The Ebay Veteran Cashing In On The $369 Billion Returns Boom

He raised $1.2 million from friends at VC firms True Ventures and Harrison Metal in 2009 and has collected a total of $73 million from investors. “They’re just scratching the surface of what we think is a massive market,” says Pete Jenson, a partner at Spectrum Equity, which led a $65 million Series C round in 2018. Neither he nor the company would discuss the company’s valuation or their ownership stakes other than to confirm that Rosenberg has a minority stake. Based on the one publicly traded competitor, Liquidity Services, the company is likely worth at least $130 million, but that is likely low, given how fast it is growing.

“That is why Spectrum wrote us a check for $65 million. They like big markets,” agrees Rosenberg.

B-Stock isn’t the only option, of course. Washington, D.C.-based Optoro operates one warehouse but these days mostly sells software that helps chains identify the best way to offload unwanted inventory, whether by restocking merchandise, returning it to a vendor, refurbishing, donating or sending it to a secondary marketplace. It also operates Blinq.com, which sells one-off returns to consumers, and Bulq.com, a smaller B2B competitor to B-Stock. Happy Returns installs pop-up receiving sites for chains that have limited brick-and-mortar presence, and Liquidations.com similarly sells excess inventory via auction.

Rosenberg has taken a different tack, putting all of the burden back on the original sellers, who deal with sorting, packing and shipping items to buyers. No inventory risk, no shipping costs and all the pricing decisions are made by the buyers and sellers. Even the warehouses where all that stuff sits in are the domain of retailers or third-party logistics companies. Sellers pay an estimated 5%-to-10% transaction fee based on the amount of merchandise they move through some 175,000 auctions every year. That keeps overhead low–85% of Rosenberg’s costs consist of doling out paychecks–and that, he claims, has helped him produce net profits since the day he started in 2009.

To help retailers get the best price, B-Stock tinkers with things like whether to sell stuff together or separately, how big a lot should be, how long an auction should run, what pictures to use and what day it should close. It also helps leverage the power of brands–trusted retailers can command a 15% premium–with separate marketplaces for each customer.

“There are times when we get bogged down with returns,” says a manager at a Fortune 500 company that has worked with B-Stock for six years and declined to speak on the record. “We needed someone to help us find homes for product that might beforehand been thrown away.”

Who’s buying all this? People like Clayton Cook, 33, who runs three discount stores in Salt Lake City. He spends an hour every morning browsing B-Stock and typically places about 150 to 200 bids for toys, apparel and other items sold by Walmart, Target and Costco. He doesn’t have time to haggle, so he lowballs his bids and figures he will only win a fraction of them. “The biggest plus is that I get it directly from the source. Because of that I get a better variety and a better product,” says Cook, who expects sales of $8 million in 2019. The site has also attracted a lot of eBay and Poshmark sellers, although the company doesn’t keep track of just how many.

That’s not to say the business is hassle-free. The company’s Better Business Bureau page is littered with complaints from unhappy buyers, most of them upset by the actions of a retailer but blaming the middleman as the face of the transaction.

Rosenberg says the marketplace model has allowed him to build the biggest online liquidation business in town, yet he still only lays claim to less than 2% of a liquidation market that totals $100 billion. To continue cashing in on the returns boom, he wants to bring on outside companies who can offer various logistics services, including sorting and shipping, for an extra fee. He also has plenty of new business to chase: Only 18 of the top 100 retailers in the country are working with B-Stock, plus his current customers could be liquidating even more stuff through his platform.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” says Rosenberg. “And a really, really big market.”

COVER PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON KOTOWSKI FOR FORBES.

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I am a staff writer at Forbes covering retail. I’m particularly interested in entrepreneurs who are finding success in a tough and changing landscape. I have been at Forbes since 2013, first on the markets and investing team and most recently on the billionaires team. In the course of my reporting, I have interviewed the father of Indian gambling, the first female billionaire to enter the space race and the immigrant founder of one of the nation’s most secretive financial upstarts. My work has also appeared in Money Magazine and CNNMoney.com. Tips or story ideas? Email me at ldebter@forbes.com.

Source: The Ebay Veteran Cashing In On The $369 Billion Returns Boom

 

 

This London Tycoon Harbors A Surprisingly Shady Past

Tej Kohli’s name is up in lights in Paris, flashing on the walls in giant, bold type inside the new high-ceilinged headquarters of French e-sports Team Vitality, a 20-minute walk from the city’s Gare du Nord train station. Some of Europe’s top video game players, influencers, journalists and sponsors have arrived on this November day to buoyantly pay tribute to Kohli, a U.K.-based, Indian-born entrepreneur, now heralded as the lead investor in the e-sports team. Team Vitality has raised at least $37 million and scored partnership deals with Adidas, Renault, telecom firm Orange and Red Bull, with a stated goal to become the top team in European competitive gaming.

E-sports, Kohli proudly tells Forbes, “encompasses the entire spectrum of business … [and is] not very different from other things we do in technology.” His wavy mane of dark hair stands out in the room like a beacon, as he beams amid the buzz and recognition.

