The Great Amazon Flip-a-Thon

Thrasio’s internal estimates, based on the number of distinct households to which is has shipped products, place its products in 1 in 10 American homes.

“Everything we buy is a solution to a problem of some kind,” said Joshua Silberstein, a founder of Thrasio. Much of what he looks for in acquisitions is obvious: a good product, differentiation, a solid, scalable supply chain. Other factors are more specific to Amazon. Good reviews and high search placement are extremely valuable and take time to acquire. Products that need to be frequently changed or refreshed are more challenging, for related reasons. “We wouldn’t do something like drones,” Mr. Silberstein said. “No matter how good a drone is, someone else will come up with a better one.”

Not so for a pet deodorizer like Angry Orange, an acquisition which Thrasio frequently points to as a success story ($30 million in revenue last year, from a $1.4 million purchase in 2018), or TrailBuddy, its brand of hiking poles, or for its extensive listings in bedding, crafting supplies, coolers and thermoses. These priorities give Thrasio’s portfolio a peculiar and distinctly Amazonian quality: a little bit Bed Bath & Beyond, a little bit QVC, a little bit Home Depot, a little bit Dick’s Sporting Goods, with a dash of randomized chaos. (Air filters; door stoppers; an electric brush for car wheels, as seen on “Shark Tank.”)

Mr. Silberstein believes there are plenty more healthy Amazon businesses to acquire and owners ready to sell. “When you’re really successful on Amazon, it might make up 95 percent of your net worth,” he said. “You’re in a place where it’s kind of hard to diversify, and then what if something goes wrong?”

Thrasio’s pitch is, basically, a payday and a promise that the business is in good hands. Many of its 700-plus employees have experience in Amazon’s often unpredictable and unforgiving Marketplace, which is an advantage the company maintains will set it apart from some newer competitors, especially private equity firms excited about what they understand to be a new asset class: Amazon listings.

There are, already, a few extraordinary Amazon seller success stories, perhaps most notable among them Anker, the electronics brand that made its name selling batteries; it is now traded publicly on a Chinese stock exchange and its products are carried in Apple retail stores. Still, Anker is at its core an Amazon-native brand — one with more than $1 billion in sales last year.