Wholesum to Deploy USD23M of Fresh Capital to Acquire and Accelerate Micro-Retail Brands in South Korea
Wholesum Co., Ltd. is the first Korea-based e-commerce brand accelerator to discover, acquire, and scale promising online-native brands.
Over USD10B has been raised globally since 2018 by over 60 start-ups who focus on aggregating Amazon FBA brands. Unlike global players, Wholesum's differentiated strategy focuses on brands that thrive on Korean e-commerce marketplaces, led by Naver Smartstore and Coupang, which boast the 3rd largest annual GMV (News - Alert) in the world, estimated at USD180B in 2021, and collectively host over 470,000 independent micro-brands.
Co-Founders Kyungbeom Ham, e-commerce, product, and supply-chain expert, and AJ Vincent, a global private equity and operations executive, founded Wholesum to address problems faced by a growing number of entrepreneurs who have achieved US$1 million in annual e-commerce sales.
"Wholesum prepares to speak with or meet dozens of entrepreneurs every week by researching their product, analyzing their competition, and understanding their journey," Vincent noed. With SEMAS reporting that 70% of businesses close down in Korea due to a number of challenges related to financing and scalability, Vincent added, "Our value proposition is to offer a 'sale vs. scale' alternative solution to support promising brands where short-term capital, marketing knowledge, and tech constraints may have limited the brand's long-term potential under the original entrepreneur."
With Seed Round capital led by Nordstar (UK), Korean VCs Bass Investment and The Ventures, and strategic Angel investors in August 2021, Wholesum acquired two brands in the Health & Living category and plans to deploy over USD23M of equity and new venture financing to execute on a deep pipeline. A tech-enabled, data-driven, and disciplined approach to due diligence has been core to Wholesum's brand discovery and acquisition process; while creative marketing, supply chain optimization, and KPI tracking have been critical for scaling the brand post-acquisition.
"Korea's clustered geography means Wholesum can meet any entrepreneur face-to-face, pull historical financial data, or conduct in-person diligence of manufacturing, fulfillment, and delivery facilities within three hours of first contact," said Ham. "The supply chain infrastructure supporting Korean e-commerce is well-integrated and the multi-channel marketplace ecosystem allows new brands to quickly come to market and scale." Vincent added, "It's an opportunity to move away from legacy, R&D-intensive, brand-scaling strategies, and re-invent the way we build a sustainable, long-term business through discovery, acquisitions, and sharing proven local brands to a global audience. Ultimately, Wholesum wants to be the No. 1 preferred digital brand platform, trusted by current and future brand entrepreneurs."
Nordstar's Managing Partner, Ole Ruch, noted, "We find the Korean e-commerce opportunity to be one of the most compelling in the world, and have been incredibly impressed by The Founding Team. Their joint vision and complementary backgrounds from e-commerce, operations, supply chain and private equity will be key in building the premier growth and ownership platform for digital brands in Korea."
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