligencing potential schemes that violate Amazon’s TOS, even if “everyone is doing it”. The risk for a big aggregator (negative PR, banned seller accounts, etc…) is far greater than a seller flying under the radar.
Why Sell Your Amazon FBA Business?
If this is the golden age of ecommerce, why sell?
There are a multitude of personal reasons to consider. Maybe as a “jack of all trades” entrepreneur, you are tired of doing everything. Maybe you want to focus on “starting” a new brand? Maybe you just need a big payday.
Personal reasons aside, there are some broader macro reasons to sell now vs hold on.
First of all, multiples have never been higher. 2 years ago, a “3X” SDE (seller discretionary earnings) multiple would be considered fair.
Today, it’s not uncommon to see bidding wars driving FBA brands up to 5,6 and even 7X multiples for “goldilocks” brands.
The inescapable truth is: many of these FBA aggregators can’t afford to be patient. There’s a ticking clock attached to the debt and equity raised. These aren’t Berkshire Hathaway plays. Many plan to go public via SPAC or IPO.
FBA aggregators are – in part – arbitraging the discrepancy between public valuations (stock market SPACs, IPOs) and their ability to raise debt and equity in the private markets.
A P/E ratio of 10X on the stock exchange is considered cheap. This makes 3-7X multiples a logical “spreadsheet analysis” play.
So what’s the point?
Now is a unique time in ecommerce history.
Not ALL of these aggregators will survive.
Some may crash and burn spectacularly. BUT, it’s still the early innings (days of wild exuberance) and this hasn’t happened yet.
Should You Use a Broker or Sell Direct?
This is a great question. Many sellers may be turned off by broker fees. They generally range from 10-15% writ large, but many of the brokerages offer a sliding scale about certain revenue thresholds ($1 million being the first typical break point).
Major brokerages include:
- Quiet Light Brokerage
- FEI International
- Empire Flippers
There are MANY others, but for the purposes of this discussion they aren’t all that relevant. This is because the main benefit of using a broker is the ability to facilitate an auction.
Not all brokers equally adept at accomplishing this. Look to the specific brokers (and brokerage) expertise and experience selling business like yours!
By going direct to just ONE aggregator, you may be limiting the upper limit of your valuation. That said, it’s important to weight this against the expected commission you will pay off the top.
On the flipside, if a broker helps get your business into a bidding war this may also involve many phone calls, negotiations, back and forth, and general stress. A good brokerage will still allow access to all of the aggregators, just with the potential for bidding wars to ensue.
In short, if you know “your price” and are ready to sell, it may ultimately save time to go direct.
So who are the top aggregators worth talking to?
Started in 2018, Thrasio is the best known of the Amazon FBA rollups. For good reason. They’ve arguably scaled the fastest, with the ability to close on multiple deals a month. This stems from the colossal levels of capital raised to date, making Thrasio the first of the “Unicorn” FBA aggregators.
As the most celebrated of the aggregators, Thrasio gets the benefits of incumbency.
- Advantages: A proprietary growth checklist, 500+ employees, prime mover in a busy marketplace, greatest aggregator awareness (free PR), massive capital war chest + access to cheap debt, purportedly already profitable.
- Deal Focus: Amazon FBA brands of all sizes, price disciplined under 4X multiples, but offer generous upside arrangements for operators. Category agnostic, but prefer hard consumer goods (e.g. not food, or consumables).
Perch is another rapidly growing aggregator, nearly joining the Unicorn club with a $750+ million raise. Unlike some of the other aggregators, their founding team is looks the part on paper (Wayfair alums with ecom logistics backgrounds).
Perch places a heavy emphasis on proprietary technology, with over a quarter of their staff filling software engineering roles.
Their recent acquisition of Web Deals Direct reinforces this focus. WDD – itself an aggregator of sorts and an incubator of brands – heavily references their proprietary inventory management systems. Perch is perhaps the best enabled Thrasio peer.
- Advantages: Well capitalized, technology focused / driven, ecommerce experienced executive team.
