Sander Scholten is medeoprichter van WebshopOvername.nl en specialist in de financiële en operationele kant van Webshopovernames.
In recent years, a new business model has emerged from America that has now also appeared on our Dutch and Belgian markets: the so-called aggregators of Bol.com sales accounts and Amazon FBA accounts. One of the best-known examples is probably the American success story of Thrasio, but since 2021 the Netherlands also has a party that buys sales accounts according to the aggregator model: Dwarfs.
In this article we will explain exactly what aggregators do, what their business plan is and whether they are interesting parties to engage with alone or together with an advisor. Also, we will briefly introduce the best-known aggregators.
Aggregators are a relatively new phenomenon in the e-commerce landscape: they are companies (often with huge investment funds behind them) that have successful sales accounts on marketplaces such as Amazon, Bol.com, Kaufland and the like.
The American company Thrasio is the first party to have successfully applied this on a large scale. This has earned Thrasio the status of 'unicorn'. As of mid 2021, the business model of aggregators seems to have come to the attention of a wider investor audience, as the (often huge) investment rounds followed in quick succession in 2021. Again, America is leading the way, but Europe now also has several large aggregators in Germany (Berlin Brands Group, Razor Group) and England (Heroes). And in the Netherlands we now know Dwarfs. All in all, the (now more than 50) aggregators have raised over 10 billion euros in funding in recent years.
The aggregators work as follows: they spend a lot of time looking for the most successful online businesses. They approach the owners of these businesses. If this leads to a successful acquisition of the online business and related intellectual property, then the goal is to professionalize it and scale it up as quickly as possible. Thanks to the deep pockets of the aggregator or their partners, they often have more opportunities here than the entrepreneur themselves and their cost structure is often much better than that of the entrepreneur.
Aggregators therefore mainly look for online businesses with real own (unique) products or at least their own brand. Classical drop shippers are not of interest to an aggregator: value has to be added. Local aggregators usually buy online businesses that are successful on local platforms (think Bol.com sales accounts) with the intention of accelerating their growth on international platforms such as Amazon. This also requires a good dose of e-commerce knowledge. Some aggregators bring this knowledge in themselves, while others see a role for the original seller.
With the contacts we have built up in recent years, we know how the various aggregators work. We can therefore pleasantly put you in touch with the aggregator that best suits you.
As with all great questions in life, the answer is: it depends. Do you have your own product and a successful Bol.com or Amazon account but are you more of a product developer and less of an online marketing & sales specialist? Then selling to an aggregator can be a nice exit. Especially if you remain involved after the acquisition as an employee, (small) shareholder and still benefit from future profits ('earnout'). The aggregator can then build on the foundation of your business. And you benefit from the professionalization and upscaling potential of the aggregator.
Are you good at online marketing & sales but are you encountering financial obstacles? For growth capital, an aggregator can also be an excellent party to sell to or otherwise work closely with. Keep in mind, however, that almost without exception aggregators go for complete acquisitions, whereby retaining a minority shareholder seems to be the maximum achievable.
Do you have access to capital and is your company already fully specialized in sales via the marketplaces and has thus already set up an optimized multi-million-dollar business? Then the question is: what could the aggregator still add? But when you are ready for the next step in your life, this can still provide a wonderful exit of course!
When approached proactively, there are plenty of entrepreneurs who will enter into discussions with an aggregator themselves. Entrepreneurs who decide to enter the market themselves at some point usually do so with an acquisition consultant.
Although you can probably do the process yourself, an acquisition consultant has a broader frame of reference: he or she knows what to look out for, what the pitfalls are and what the best market is. In other words, your advisor will help you reduce the risks and get the maximum value from your transaction. Especially when you are in contact with foreign aggregators, an advisor is worth considering.
Our acquisition advisors also have good lines of communication with multiple aggregators, ensuring you get the maximum return!
Selling an online business through a share deal is relatively easy. If you need to sell via an asset deal, it can be trickier. In that case, the legal holder of the online business on the platform must change. And both Bol.com and Amazon do not guarantee their cooperation with this. Therefore, always sign an acquisition agreement subject to the cooperation of the platform concerned.
Also note that with an asset transaction you may still be subject to corporate income tax on your book profit. This can be a setback if you did not count on it.
You can find more tips in our knowledge base on Amazon FBA accounts and Bol.com business accounts.
As indicated, there are now dozens of aggregators active worldwide. We have briefly outlined the parties that we know are active in the Netherlands and Belgium here:
Berlin Brands Group
One of the companies with a longer history. They have been operating direct-to-consumer models since 2005. In other words, they deliver directly factory-fresh to the consumer, without the usual distribution models of wholesale and retail in between. For several years Amazon FBA accounts have been part of their D2C strategy. The Berlin Brands Group is one of the larger aggregators in Europe.
Newcomer from the Netherlands. Started in 2021 with a focus on local sales accounts, with the goal of accelerating the scaling of locally successful brands and sales accounts through Amazon.
Heroes also acquires sales accounts to optimize and scale them. They focus on mid-size brands with the best products in a product category, especially on Amazon. Outstanding customer reviews is an important criterion.
The patriarch of the sales account aggregator model. Of American origin and (as is often the case with first movers) extremely successful with a position that the other aggregators will not come close to. Closes (very) large deals these days: the last three deals in 2021 involved SafeRest (mattress protectors), Wise Owl Outfitters (camping equipment) and Danjor Linens (bedding) for over $100,000,000.
Do you have a successful Bol.com sales account or Amazon sales account yourself? This can be either an account that uses LvB (Bol) or FBA (Amazon). We would be happy to connect you to our contacts at the 50+ aggregators and guide your transaction from A to Z if desired!
Register directly as a seller (homepage or the orange button at the top right of the screen) or first plan a non-binding intake with one of our consultants.