Agora Brands, a leading E-commerce aggregator specializing in the Shopify ecosystem, is thrilled to announce an $83.5-million growth-capital investment led by Toronto-based Maverix Private Equity, with participation from Palo Alto-based Foundation Capital and Victory Park Capital. Maverix Managing Partner Michael Wasserman has joined Agora’s board of directors, along with Jonathan Ehrlich, a partner at Foundation Capital.
The company’s business model is to acquire small-to-medium sized direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses with $1–20 million in annual revenues, primarily within the Shopify ecosystem. The founders of those businesses benefit by continuing to build their brands, strengthened by the power of the shared services and operational efficiencies delivered by Agora’s aggregated model.
Company founders Jesse Horwitz, Ben Cogan and Ray Cao have extensive track records in building and growing digitally native e-commerce brands. With experience that includes Harry’s, Clearco and Hubble, among others, Agora’s founders understand the value that shared knowledge and a vast network can drive. Its mission is to build a collective whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, allowing the brands they acquire to not only leverage the centralized buying power and services available through an aggregated model but also take advantage of one another’s expertise.
“We’re creating an environment that truly facilitates the right connections for the founders of the brands we acquire,” says Ray Cao, one of Agora’s founders. “They are constantly advising each other, allowing each of them to tap into expertise they might otherwise never have access to. One person might have experience with optimizing Google ad words, while another knows a lot about reducing shipping costs. Together they become this really powerful vault of institutional knowledge that helps them scale up and grow their businesses faster and more successfully than they could ever do on their own.”
Investors see strength in Agora’s aggressively high-growth, disruptive business strategy
“Agora is a perfect representation of our growth investment thesis,” says Wasserman. “We invest in outstanding people and high-growth businesses that are using technology to disrupt a traditional industry, in this case, retail and E-commerce. We’re thrilled to partner with this team to allow them to grow even faster and help more brands become part of the Agora family.”
Ecommerce sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, and despite some acute macroeconomic challenges, U.S. retail E-commerce sales are projected to continue growing rapidly at a compound annual growth rate of 12.5%, becoming a $1.65-trillion market by 2026. Wasserman says Agora’s focus on businesses that use the Shopify ecosystem allows its many degrees of freedom to add value to its partner brands.
To date, Agora has acquired brands and businesses across a wide range of D2C categories, including automotive, apparel, personal wellness products and home goods. “This investment is a tremendous vote of confidence in our leadership and our vision,” added Ray. “We’ve been pursuing an aggressively high-growth strategy, and this will help us grow even faster. It will also help us strengthen our operational infrastructure, including growing our centralized support functions such as finance and HR, and a portion of this capital will go toward developing technology that will drive automation and institutionalize processes under the Agora banner.”
“There is a tremendous amount of promise in this team’s vision,” adds Ehrlich. “That combined with their expertise and their rock-solid execution make their future incredibly bright, and we’re very proud to be a part of it.”
Agora is an e-commerce aggregation business that acquires existing sub-scale brands that sell directly to consumers through Shopify stores and other D2C e-commerce platforms. The company’s mission is to give businesses the necessary tools to become world-class brands and reward founders for their hard work. Before founding Agora, Jesse Horwitz, Ben Cogan and Ray Cao started and exited multiple successful D2C companies including Harry’s, Clearco and Hubble, and they now share their deep expertise with Agora’s wide variety of brands and businesses.