London is home to 55 billionaires, with more on the outskirts, and they generally fall into two camps: those who completely shun publicity, and those, like Richard Branson and James Dyson, who enthusiastically embrace it. Kohli, who lives in a multimillion-dollar mansion in leafy Henley-on-Thames, aspires aggressively to the latter. In April, Kohli told the FT’s How To Spend It supplement that, “Sometimes in business it’s important to show you can sell yourself by way of your lifestyle.” His website describes him as “Investor, Entrepreneur, Visionary, Philanthropist,” with photos of an apparent property portfolio, with about half a dozen apartment buildings in Berlin, one in India and an office tower in Abu Dhabi. He claims to be a member of two exclusive London private clubs, 5 Hertford Street and Annabels, and publicly gives tips on “foie gras … roast chicken” and places where “the steaks are huge.”

Kohli has employed a large coterie of PR consultants and actively courts the media, pushing grand visions that back up this image. In a 2013 article he wrote for The Guardian, he offers advice on how to get a job in the tech industry (“Learn to code”). In 2016 he told a Forbes contributor: “The one mission that every entrepreneur has, as a person rather than as an entrepreneur, is to extend human life.” And his Tej Kohli Foundation Twitter bio brags that “We are humanitarian technologists developing solutions to major global health challenges whilst also making direct interventions that transform lives worldwide.” A press release issued in mid December boasted of more than 5,700 of the world’s poorest receiving “the gift of sight” in 2019 at Kohli’s cornea institute in Hyderabad, India.


Kohli also aspires to be validated as a billionaire. Over the past two years, his representatives have twice reached out to Forbes to try to get Kohli included on our billionaires list, the first time saying he was worth $6 billion—more than Branson or Dyson—and neither time following up with requested details of his assets. (Kohli’s attorneys now claim that “as a longstanding matter of policy,” Kohli “does not, and has never commented on his net worth,” suggesting that his representatives were pushing for his billionaire status without his authorization.)

There may be good reason for his reticence. It turns out that Kohli—who in a July press release describes himself as “a London-based billionaire who made his fortune during the dotcom boom selling e-commerce payments software”—has a complicated past. Born in New Delhi in 1958, Kohli was convicted of fraud in California in 1994 for his central role convincing homeowners to sell their homes to what turned out to be sham buyers and bilking banks out of millions of dollars in loans. For that he served five years in prison.

Kohli then turned up in Costa Rica, where he found his way into the world of online gambling during its Wild West era in the early 2000s. He ran online casinos, at least one sports betting site, and online bingo offerings, taking payments from U.S. gamblers even after U.S. laws prohibited it, according to seven former employees. He was a demanding, sometimes angry boss, according to several of these employees.

A spokesman for Kohli confirmed that he ran an online payments company, Grafix Softech, which provided services to the online gambling industry, between 1999 and 2006—and that he acquired several distressed or foreclosed online gaming businesses as a limited part of the company’s portfolio. “At no point was any such business operated in breach of the law,” Kohli’s representative said in a statement.                   

Though his representative claims that Kohli has had nothing to do with Grafix since 2006, Forbes found more than a dozen online posts or references (some deleted, some still live and some on Kohli’s own website) between 2010 and 2016 that identify Kohli as the chief executive or leader of Grafix Softech—including the opinion piece that Kohli wrote for The Guardian in 2013.                        

Even in a world of preening tycoons, this juxtaposition—the strutting thought leader who actively gives business advice while he just as actively tries to stifle or downplay any sustained look into his business past—proves eye-opening.

According to Kohli’s back story, he grew up in New Delhi, India, and he has told the British media that he’s the son of middle-class parents. Per his alumni profile for the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (about 300 miles southeast of New Delhi), Kohli completed a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1980 and developed “a deep passion for technology and ethical and sustainable innovation.”

At some point, he wound up in California, and set up a “domestic stock” business called La Zibel in downtown Los Angeles. Kohli still uses the Zibel name for his real estate operations today. By the end of the 1980s, Kohli was presenting himself as a wealthy real estate investor who purchased residential properties in southern California to resell for profit. The truth, according to U.S. District Court documents, was that from March 1989 through the early 1990s Kohli, then reportedly living in Malibu, had assembled a team of document forgers and “straw buyers” to pull off a sophisticated real estate fraud.

Source: This London Tycoon Harbors A Surprisingly Shady Past

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… a scalable, accessible and affordable technology solution to end corneal blindness worldwide. VIDEO: Wendy & Tej Kohli Discuss The Mission And Purpose Of The Tej Kohli Foundation https://www.businesswire.com/news/hom…

5 Ways The Rock Has Built A Rock-Hard Personal Brand Online

“Check your ego at the door. The ego can be the great success inhibitor. It can kill opportunities, and it can kill success.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has one of the most impressive and consistent cross-platform brand of any celebrity alive today. With a net worth of nearly $300 million and $90 million in earnings this year alone, there is obviously a lot to be learned from Johnson’s branding success.