- Deal Focus: Niche agnostic with the FBA category, interest in other small to mid cap aggregators (“aggregating the aggregators”).
Berlin Brands Group (BBG)
Berlin Brands Group is unlike the other aggregators on this list in that BBG is more of an organic growth story, growing and acquiring their own brands long before the FBA rollup craze. While they have the benefit of some incumbency, BBG isn’t content to sit on the sidelines and has committed to $300+ million in acquisitions (presumably debt + balance sheet), and may indeed raise additional rounds on the private markets.
BBG is also has a more established DTC playbook, going all the way back to 2005. Rather, BBG seems to be coming at it from the other end and pivoting INTO the FBA market more aggressively.
- Advantages: Operator track record (going back to 2005), established DTC experience, Europe-centric.
- Deal Focus: European brands, FBA brands that can easily pivot to DTC (or “omnichannel”).
Aterian (formerly Mohawk Group)
Originally launched as Mohawk Group in 2014, Aterian (rebranded in 2021) is in many ways the OG Amazon FBA rollup company. As such, Aterian can be viewed a bit like the proverbial “canary in the coal mine”.
As the only publicly traded FBA aggregator (as of this writing and to my knowledge), Aterian provides a blueprint for the other aggregators, many of whom are also likely to go public at some point. There’s also some cons to being the original, including some negative press and fallout from being in business for so long.
What happens with Aterian may portend the mid to late end game for the current crop of aggregators.
- Advantages: FBA aggregating “before it was cool”, proprietary AIMEE tech platform for identifying brands, publicly traded (pro and a con for sure), survivor.
- Deal Focus: Vertical agnostic, accretive deals to their existing product lines.
Many of the aggregators “sell” themselves as the perfect home for exiting FBA operators, but Heyday messages a much more aligning mission around cultivating ecommerce entrepreneurs beyond the sale (not just as a sales tactic). The goal is to create a unique partnership model for entrepreneurs over the long term.
This makes some sense. While capital may appear unlimited, the bench for proven operators is theoretically (and practically) more constrained.
- Advantages: Operator friendly ecosystem pitch, financing for existing operators, not just “the sale”.
- Deal Focus: Repeat FBA sellers, brand incubators, and other value-added acquisitions on the FBA platform.
Branded is another well-capitalized aggregator, with at least $150 million raised to date. Still, this puts them a bit outside the “top tier” in terms of dollars raised.
What stands out about Branded is their international chops, with CEO Pierre Poignant previously founding and operating one of the largest e-commerce marketplaces in Asia (Lazada).
- Advantages: international focus (including Europe and Asian markets), profit sharing.
- Deal Focus: International and US markets, 20 different product categories, prefer profit shares.
SellerX stands out for it’s exclusive focus on the European FBA market, having raised over $118 million to consolidate sellers. Europe is seen by many as a “next frontier” for roll up plays, so this regional discipline may help SellerX gain a more secure foothold.
- Advantages: European exclusive, top talent magnet.
- Deal Focus: European consumer product brands (pet supplies, household goods, kitchen, garden).
Heroes is another EU based FBA aggregator featuring Lazada alums, having raised over $65 million to roll-up Amazon brands in the more fragmented European market.
Based in London, this group shares a few common investors with Thrasio, namely Upper90 (debt & equity combo specialists). While $65 million is certainly a huge number, it’s not quite as flush as the competition.
- Advantages: European exclusive.
- Deal Focus: European consumer product brands (household goods, kitchen, garden, sports and outdoors).
Razor Group has quickly jumped on the radar with a $400+ million raise, now with well over 100 employees. Interestingly, a key investor is a VC outfit led by the notorious Samwer Brothers (known for quickly building European “knock offs” of US startups).
While much of the leadership and investment team has a European flavor, they don’t appear to be exclusive to the EU market.
- Advantages: Fairly large capital stockpile, strategic investors
- Deal Focus: Consumer product brands, exclusively acquisitions
Benitago is another more recent aggregator entrant, having raised about $55-60 million to date.
