A new breed of startups is acquiring and growing small but promising third-party merchants, and building out their own economies of scale.
And while there are a number of such startups based in the U.S. and Europe, none had emerged in the Latin American market. Until now.
Valoreo, a Mexico City-based acquirer of e-commerce businesses, announced Tuesday that it has raised $50 million of equity and debt financing in a seed funding round.
The dollar amount is large for a seed round by any standards, but most certainly ranks among the highest ever raised by a Latin American startup — further evidence of increased investor interest in the region’s burgeoning venture scene.
Upper90, FJ Labs, Angel Ventures, Presight Capital and a slew of angel investors participated in the round. Those angels included David Geisen, head of Mercado Libre Mexico; BEA Systems’ co-founder Alfred Chuang; and Tushar Ahluwalia, founder of Razor Group, a European marketplace aggregator, among others.
Founded in late 2020, Valoreo aims to invest in, operate and scale e-commerce brands as part of its self-described mission “to bring better products at more affordable prices” to the Latin American consumer.
“We were substantially oversubscribed and were therefore able to select investors that not only provide capital, but also additional know-how in key areas,” said co-founder Alex Gruell.
Valoreo joins the growing number of startups focused on rolling up e-commerce brands.
The company’s model is similar to that of Thrasio — which just raised another $750 million –– and Perch in the U.S. But Valoreo says its approach has been tailored to “the specific needs of the Latin American market and is specifically focused on the Latin American end customer.”
Another new company in the space called Branded recently launched its own roll-up business on $150 million in funding. Others in the space include Berlin Brands Group, SellerX, Heyday and Heroes.
But as my colleague Ingrid Lunden points out, “the feverish pace of fundraising in the area of FBA roll-ups feels very much like a bubble in the market — not least because none of these still-young companies have yet to prove that the strategy to buy up and consolidate these sellers is a useful and profitable one.”
How it works
Valoreo (which the company says is an extension of the Spanish word “valor,” meaning to add value), acquires merchants that operate their own brands and primarily sell on online marketplaces such as Mercado Libre, Amazon and Linio. The company targets brands that offer “category-leading products” and which it believes have “significant growth potential.” It also develops brands in-house to offer a broader selection of products to the end customer.
Like Thrasio, Valoreo says it’s able to help entrepreneurs who may lack the resources and access to capital to take their businesses to the next level.
Co-founder and co-CEO Stefan Florea says the company takes less than five weeks typically from its initial contact with a seller to a final payout.
Then, the acquired and developed brands are integrated into the company’s consolidated holding. By tapping its team of “specialists” in areas such as digital marketing and supply chain management, it claims to be able to help these brands “reach new heights” while giving the entrepreneurs behind the companies “an attractive exit,” or partial exit in some cases.
“We have different structures, always taking into account the personal objectives of the seller,” Stefan Florea added.
Generally Valoreo acquires the majority of the business, with the purchase price typically being a combination of an upfront cash payment and a profit share component so sellers can still earn money.
Looking ahead, Valoreo plans to use its new capital mostly to acquire and develop “interesting” brands, as well as build out its current team of 10 while expanding its infrastructure and operations.
The company is currently focused on the Mexican and Brazilian markets, but is planning its expansion into other Latin American countries where it has strong local support systems, such as Colombia, according to co-founder Martin Florea.
“Our mission is to be a pan-Latin American player providing value to the entire region,” Martin Florea said. “Latin America in general and Mexico in particular are in a distinct situation which provides phenomenal opportunities for e-commerce merchants on the one hand but also presents particular challenges on the other hand.”
Those challenges, according to Martin Florea, include limited access to growth capital, a lack of specialized expertise in certain areas (such as supply chain management), limited opportunities to sell their business and pursue new ventures, as well as operational burdens and the lack of capacities to expand into new countries and marketplaces.
Valoreo emphasizes it is not out to compete with Mercado Libre, Amazon and other regional marketplaces but instead wants to partner with them.
“Without these platforms, this opportunity would not exist,” Martin Florea said.
Hernán Fernández, founder and managing partner of Angel Ventures, believes Valoreo “will add a lot of value” to the Latin American e-commerce landscape, which is experiencing both market growth and the fragmentation of the seller space.
Jüsto co-founder and CEO (and Valoreo investor) Ricardo Weder notes that the e-commerce market is at an inflection point in Latin America. According to eMarketer, the region was the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the world in 2020, with 37% year over year growth. However, it is a much more fragmented and crowded market compared to other regions, such as the United States.
This, Valoreo believes, provides an opportunity for consolidation.
“There are still many consumers that are not aware of the great variety of outstanding local brands that sell innovative products on marketplaces online,” Stefan Florea said. “In the U.S. or Europe e-commerce is the new way of shopping, offering an even greater range of products and brands than offline shopping. We firmly believe it will not take long until end-customers in Mexico and across Latin America discover all the benefits that e-commerce offers.”