Are you aware that the top-rated bed connector on Amazon belongs to a brand called FeelAtHome that was by an entrepreneur based in Singapore?
This device consists of a strap to hold two mattresses together and a foam bed bridge to fill in the gap. While it may seem unglamorous, it is one of those products that can be useful should such a need arise in one’s household.
The co-founder and CEO of e-commerce aggregator Rainforest, Jia Jih Chai, better known as JJ, is actively searching for brands like these in the home goods, mother and child, personal care and pet categories.
A relatively new concept in Asia, an aggregator invests in over-promising start-ups with established market niches, which it then scales around the world.
“The rise of micro-entrepreneurs and micro- brands is interesting because while some may get somewhat successful, they might not become the next Allbirds or Love, Bonito. Maybe they don’t know how to raise funds or how to create the sort of organisation needed to scale up, so they plateau,” he says.
“Rainforest helps entrepreneurs who feel they have reached the limits of their brand, or who have another idea they want to work on, or need someone else to take it to the next level.”
Indeed, growing brands and working with entrepreneurs are his passions. The former Carousell employee worked with the founders on the platform’s growth and strategy. He was also the first Airbnb employee in South-east Asia, helping to chart its rapid growth here.
Additionally, aggregators give business owners a healthy exit option. “I’ve always been keen on helping entrepreneurs and being acquired is one way they can cash out their success,” says Chai.
Since Rainforest launched in January, it has acquired six brands and is on track to buying out another six. Its focus is currently on Amazon-native brands from the Asia-Pacific that sell mostly to consumers in the US and Europe.
Customers will also have plenty to look forward to. Rainforest will invest in developing the brand, so it can offer a broader product range, enhanced product development, and higher stock reliability.
“From sourcing within the supply chain to product development to create the best version of that product, we have capabilities across all parts of the value chain. We can also process feedback and reviews,” he says.
“The end-result for the consumer will be more professionalisation within brands. Some products will stay in stock better or you will see more innovation.”
Rainforest raised US$20 million (S$27.1 million) in a pre-Series A round led by Monk’s Hill Ventures in September. As it continues to look for new brands, the fresh funds will help the company double down on its aggressive growth strategy.
Chai hopes to grow Rainforest into a “modern version” of Helen of Troy, an American company that develops houseware, health and home brands such as Oxo, Braun and Hydroflask. “Our goal is to have useful products in every household. Ubiquitous and in a digital-first way,” he says.
He also shops a lot to stay on top of trends. “This is my occupational habit. I do buy a lot of gadgets, but it is to keep up with fresh developments and innovations.”
Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses in collaboration with Facebook are among his latest purchases, making him among the first in Singapore to own this device. He says, “It is my latest impulse buy. It can record videos and I use it only with my kids when they are outdoors.”