Amazon will this week launch an online platform for British start-ups to sell and market their products, providing a new shop window for small tech companies attempting to reach a wider range of consumers.
The retailer said Launchpad, which it started in the US in July, would partner venture capital groups including Andreessen Horowitz and crowdfunding platforms such as Crowdcube, to discover fledgling tech groups.
The world’s largest online retailer said it would promote their products on a dedicated part of the Amazon UK website, providing marketing support, manage inventory and help distribute products through its delivery network — while taking an undeclared cut of the start-ups’ sales.
Christopher North, managing director of Amazon.co.uk, said the move was an effort to help small companies in the run-up to Christmas, while displaying products that would otherwise be missed by its millions of consumers.
“We know from talking to start-ups that bringing a new product to market can be just as challenging as building it,” he said. “Amazon Launchpad gives start-ups support . . . so they can focus on inventing on behalf of customers.”
But the initiative may also be an effort to show that the company is more supportive of the UK business, after it has previously come under fire from British authorities for its low tax regime. In a response to the controversy, the company began paying tax on sales to its UK customers in Britain in May rather than through Luxembourg.
Among the products that will be available on the site are the Kano children’s computer kit, the Wileyfox 4G smartphone and iKettle, a WiFi-enabled kettle.
Many of the products chosen for the site will have raised money on crowdfunding websites, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These sites have a dedicated audience, with millions willing to pay for products at a conceptual stage before they are manufactured, helping to provide the early capital to get ideas off the ground. But such sites cannot provide the size of Amazon’s customer base, which these groups need to reach as they become mass market.
Amazon is rapidly expanding its operations in the UK. In 2017, it will move to new offices in east London, near the growing cluster of start-ups in the British capital, providing space for more than 5,000 employees. The company already employs over 9,000 staff in the country, though the majority work in its “ fulfilment centres” — enormous warehouses where it stores goods and fills orders.
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