Amsterdam, the Netherlands – May 20, 2021 | The Dutch e-commerce scaleup Dwarfs (www.dwarfs.io) has collected €7.5 million from investors and financiers, including American investment firms, in a Series A financing round. With this initial war chest, soon to be supplemented by several tens of millions in ‘venture debt’, the company will start acquiring successful online marketplaces (with revenues ranging from €0.5 to €10 million) at a rapid pace to pursue exponential growth both at home and abroad.
The founders, a team of successful e-commerce entrepreneurs and well-known online marketplace experts including Demian Beenakker, Bas Urlings and Michiel van der Meer have ambitious plans: this year alone, Dwarfs is aiming for approximately 20 acquisitions, with 50 to 60 acquisitions planned within the next three years.
Dwarfs is the first e-commerce scaleup in the Netherlands aiming to acquire and consolidate online stores achieving rapid growth on the bol.com partner platform (LVB – Logistics via bol.com) and in some cases internationally through Amazon (FBA – Fulfillment by Amazon), but which are also running up against their limits. The upscaling of production, purchasing, logistics, customer care and marketing are often associated with sizeable cost increases, including the administrative burdens of international expansion and cross-border sales.
“In Europe, the market for acquisitions of small, successful e-commerce enterprises in these sectors is not yet fully mature, because venture capitalists here are looking for significantly bigger ‘investment tickets’. The Americans, on the other hand, are well-aware of the growth potential of this market, since it has been consolidating and simply exploding in size across the Atlantic since 2018. Dutch venture capitalists may be suffering from cold feet or they just don’t see the potential yet. We’re going to be a first mover in this market,” said Dwarfs CEO Demian Beenakker.
American investors first in line | The Dwarfs growth capital was brought together by the founders, as well as a group of informal investors, Dutch investor Solid Ventures and two well-known American
private investment firms. FJ Labs participated in over 600 ventures over the past years, including several marketplaces. Harlan Capital previously provided growth capital to the American company Thrasio, a pioneer in the battle for consolidation that is now raging in the American FBA industry, and which is expected to spill over to Europe.
After its first (Series A) financing round and with the support of American investment firms, Dwarfs is the first e-commerce scaleup in The Netherlands to accumulate sufficient capital for its first planned acquisitions. When Dwarfs gains access to ‘venture debt’ in a later phase, its ambition is to acquire tens of companies across the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy and France over the next few years. Within 18 months to two years, Dwarfs envisions a second financing round (Series B), in which American investors have already expressed their interest.
First mover on bol.com | In terms of acquisition candidates, Dwarfs is currently focusing on Dutch online stores using the bol.com partner platform LVB as their primary sales platform, that are looking to expand their (international) sales while streamlining their organization and keeping costs under control. Dwarfs is primarily interested in marketplaces selling Garden & Outdoor, Tools & Home Improvement, Health & Household, Pet Supplies, and Sports & Outdoors goods. The group has chosen not to focus on online stores trading in products with significant return flows (such as fashion and lifestyle products) or products which require specialized advice, maintenance, and repair (such as electronics, smart home products and computers).
Win-win| Dwarfs helps sellers make their online stores even more successful, among other things by rapidly scaling up their business activities and multiplying their revenues in a short period of time. Besides profiting from the initial takeover bid, the entrepreneurs behind these online stores can continue to profit from this growth over the following years. Dwarfs CEO Beenakker said: “The backbone of our company is the unprecedented experience that our management team has accumulated with e-commerce and growth through marketplaces. They are supported by a ‘growth team’, consisting of very talented data specialists and LVB and FBA experts. That gives us an enormous added value when it comes to spotting high-potential acquisitions and, after obtaining the assets (company, brand, stocks, sourcing, etc.), to help the online revenues of these relatively small companies and brands realize significant growth at a rapid pace.”
After each acquisition, the online ‘growth experts’ will take over the operation of the online store, taking the burdens associated with growth away from the entrepreneur. By operating more efficiently and focusing on growth through local and international marketplaces, the online store’s team can focus exclusively on its strengths. “That way, we’re able to grow the margins and achieve a five-fold or ten-fold revenue very quickly,” said Beenhakker.
Unprecedented potential | Starting in 2006, international players like Amazon began to allow for third-party sales through a specially designed partner platform (FBA), for which Amazon operates the fulfillment, covering logistics, invoicing and sales across multiple countries at once. The FBA market in the United States has meanwhile consolidated, reached maturity, and now encompasses approximately 62% of Amazon’s annual revenues of $475 billion. Dwarfs CEO Damien Beenakker said: “For US consumers, product search through Amazon has already become more important than Google search. Europe is only seeing the start of an e-commerce 3.0 wave with unprecedented potential, which will be dominated here, too, by marketplaces and partner platforms. Bol.com’s LVB partner platform already yields some €6 billion in revenues. Opportunities are plentiful, because that’s just the Netherlands we’re talking about.”
Successful peers | Dwarfs is following successful e-commerce peers like Thrasio (US) and Perch (US) closely. Over the past three years, these companies rapidly acquired online stores and accelerated
their growth. In the US, they collected more than $1.5 billion in growth capital to finance their acquisitions last year alone. Thrasio, which has started to turn a profit, tops the list with a recent $750 million capital injection from Advent International. Since it was founded in 2018, the company expanded into a group with over $500 million in revenues, making it the fastest growing ‘unicorn’ (editor’s note: private start-up with a value of >$1 bn.) in American history. Thrasio’s value has recently been estimated by analysts to be $3 billion.
Dwarfs’ first acquisition | With the conclusion of its Series A financing round, Dwarfs also announced its first acquisition. With retroactive effect from January 1st, 2021, the e-commerce scaleup will acquire the company AMCO, a successful online store for kitchen products and accessories with a revenue of more than €6 million. In turn, AMCO’s owner-director Marco Coninx has opted to reinvest part of the takeover bid into Dwarfs and he has joined the Dwarfs management team as Chief Growth Officer (CGO) starting May 1, 2021. Coninx, who is both a successful online entrepreneur as well as the bestseller author of the book ‘Verover Europa via Amazon’ [Conquer Europe through Amazon], is widely seen as one of Europe’s leading FBA and LVB experts.
The Dwarfs management team consists of Demian Beenakker (founder, Chief Executive Officer, 35, photo), Bar Urlings (founder, Chief Marketing Officer, 36, photo), Marco Coninx (Chief Growth Officer, 45, photo), Didos van Dam (Chief Financial Officer, 50), Michiel van der Meer (Chief Operating Officer, 58) and Tim Stribos (Chief Technology Officer, 33).