Artwork by Ryan Melgar
Raunak Nirmal founded his first company before obtaining his driver’s license. He started GPTShare, a market research company offering cash incentives to users, when he was just 14, and eventually earned enough money to fund his education at Cornell.
His entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there. At 21, Nirmal used his personal savings to create his first e-commerce brand, Flexion, which ended up selling over $7 million worth of cell phone accessories in its first year. Seven years later, he co-founded Acquco, one of the largest and fastest growing business aggregators selling on Amazon. In less than three years, he’s grown his team to over 250 people worldwide, bought over 40 e-commerce brands generating over $400 million in annual revenue this year, and raised over $450 million in funding. .
Nirmal, a first-generation American Sikh who spent the early years of his life in India, spent his entire professional career living and breathing Amazon. For the past eight years, he has worked at both ends of Amazon’s operations, from building multiple brands that sell on Amazon to working for the company as a project manager.
In early 2020, he leveraged his knowledge and expertise in the Amazon space with Acquco, which acquires small businesses and third-party businesses that sell on Amazon, giving sellers the option to exit or grow their business under Acquco.
“Historically these mom and pop sellers have never really had the opportunity to get out of a brand that they could build because that opportunity has been really limited to only being available to the biggest brands that are out there. If you own a third-party trademark on the Amazon platform, the only profit you’re really going to see is from exploiting the trademark. It’s very unlikely you’ll actually be able to get out,” Nirmal said. “Offering this opportunity to these sellers has changed their lives.”
It has not been without its challenges. The pandemic has hit the transportation and retail sector hard. Acquco has seen freight prices peak at ten times pre-pandemic levels and raw material costs 37% higher than the seven-year average. These increased costs, combined with supply chain delays and disruptions, have created one of the most challenging operating environments for the e-commerce industry.
“No one foresaw the pandemic and the continued pressure it would cause in terms of supply chain costs, growing container shortages, price impacts to get your goods to the United States and shortages of warehousing space, driving up costs,” Nirmal said. “There are things you can’t really predict, even if you have the smartest people in the room. You must continue to be willing to learn, to adapt, and no matter how prepared you feel, you must look like you are.
But despite ongoing market challenges, Acquco is doing better than well. On Prime Day this summer, Acquco hit record sales with a 107% year-over-year increase, outperforming Amazon’s overall year-over-year performance by nearly ten times during of the same period. One of Acquco’s brands, Luxclub, sold $1.5 million worth of sheets on Prime Day alone this year.
Although Acquco has started acquiring companies that sold on Amazon, Nirmal is expanding beyond the e-commerce giant to rivals like Walmart, Target and international marketplaces. Next on his shopping list: an IPO.