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Thrasio raises $100M for its Amazon roll-up play, appoints retail CFO for its next steps

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Thrasio, an early mover and leading player in the wave of startups emerging to consolidate and scale companies that sell their goods mainly via Amazon’s Marketplace, has raised some more funding and is making a key executive appointment to do some scaling of its own. The company, which to date has acquired and consolidated some 6,000 companies selling on Amazon, has picked up $100 million, and alongside that it’s announcing a new CFO, retail vet Bill Wafford, as it eyes up its next steps, including a public listing.

The $100 million is an extension to Thrasio’s Series C — a round that saw a $750 million injection only about 6 weeks ago, and a previous close of $260 million last July.

Josh Silberstein, who is the co-founder and co-CEO with Carlos Cashman, said Thrasio is not disclosing valuation except to note that it is 50% higher than the it was a month ago for Thrasio, which is profitable on $100 million in revenues last year, he said.

For some context, when we reported on the $750 million round, we noted that the valuation was potentially between $3 billion and $4 billion. All a spokesperson would tell us at the time was that it was “less than $10 billion” although a debt round in January put the valuation at around $3 billion.

It has now raised $1.85 million in equity and debt.

Silberstein said the latest $100 million is coming from previous backers that didn’t get the allocation they hoped for in the previous financing. The list of past backers includes Oaktree, Advent, Peak6, Western Technology Investment, and Jason Finger, the co-founder of one of the early players in food delivery startups, Seamless.

Giving insiders are little more of a share also seems to hint at the fact that the company looks to be preparing for its next steps as a business, which might include a public listing via a SPAC or a more traditional IPO route.

“We are engaged in conversations where valuation where may once again become a topic so holding off on additional commentary for now,” said Silberstein in response to the question. “We’ve reached a point that there are legal consequences to being anything other than vague.”

As part of that process, Wafford is coming on as CFO from a previous role as CFO at JC Penney and before that, CFO of Vitamin Shoppe, in a longer resume that also includes finance roles at retailers like Walgreens and Target. (Sidenote: Wafford’s time at Walgreens included running Walgreens Venture Capital, and it crossed over with the period when Walgreens inked its ultimately disastrous deals with Theranos, although it seems that deal was made with a different division of the company than the one he oversaw.) He is replacing Joe Falcao, a longtime employee of the company, who is taking a role as SVP, Finance and Treasurer, to scale the company’s treasury, tax, and international finance functions.

Wafford’s experience across a range of bigger brick-and-mortar retailers that work with and partner with smaller brands across a number of categories from fashion to health and household goods is notable, in that it’s an analogue of what Thrasio is essentially building in the online world, where its 6,000-plus brands run the gamut from a therapeutic sock maker, to a company that has developed a spray to remove pet odors and stains, to a high-end kitchen goods maker.

“Thrasio’s trajectory and the speed at which it has achieved growth is impressive to say the least, especially how they’ve capitalized on the market changes that have occurred over the last twelve months,” said Bill Wafford, CFO, in a statement. “I’ve been delighted to discover an energizing, team-minded culture that embraces experimentation and adaptability. I’m thrilled to take on the role to prepare the organization for its next phase of growth.”

By one estimate there are about 5 million third-party sellers on Amazon today, a number that appears to be growing exponentially, with more than 1 million sellers joining the platform in 2020 alone. Thrasio’s business model is based around the premise that most of them are not that well prepared to scale when and if the most successful of this lot see their products take off.

Silberstein and Thrasio estimate that there are probably 50,000 businesses selling on the Amazon platform with FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) that are making $1 million or more per year in revenues.

“What happens when you get into that price range is that it gets hard to grow your business and manage it,” he said, citing SEO, marketing, and supply chain management as some of the challenges. “That means as you grow from $1 million to $10 million, the margins would decrease and it gets even harder to make returns. We simply observed that reality that all these great companies had reached a point between a lack of access to capital and simply not being able to keep doing what they do. We thought, if we acquire 10-20 of these we would have the scale to build best in breed supply chain, marketing, and so on. We would fix the problem.”

It realised quickly, though, that there was an opportunity to take that even further and make that the business itself. And so Thrasio has been building a huge analytics engine that digs into Amazon data and a lot more to determine which companies are interesting, how to help them sell better, and eventually to conceive of even bigger businesses outside of the Amazon ecosystem, covering other marketplaces, other sales channels and direct D2C sales.

