Next Silicon Slopes unicorn? Utah company Volcanic Retail emerges in the conversation
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The tech success of Silicon Slopes is apparent to anyone traveling south down Utah’s bustling I-15 corridor. Tech unicorns (valuations over $1 billion) like Overstock, Dealer Socket, Divvy, Pluralsite are numerous.
What separates Lendio, Weave, Entrada, Podium, Vivint, Workfront, DOMO, Qualtrics etc. from others like Adobe, Oracle, eBay and Microsoft, is that they were Silicon Slopes born.
The newest member of the unicorn club could well be Volcanic, an SaaS platform built for retail, the oldest and largest industry in the world. It’s like Amazon, but B2B, where retail stores can come to source products both online and for their brick-and-mortar stores.
“It’s pretty crazy to see it unfold”, says Sarah Ross, who has worked on the brand side for notable brands like S’well water bottles and Free People. “Retail sourcing has been one of the most antiquated and clunky industries when it comes to efficiency. Volcanic really has changed all of that, and brands and retailers have taken notice, as it has pumped fresh oxygen into an industry that has desperately needed a face-lift. If/when they can get predictive analytics going, then watch out.”
“It’s match-making, but on a grand scale,” says Justin Drage, who recently worked with the massive tech distribution company, Voicecomm. “Think of some of the attributes that you would find in Tinder, Netflix and Facebook, and now merge these data points in a platform that operates almost like an Amazon feel but for B2B product sourcing.”
Speaking of Amazon, that might not be far off when thinking about market size and potential for someone like Volcanic.
“Sourcing consumer-driven brands, in an efficient and predictive manner is where retail is headed,” explains Jeremy Brockbank, CEO of Volcanic. “Sometimes a perfect storm strikes, and it’s your job, as the founder and visionary, to put your company in the best position in the event that it does.”
Retail is not new to Brockbank. He played an integral role in one of the fastest-growing products in the United States, GOAL ZERO. Brockbank went on to found Brands Rising, a sales consultant agency that boasted one of the largest retail buyer/brand databases that helped over 500 brands expand their reach in retail.
Prior to the Covid pandemic, Brockbank had been working on his new vision, Volcanic, to solve the way brands and retailers matched with each other. His vision was to make a one-click solution for retail that would allow retail buyers “swipe” history to predict what similar buyers had sourced and vouched for. But in March 2020, the world changed, and along with it, retail sourcing and the retailer side have taken notice as well.
“The concept of Volcanic is an innovative and indispensable solution for both buyers and suppliers in the current market”, says Mianna Galbraith, former beauty buyer at Walmart. “This is so needed on both the buyer and supplier side!”
Angels, venture capital and debt
For most tech companies, the road to capital is built from Series A to Z. This is great for those investors that are associated with Venture Capital and Private Equity groups. But most residents of Draper or Lehi (or any other part of Utah for that matter) don’t feel the same upside when a company goes from seed to success.
Brockbank, however, has leveraged creative ways to give every resident a level playing field when betting on Volcanic. Platforms such as Seed Invest, We Funder, Start Engine and Republic allow certain companies to raise up to $5 million per year, from non-accredited investors (those who don’t have assets totaling $1 million or more in their bank account).
“What’s great is that people, like my own mom, who raised a large family as a single parent, and not a ton of extra cash, can jump on our latest discounted valuation for as little as a $200 investment and in a matter of four or five minutes.”
Volcanic has seen its valuation soar from $1.5 million a couple of years ago to $30 million. But Brockbank wants to involve those interested, before he tries to scale the company.
“You never know with investing, but we’re hoping that the next $5 million raised can help us reach north of a $100 million valuation before we continue on with our Series A. Giving the public an opportunity to be a part of this feels like the right thing to do, and we think we can get it there.”
AI, predictive analytics and metadata
Not all AI is to be feared, unlike some of chat-based AI. In fact, analytics-driven AI can lead to more efficiency for retailers who have lost substantial margins to Amazon and e-commerce in general.
“As a buyer, the industry is suffocating without tools to leverage efficiency for those responsible for bringing in products for their shelves, whether they be digital or physical,” says Richard Diamond, former vice president of Office Depot and OfficeMax.
“Volcanic is all about giving retail a much-needed tech facelift and the traveling to trade show route in hopes to source the right SKU, at the right price at the right moment for the right white space, is downright impossible without these features. It simply isn’t efficient enough” Diamond says. “The only way forward is to offer buyers the benefits of Ai that can suggest to them, where they should be sourcing, based on prior activity.
“The reason why people report a more pleasurable experience with entertainment apps is because they know your history, and do the sourcing for you. It is no different. And this is exactly how you level the playing field with Amazon- by being more efficient.”
Brent Burden, another seasoned business vet formerly with Costco and now the SVP of Sales at Lumineaux who has seen a meteoric rise of his own, has ear-perking praise for the industries. “Volcanic potential ceiling is incredibly high given the virtual platforms we all connect on daily. Category managers sourcing new brands via social media and e-comm platforms is inefficient and competitive brand sourcing lacks two-way connectivity. Volcanic solves these problems with a social media-aligned user experience, connecting innovative brands to buyers in real-time with real-world benefits for both sides of the buying paradigm.”
Tyler Dickman, former co-founder of Simply Mac, an Apple reseller who sold to GameStop in 2013 for an undisclosed amount, was early to the Volcanic investor sideline. “Sourcing has always been the thorn in the retailers’ side, and if Volcanic can truly move from a sophisticated marketplace to collecting meta-data from buyer and brand habits like we think it can, then the upside is absurd. Time will tell if we have lighting in a bottle, but if we are right, we might be sitting on something here.”