Greg Greeley, optimistic about e-commerce, is pushing Thrasio to keep growing after a period of layoffs, executive turnover and paused acquisitions.
ust out of a remote meeting where he was encouraging employees to vote in the midterm elections, Greg Greeley, the new CEO of consumer products startup Thrasio, switches his Zoom background from an American flag to a race car. He points out the names of brands Thrasio owns that are plastered on the side of the car like sponsor logos. A pit crew, meant to represent Thrasio’s finance, marketing and other teams, swarms around it.
“So many people want to say Thrasio is a rocket ship. But they go really fast, then stop and just hang out in space. There’s no winning,” Greeley, 59, told Forbes in his first interview since joining the company in August. “Some rocket ships blow up, which is even worse.”
Thrasio didn’t blow up, but it did come back to earth earlier this year. After a period of soaring growth, the company hit a rough patch after pandemic lockdowns loosened up. Thrasio buys online brands that sell on the Amazon marketplace and uses its expertise to goose sales and profits by upgrading marketing, supply chain and other operations. With e-commerce slowing, the company conducted a round of layoffs and endured a period of turnover among its executive ranks, with both cofounders departing and its chief financial officer leaving after just three months. It even paused acquisitions for the first half of the year, according to Greeley.
Greeley said Thrasio is once again doing what it’s meant to do — actively evaluating new deals. He said a number of conversations with sellers are in progress.
He did acknowledge the company made mistakes, which he said stemmed largely from an assumption that demand for online goods would remain at heightened, pandemic-era levels. Thrasio has since had to “recalibrate expectations,” he said, and make sure it’s not hiring too many people, holding too much inventory or offering multiples for new acquisitions that are too high.
However, he said the steps the company is taking to get back on track are nothing more than service changes on a race car, like changing the tires or refilling the gas tank. “They’re really just course corrections,” Greeley said. “Our north star remains the same.”
Instead of a rocket, Greeley said he’d rather describe Thrasio as a race car that can go “super fast,” a nod to the company’s turbocharged early growth that quickly made it the largest acquirer of Amazon brands. Since 2018, it has raised $3.4 billion in funding from blue-chip investors like Silver Lake, Advent International and Oaktree, which it used to acquire over 200 brands and hire hundreds of employees. Its founders sought to fashion it into a type of Procter & Gamble for the digital age, accumulating online brands that sell everything from cleaning products to pillows to bike pumps.
Thrasio’s success prompted a wave of copycats, with dozens of other Amazon aggregators like Perch, Heyday and Acquco springing up and raising billions from investors during the pandemic. But funding in the space dried up this year and there have been few new entrants. Many existing companies have struggled to manage a growing portfolio of brands at a time of supply chain challenges, inflation and the slowdown in e-commerce spending.
“The craze has basically evaporated,” said Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of e-commerce data firm Marketplace Pulse. “Now it’s up to them [aggregators] to figure out how to do the thing they promised to do. It’s a proving ground.”
Greeley spent the better part of his career at Amazon, joining in 1999 when it was a small online bookseller. A few years into his tenure, he was part of a discussion with founder Jeff Bezos that led the company to try a membership program with unlimited two-day shipping. They called it Amazon Prime. Greeley then led parts of Amazon’s international business, managing affairs in Europe and launching the site in India, Australia and Brazil.
He took over Amazon Prime in 2013, adding dozens of additional features, like same-day delivery, music and audiobooks. Under his watch, the Prime program grew tenfold to over 100 million members.
In 2018, Greeley left to join Airbnb as a vice president, helping to expand the number and types of homes on the platform. He then spent a brief stint at a startup called Opentrons Labworks, which created inexpensive Covid-19 tests.
He joined Thrasio earlier this year after being struck by the size of the Amazon seller community, which numbers over two million. Thrasio has helped many of those sellers cash out by buying their businesses. “It’s great to be a destination for them,” said Greeley, who is based in Seattle. “To help them take their dream and the products they invented, bring them into our platform and help continue to drive improvements and make them more successful.”
The company recently estimated that one in three American households have purchased something from a Thrasio brand, up from a prior estimate of one in six. When Greeley was considering taking the job, he realized he already owned several Thrasio products, including a Hi-Coup wine decanter and a Mixology & Craft bartending set that he uses to make Aviation cocktails. He has since replaced all the pillows in his house with ones from Beckham Hotel Collection, and a glow-in-the-dark football from GlowCity has become a hit with his family.
It’s still unclear whether Thrasio and others have been able to grow sales and profits across the companies they’ve acquired by operating them at scale. Greeley declined to disclose financials, saying that the company has more brands that have topped expectations than have underperformed. He declined to share what percentage of sellers have received the portion of their payout tied to performance.
Greeley said that Thrasio will remain in acquisition mode and continue to buy more companies of all stripes, adding to its portfolio in a wide range of categories.
Another key priority will be to continue to diversify away from Amazon, which has seen a slowdown in online sales this year. It wants customers to have the option of purchasing products in stores and on other retailers’ websites. It already has some products at Target and Walmart. Its B-Six nipple covers are sold in Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Urban Outfitters and Revolve. In May, its pet deodorizer brand Angry Orange launched nationwide at PetSmart stores.
“A big part of our focus is getting the right products where customers want to find them,” Greeley said.