It hasn’t been the only one. Possibly spurred by Thrasio’s success we’ve seen launches and major funding for a plethora of these roll-up plays. Branded launched its own roll-up business on $150 million in funding earlier this year, and others including Berlin Brands GroupSellerXHeydayHeroesPerch and more — collectively raising or committing from their own balance sheets well over $1 billion in aid of their own efforts to buy up small but promising third-party merchants.

With Amazon only getting bigger by the day, and the challenge of weeding out quality from quite a lot of me-too knock-offs also growing, there is a clear role for improving discoverability and connecting consumers to the most interesting products, and helping those products succeed. At the same time, it will be worth watching how the roll-ups themselves grow and if they manage to deliver on all that they are promising to the brands they are buying, and to their investors.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Vietnamese electric motorbike startup Dat Bike raises $2.6M led by Jungle Ventures

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Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike on one of the startup's motorbikes

Son Nguyen, founder and chief executive officer of Dat Bike

Dat Bike, a Vietnamese startup with ambitions to become the top electric motorbike company in Southeast Asia, has raised $2.6 million in pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures. Made in Vietnam with mostly domestic parts, Dat Bike’s selling point is its ability to compete with gas motorbikes in terms of pricing and performance. Its new funding is the first time Jungle Ventures has invested in the mobility sector and included participation from Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund and iSeed Ventures.

Founder and chief executive officer Son Nguyen began learning how to build bikes from scrap parts while working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. In 2018, he moved back to Vietnam and launched Dat Bike. More than 80% of households in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam own two-wheeled vehicles, but the majority are fueled by gas. Nguyen told TechCrunch that many people want to switch to electric motorbikes, but a major obstacle is performance.

Nguyen said that Dat Bike offers three times the performance (5 kW versus 1.5 kW) and 2 times the range (100 km versus 50 km) of most electric motorbikes in the market, at the same price point. The company’s flagship motorbike, called Weaver, was created to compete against gas motorbikes. It seats two people, which Nguyen noted is an important selling point in Southeast Asian countries, and has a 5000W motor that accelerates from 0 to 50 km per hour in three seconds. The Weaver can be fully charged at a standard electric outlet in about three hours, and reach up to 100 km on one charge (the motorbike’s next iteration will go up to 200 km on one charge).

Dat Bike’s opened its first physical store in Ho Chi Minh City last December. Nguyen said the company “has shipped a few hundred motorbikes so far and still have a backlog of orders.” He added that it saw a 35% month-over-month growth in new orders after the Ho Chi Minh City store opened.

At 39.9 million dong, or about $1,700 USD, Weaver’s pricing is also comparable to the median price of gas motorbikes. Dat Bike partners with banks and financial institutions to offer consumers twelve-month payment plans with no interest.

“These guys are competing with each other to put the emerging middle class of Vietnam on the digital financial market for the first time ever and as a result, we get a very favorable rate,” he said.

While Vietnam’s government hasn’t implemented subsidies for electric motorbikes yet, the Ministry of Transportation has proposed new regulations mandating electric infrastructure at parking lots and bike stations, which Nguyen said will increase the adoption of electric vehicles. Other Vietnamese companies making electric two-wheeled vehicles include VinFast and PEGA.

One of Dat Bike’s advantages is that its bikes are developed in house, with locally-sourced parts. Nguyen said the benefits of manufacturing in Vietnam, instead of sourcing from China and other countries, include streamlined logistics and a more efficient supply chain, since most of Dat Bike’s suppliers are also domestic.

“There are also huge tax advantages for being local, as import tax for bikes is 45% and for bike parts ranging from 15% to 30%,” said Nguyen. “Trade within Southeast Asia is tariff-free though, which means that we have a competitive advantage to expand to the region, compare to foreign imported bikes.”

Dat Bike plans to expand by building its supply chain in Southeast Asia over the next two to three years, with the help of investors like Jungle Ventures.

In a statement, Jungle Ventures founding partner Amit Anand said, “The $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia in particular is ripe for reaping benefits of new developments in electric vehicles and automation. We believe that Dat Bike will lead this charge and create a new benchmark not just in the region but potentially globally for what the next generation of two-wheeler electric vehicles will look and perform like.”

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Binance Labs leads $1.6M seed round in DeFi startup MOUND, the developer of Pancake Bunny

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Decentralized finance startup MOUND, known for its yield farming aggregator Pancake Bunny, has raised $1.6 million in seed funding led by Binance Labs. Other participants included IDEO CoLab, SparkLabs Korea and Handshake co-founder Andrew Lee.

