Amazon Wants to Be the Go-to Store for Emerging Gadgets

November 16, 2015, 5:06 PM UTC
Amazon boxes are organized to be delivered in New York
Amazon boxes are organized to be delivered in New York July 24, 2015. Inc's shares surged more than 20 percent in early trading on Friday, adding more than $46 billion to the company's market value, after strong growth in the e-commerce giant's cloud business drove a surprise quarterly profit. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz - RTX1LOWV
Photograph by Eduardo Munoz — Reuters

Companies making innovative and quirky new gadgets often sell their first batch through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But after the crowdfunding round, Amazon (AMZN) wants startups to sell their gadgets through its massive online store.

The e-commerce giant expanded its Launchpad program to the U.K. on Monday, giving European startups an easy way to expand shipping to the United States and reach a larger audience of customers. The program focuses on “cutting edge products from startups” and bills itself as “where inventions take flight.”

Launchpad first opened to U.S. startups in July of this year, offering products ranging from a Sansaire sous vide machine to a $950 king-sized mattress made by bedding startup Casper.

According to the Financial Times, products sold on the U.K. Amazon Launchpad site will include Kano, a computer for children that uses a Raspberry Pi board as its brain; a smartphone made by startup WileyFox; and a Wi-Fi enabled kettle called iKettle. Currently, Amazon is displaying a selection of Launchpad products on the front page of its U.K. website, including a Pebble smartwatch, and a connected speaker called Trilby. And some Launchpad products aren’t even technology. For example, Chilgrove’s artisinal gin is sold through the program (and won’t ship to the United States).

Amazon Launchpad offers several advantages for startups. First, Amazon has a enormous customer base, which can give startups continuing visibility and promotion (even after the intitial spike of interest trails off), sort of like an end-cap display on the Internet’s largest big box store. But more importantly for many startups, it gives them access to Amazon’s fulfillment infrastructure, which can help startups manage their inventory and ship its products to customers through 10 different international Amazon stores. Startups can even offer free shipping to Amazon Prime members.

Companies participating in Launchpad also get product pages that are more embellished than most Amazon sales pages, including larger images and custom specifications tables.

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Amazon is handpicking and individually inviting the startups it wants to participate in Launchpad for the UK. However, interested companies can apply for the program. In order to qualify for Amazon Launchpad, startups need to have received funding through crowdfunding, venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, or selected startup accelerators such as Y Combinator.

Amazon says it’s working with over 25 VC firms and crowdfunding platforms. If it succeeds in becoming the first-choice marketing and sales portal for hot startups, that could spell bad news for e-commerce platforms like Shopify (SHOP) and Etsy (ETSY). It could also affect websites like Product Hunt, which provide a forum for discussion and promotion of emerging products.

“We appreciate that startups have different needs than more established companies. Amazon Launchpad has been designed to meet these needs while giving you the marketing benefits typically reserved for our more established Amazon vendors and sellers, from day one,” Amazon says in its FAQ.

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