After beginning his career as a wrestler, Johnson has leveraged his movie star status into an impressive Instagram following, branding collaborations with companies from Apple to VOSS water, and a personal brand so comprehensive that he needs his own marketing agency, Seven Bucks Creative, the strategic portion of Johnson’s Seven Bucks production company that helps promote all of his creative projects.

Here are five brilliant ways The Rock has built his brand online.

1) Leveraging his existing reach.

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Johnson wisely uses his existing reach to amplify the new markets he’s seeking to break into. With three blockbuster films being released in 2019 (Jungle Cruise, the Jumanji sequel, and Hobbs and Shaw) on top of an already long and successful film career, he has amassed quite a following. Johnson leverages the stardom from multiple blockbuster films a year and his 153 million Instagram followers to build markets in other areas. But this strategy is not just for movie stars – brand builders everywhere have existing reach, even if it is only hyper local contacts, past career colleagues, or student networks.

2) Aligning his brand with his passions.

Johnson is the king of brand collaborations, but he makes the decisions about which branding expansions to pursue wisely. Shilling for brands that do not align with who he is would feel inauthentic, so he chooses products that he already uses and loves.

VOSS water is one of those product collaborations that feels natural, since Johnson has been drinking it for years, as he mentions on his Instagram announcement. That rings true, since it even comes up in this GQ feature from way back in 2017. Johnson shared on his Twitter, “Owning water always intrigued me – partly because I drink 4 gallons a day. But finding the right partner with shared values, ethics and a corporate culture I admire is what motivated me to make this deal.” He is starring in VOSS’ new brand campaign called “Live Every Drop,” that will feature behind-the-scenes peeks at his lifestyle and will be produced by his creative agency Seven Bucks.

He also recently helped launch the Project Rock Collection with Under Armour, another brand favorite of is that feels like a natural extension of the things he already loves to use and do. These thoughtful branding collaborations make his brand feel authentic and trustworthy.

3) Discipline, discipline, discipline.

Johnson’s worldwide success is impressive, and according to those who know him, not at all a surprise. He works hard, and is so consistent, that his discipline has manifested into dollars. His Seven Bucks Chief Marketing Officer had this to say about his discipline in a Fast Company feature, “It’s meant to speak to how training is a mentality, that the work you put in the gym extends to real life, and that mentality is consistent. That’s part of what makes Dwayne magical—is how he applies that same discipline from the gym into everything, and we wanted to express that in this campaign.”

It’s obvious even to the casual observer how consistently he churns out Instagram content and how hard he works promoting his films, and it seems that discipline is paying off.

4) Expanding to new markets.

While some may make light of the films Johnson puts out or the North American box office takes, his films are extremely popular in Asian market, which has helped expand his brand to new markets. His recent film Skyscraper had lackluster box office receipts in the United States, but took in over $48 million in its Chinese opening weekend and became the top grossing title worldwide that weekend as a result.

Like his predecessors Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford a decade or two ago, Johnson has been able to leverage his films’ popularity in the Asian market to do Chinese and Japanese branding collaborations, where some others might ignore the potential for success there. But Johnson works hard cultivating those markets – he recently visited Beijing and Hong Kong to promote Skyscraper, for example – and that foresight pays off in his brand’s success.

5) Integrating across mediums.

Because Johnson makes his branding collaboration decisions with such care towards keeping the products consistent with his lifestyle, it makes it easy for him to integrating products across mediums. He wears Under Armour in his films, for example, gaining free promotion for his products and deepening his brand’s consistency.

With all of the success that Johnson has had across genres, continents, and decades, there is much to be learned about his online branding strategy. The ease with which he leverages his social media following, the brilliant alignment of his real-life passions and product integration, the discipline he shows in content creation, and the vision with which he seeks out new markets are all strategies even the tiniest brand can learn from.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m known as the “Oprah of LinkedIn.” My video channel, #DailyGoldie, won LinkedIn Top Voice (the highest honor on the platform) and was the platform’s longest-running daily show with a global community and millions of views. I’m a top LinkedIn creator, digital strategist and personal branding expert.

I run Warm Robots, a corporate social media strategy agency and help companies tell engaging brand stories and navigate C-level executives toward unique personal brands. Previously, I’ve led social media strategy for tech and entertainment companies such as Legendary Entertainment.

On the side, I’ve represented the U.S. as part of an inaugural delegation through the Mayor of London’s office and often lead workshops and summits around storytelling and personal branding. I am a proud member of the Producer’s Guild of America, New Media Council, a Stanford University graduate and have been regularly featured as a fresh voice in CNN, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company and more.

Source: 5 Ways The Rock Has Built A Rock-Hard Personal Brand Online

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The star of the new “Fast and Furious” spin-off “Hobbs and Shaw” talks the action-packed summer blockbuster, live on “GMA.” WATCH FULL EPISODES: http://abc.go.com/shows/good-morning-… Visit Good Morning America’s Homepage: https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/ #GMA #DwayneJohnson #Hobbs&Shaw
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