Built on Binance Smart Chain, a blockchain for developing high-performance DeFi apps, MOUND says Pancake Bunny now has over 30,000 daily average users, and has accumulated more than $2.1 billion in total value locked (TVL) since its launch in December 2020.

The new funding will be used to expand Pancake Bunny and develop new products. MOUND recently launched Smart Vaults and plans to unveil Cross-Chain Collateralization in about a month, bringing the startup closer to its goal of covering a wide range of DeFi use cases, including farming, lending and swapping.

Smart Vaults are for farming single asset yields on leveraged lending products. It also automatically checks if the cost of leveraging may be more than anticipated returns and can actively lend assets for MOUND’s cross-chain farming.

Cross-Chain Collateralization is cross-chain yield farming that lets users keep original assets on their native blockchain instead of relying on a bridge token. The user’s original assets serve as collateral when the Bunny protocol borrows assets on the Binance Smart Chain for yield farming. This allows users to keep assets on native blockchains while giving them liquidity to generate returns on the Binance Smart Chain.

In statement, Wei Zhou, Binance chief financial officer, and head of Binance Labs and M&A’s, said “Pancake Bunny’s growth and MOUND’s commitent to execution are impressive. Team MOUND’s expertise in live product design and servie was a key factor in our decision to invest. We look forward to expanding the horizons of Defi together with MOUND.”

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Battery Resourcers raises $20M to commercialize its recycling-plus-manufacturing operations

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As a greater share of the transportation market becomes electrified, companies have started to grapple with how to dispose of the thousands of tons of used electric vehicle batteries that are expected to come off the roads by the end of the decade.

Battery Resourcers proposes a seemingly simple solution: recycle them. But the company doesn’t stop there. It’s engineered a “closed loop” process to turn that recycled material into nickel-manganese-cobalt cathodes to sell back to battery manufacturers. It is also developing a process to recover and purify graphite, a material used in anodes, to battery-grade.

Battery Resourcers’ business model has attracted another round of investor attention, this time with a $20 million Series B equity round led by Orbia Ventures, with injections from At One Ventures, TDK Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, Doral Energy-Tech Ventures and InMotion Ventures. Battery Resourcers CEO Mike O’Kronley declined to disclose the company’s new valuation.

The cathode and anode, along with the electrolyzer, are major components of battery architecture, and O’Kronley told TechCrunch it is this recycling-plus-manufacturing process that distinguishes the company from other recyclers.

“When we say that we’re on the verge of revolutionizing this industry, what we are doing is we are making the cathode active material — we’re not just recovering the metals that are in the battery, which a lot of other recyclers are doing,” he said. “We’re recovering those materials, and formulating brand new cathode active material, and also recovering and purifying the graphite active material. So those two active materials will be sold to a battery manufacturer and go right back into the new battery.”

“Other recycling companies, they’re focused on recovering just the metals that are in [batteries]: there’s copper, there’s aluminum, there’s nickel, there’s cobalt. They’re focused on recovering those metals and selling them back as commodities into whatever industry needs those metals,” he added. “And they may or may not go back into a battery.”

The company says its approach could reduce the battery industry’s reliance on mined metals — a reliance that’s only anticipated to grow in the coming decades. A study published last December found that demand for cobalt could increase by a factor of 17 and nickel by a factor of 28, depending on the size of EV uptake and advances in battery chemistries.

Thus far, the company’s been operating a demonstration-scale facility in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has expanded into a facility in Novi, Michigan, where it does analytical testing and material characterization. Between the two sites, the company can make around 15 tons of cathode materials a year. This latest funding round will help facilitate the development of a commercial-scale facility, which Battery Resourcers said in a statement will boost its capacity to process 10,000 tons of batteries per year, or batteries from around 20,000 EVs.

Another major piece of its proprietary recycling process is the ability to take in both old and new EV batteries, process them and formulate the newest kind of cathodes used in today’s batteries. “So they can take in 10-year-old batteries from a Chevy Volt and reformulate the metals to make the high-Ni cathode active materials in use today,” a company spokesman explained to TechCrunch.

Battery Resourcers is already receiving inquiries from automakers and consumer electronics companies, O’Kronley said, though he did not provide additional details. But InMotion Ventures, the venture capital arm of Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement its participation in the round as a “significant investment.”

“[Battery Resourcers’] proprietary end-to-end recycling process supports Jaguar Land Rover’s journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039,” InMotion managing director Sebastian Peck said.

Battery Resourcers was founded in 2015 after being spun out from Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The company has previously received support from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, a collaboration between General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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