Abound plans to use its latest funding to hire more engineers to accelerate the development of its B2B app, which allows for buying, selling and networking among independent brands and retailers. The wholesale marketplace is also developing a livestream selling service it has tested on Facebook. Pictured: Home furnishings and accessories featured on HelloAbound.com's home page.

Startups are constantly gauging how to make the most of what are often limited resources. Once started, a project is not easy to backtrack. That’s why online wholesale marketplace Abound—on the web at HelloAbound.com—is prioritizing hiring and expanding its B2B commerce app’s functionality.

One thing trade shows are good at is community building, so we’re focusing on digitized community building.
Bill Shope, CEO
Abound
BillShope-Abound

Bill Shope, CEO, Abound

Abound CEO and co-founder Bill Shope says determining which projects to prioritize is one of the most difficult tasks for a startup’s leadership team, which typically includes a limited number of engineers and designers. Once a project is set in motion, he says, there is no turning back.

“You have to allow your engineering, product and design teams to focus; you have to let them follow through on a project,” he says.

Since Digital Commerce 360 spoke last with  Shope in February 2021, Abound has added about 250,000 products to its offerings. Today, Abound says its marketplace offers more than 400,000 products and a network of more than 40,000 active retailers spanning throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.

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In October, Abound raised $36.7 million in Series B financing, bringing the company’s total funding to $59.6 million. Abound declined to disclose total valuation as a company after this latest round of funding, which was led by D.E. Shaw. Other investors include PointState Capital, Left Lane Capital, RiverPark Ventures, and All Iron Ventures.

“Growth has been tremendous,” Shope says. Abound’s gross merchandise value (GMV) run rate tripled in 2020 over 2019, he adds, declining to be more specific. GMV is the total value of merchandise sold over a given period of time through a marketplace. “The year 2020 was a fantastic year, and in 2021 a lot of the strong trends just accelerated,” he says.

The influx of venture capital funding will go toward hiring more engineers, product managers and designers to provide the tools users find most valuable on the online marketplace. Users provide feedback on the marketplace and help drive where Abound makes changes.

“We’re fortunate to have a large enough user base now to where they’re active and they let us know the pain points,” Shope says. “They give us ideas, and those ideas are really the genesis of our roadmap.”

B2B social- and live-selling

Abound’s digitized marketplace allows users to browse products, communicate with merchants through the app, and conduct business anytime. However, Shope says it is difficult to emulate the in-person connections made at traditional trade shows held a few times a year.

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“One thing trade shows are good at is community building, so we’re focusing on digitized community building,” Shope says.

Abound also plans to build a robust system, allowing live-selling where buyers and sellers can interact with one another in real time via live-streaming video over the Abound app. Social selling is popular in the B2C world, but Abound plans to give its B2B users the ability to live-sell across its platform. “There really isn’t a reason why wholesalers can’t,” Shope says.

Abound is focused on “indie” wholesale, meaning most users are independent owners of their company. Unlike large enterprise corporations segmented into different departments, the businesses using Abound are less tethered to traditional corporate hierarchies.

“Each user is an entrepreneur, which makes their behavior a little bit closer to consumer behavior in terms of using technology,” Shope says. “We can take the best things from B2C and tweak it for the wholesale buyer, and it tends to translate fairly well.”

Initially, Abound tested live-selling using Live Shopping on Facebook, an interactive way to sell items and connect directly with viewers. Abound has a large Facebook Retailers Group and Facebook Makers Group.

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“We were able to leverage that community to use Facebook’s existing feature-set to have our own team post events while ordering occurred on a bounce platform. Abound would have a live store during that show,” Shope says. “We’ve done five of those, and that gave us the confidence that we’re on to something, and we really want to push that.” The bounce platform, he adds, re-directs customers to check out on Abound’s marketplace platform.

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