They claim to stand out as “operators operators”; not merely a financial rollup play (which is the knock on most of field). While many new entrants claim this, it appears the founders have more hands on experience in the Amazon ecosystem than most (having launched actual FBA products like Supportitback).
- Advantages: Offers an “Aggregator Match” guarantee + $250k, leadership hands-on FBA experience “Amazon Native”.
- Deal Focus: The usual consumer products assortment.
Acquco is another of the “Amazon Native” operators to enter the market a few years behind the big aggregators. Founder Raunak Nirmal actually worked at Amazon and operated brands previously via FBA.
They’ve also managed to raise about $160 million, not as much as the big players but a healthy enough raise to put them in the middle tier. They’ve also already scaled to over $100 million in revenue, with clear day-one playbooks vs a “figure it out later” mindset.
- Advantages: Leadership hands-on FBA experience “Amazon Native”, purportedly profitable already, flexible deal structures for operators.
- Deal Focus: The usual FBA consumer products assortment.
Boosted Commerce initially raised about $87 million to pursue a roll-up play, with a global focus. Interestingly, they do dabble a bit more outside the typical consumer products, venturing into health & beauty while also being channel flexible (including Shopify).
- Advantages: Leadership hands-on FBA experience “Amazon Native”, purportedly profitable already, flexible deal structures for operators.
- Deal Focus: FBA & Shopify consumer products, health & beauty, sustainable “eco friendly” products.
Forum Brands is a very new entrant, launching in 2020 and announcing a $27 million raise in June. They claim to have a unique “60 point system” to identify growth opportunities, leveraging AI (and other buzzwords – as most of the aggregators do).
Of the 3 founders, Alex Kopco appears to have the most relevant experience with 5+ years at Amazon (Brick & Mortar) and Target before that. They do have some significant strategic capital partners.
As they are so new, we don’t quite know where they are focusing M&A activity right now.
Unybrands recently raised an eye popping $300 million (on top of an initial seed round of $25 million), making it solidly an “upper middle” tier aggregator company. Some of the key executives have an EU background, perhaps signaling where they may focus growth initiatives.
- Advantages: Well capitalized, US and EU focused (with offices physical presence).
- Deal Focus: Willing to acquire Shopify and other platform brands, in addition to the standard Amazon FBA model.
Minneapolis based Suma Brands recently jumped onto the radar with a $150 million raise (mostly debt). With some veteran Amazon experience and existing acquisitions already “digested”, Suma is a name to watch this year.
- Advantages: Amazon alums, DTC experience.
- Deal Focus: Most Amazon FBA consumer brands, although they seem to have a footprint in fashion & supplements.
Elevate is another rapidly scaling mid-tier Amazon FBA aggregator, having recently topped up $250 million in capital (bringing total capital raised to over $315 million). Their founding team does have DTC and ecommerce experience and focuses on the usual FBA M&A targets.
Elevate has actually been around since 2016 (and appears to be thriving) which is a strong vote of confidence.
- Advantages: Well capitalized, founder ecom experience, currently profitable, track record.
- Deal Focus: Most Amazon FBA consumer brands, niche agnostic.
We have limited information on Highfive Brands, other than that they are founded by two D2C alums in Sean Kim and Taylor Doherty. From what we could gather, they haven’t had a significant raise and have funded most of their deals with debt.
We don’t know much about Goja, other than that they are based in South Florida and recently partnered with SellersFunding as a way to seed new Amazon ecosystem companies (similar to how Thrasio acquired Yardline). They’ve also acquired the assets of one of the “troubled” aggregator forerunners (101 Commerce).
Are we missing other aggregators? Reach out and our team will do some research & add them to the list!
Amazon Aggregator Alternatives
What is and is not an aggregator is up for debate. Some legacy ecommerce companies like Berlin Brands Group are pursuing a roll-up and bolt-on strategy, but were successfully operating brands long before the recent gold rush.
There are also many traditional PE funds, Family Office’s and Independent Operators who may also be a good exit destination for an Amazon FBA brand. Consider:
- Private Equity (PE) Companies
- Family Office Operating Funds
- Independent Operators
- Existing eCommerce Brand Operators