Product Hunt has made a splash as a new place for startups to market new products, Shopify offers a way for them to easily start selling their products online, and Shyp takes the pain out of sending things from point A to B. Now it looks like Amazon is preparing to one-up their respective concepts. Today it unveiled Launchpad, a platform for hardware and physical goods startups to “launch, market and distribute” new products on Amazon.
The store so far features more than 200 items, from more recognisable new startups to lesser-known products. They include Bluesmart Smart Carry-On Luggage, eero Home Wi-Fi System, Cuff DVB Smart Sport Band, Fenugreen FreshPaper Produce Saver Sheets, Electric Objects EO1 Digital Art Panel, Soma Sustainable Pitcher & Plant-Based Water Filter, Thync Mood-Changing Wearable System, and the Casper Mattress.
Unlike many of Amazon’s early efforts in new areas, Launchpad is positioning itself as a global product from day one with access to 10 of its international portals for distribution.
And it’s trying to tackle the space with a lot of buy-in from those who are already leading in it. Amazon says it is working with over 25 VC firms, accelerators, and crowdfunding platforms on the new service. They include some of the biggest names in the business including Andreessen Horowitz (an investor in Product Hunt), Y Combinator (where Product Hunt was in residency not too long ago) and Indiegogo.
“Launchpad makes Amazon an ideal partner for the most innovative young tech companies,” said Marc Andreessen, Co-Founder and General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “It’s yet another way Amazonfosters a real ecosystem of invention and creativity.”
It’s not clear what “working with” will mean here, but presumably Amazon’s Launchpad will be offered as an option to startups working with these VCs, accelerators and crowdfunding platforms for the time when they are ready to consider distribution.
With Launchpad, Amazon is tackling some of the bigger pain points for hardware and physical goods startups, specifically around the end of commerce and distribution. And when you consider it, if you are a startup with a designer or developer or inventor as your founder, marketing, sales and distribution may not be your core competency — or where you will necessarily want to invest large amounts of money to grow your company at the expense of R&D or key staff to help execute bigger business plans.
Amazon says that Launchpad “offers a streamlined onboarding experience, custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon’s global fulfillment network,” to bring down the costs and pain of seeing to all these elements individually — which can be especially costly and difficult for smaller businesses.
Indeed, this seems to be some of the logic for the businesses getting involved, too. “I am an accidental entrepreneur – I never dreamed that FreshPaper, which started as my middle school science project, would one day be in the hands of farmers and families across the globe. But my unlikely story is only possible because of visionary partners like Amazon who believe in our product’s potential to change the way the world eats,” said Kavita Shukla, Inventor and Founder, Fenugreen FreshPaper, in a statement. “By throwing their considerable weight behind ideas like FreshPaper, Amazon is using its technology and reach to make innovation accessible to all.”
Amazon has amassed a huge artillery of technology in its marketplace, which it uses both for its own sales and those of companies selling through its marketplace, and now it’s formally offering those tools to startups. They will also include marketing tools and its Q&A platform for founders to interact with users (à la Product Hunt).
What Amazon doesn’t address is the manufacturing of these products, which can also be a challenge.
“As the pace of innovation continues to increase within the startup community, we want to help customers discover these unique products and learn the inspiration behind them. We also know from talking to startups that bringing a new product to market successfully can be just as challenging as building it,” said Jim Adkins, Vice President, Amazon, in a statement.
“Amazon Launchpad gives customers access to a dedicated storefront featuring a variety of innovative new products from emerging brands. For startups, we handle inventory management, order fulfillment, customer service, and more, allowing them to focus their efforts on the innovation that results in more cool products.”
Another by-product of Launchpad is that it will help Amazon tap into another big trend. Many consumers today are looking for more individualised products and services — creating a long tail of consumer goods that others like CircleUp are also capitalizing on.
In packaged goods, one of the categories of products that CircleUp helps raise funds to develop, it estimates that big brands have lost around $4 billion in sales to these smaller companies in the last year. For Amazon to continue to capture as wide a number of customers as possible, it wants to offer those people choice on its own platform, too.