Retrospec, a Los Angeles-based ecommerce brand that sells outdoor recreation and fitness gear, is among the latest companies to enter the e-bike market. It will launch its first line on April 21st.
E-bikes have been on the rise lately, spurred in part by the pandemic and a desire for sustainable, outdoor transit.
Retrospec was founded in 2009 by Ely Khakshouri, who began selling bikes out of the back of a van as a student at USC. Over the past decade, Retrospec has expanded to include not just several types of bikes, but gear for skaters, paddle boarders, snowboarders and those looking to build a home gym.
Khakshouri told dot.LA that Retrospec always knew it would enter the e-bike market at some point, it just was a matter of timing.
"It feels like the demand is really there now," he said. "I think we're really highly regarded when it comes to urban cycling and everyday bikes. That's what — as much as many of us enjoy performance bikes and recreational riding — we focus on putting bikes out there that help people get from point A to point B. So, I think this is the biggest no-brainer of all time for us as a company."
Demand for several kinds of e-bikes has increased over the past year. Lime recently announced a $50 million expansion of its LimeBike fleet, thanks in part to an investment round led by Uber last May and the acquisition of Uber's bike-share system, Jump. The Pasadena-based delivery platform URB-E also recently raised a $5 million Series A round to expand its service, which uses high-performance bikes to cart around up to 800 pounds of cargo.
Retrospec's Jax folding e-bike
Retrospec's e-bikes will retail between $1,000 to $1,500, and are meant for personal use, ideal for the daily commuter who doesn't want to show up to events winded or sweaty, or who needs to travel further than one might on a standard bike. The idea of going farther is what Khakshouri believes has increased demand for e-bikes among personal riders.
"Whether you're going trail riding or just riding down the boardwalk by the beach, there's always this fear of, 'I have to get back.' I think having the e-bike gives you extra access, and takes that fear and pain away," he said.
Additionally, e-bikes can also help equalize group rides, Khakshouri noted. Riders who need an extra boost to finish a ride or catch up have that via pedal assist, which decreases resistance as the rider pedals, and a throttle, which can completely take over for a fatigued rider or when facing a steep hill. The bikes also have an "easy start" push button that helps riders get going.
"We try to keep things really simple where it doesn't feel like you're driving a complex machine," Khakshouri said. "All of our bikes have a simple, clean aesthetic and one that also is nostalgic of what bikes have always looked like and the history of bikes, so I think that's all going to come through our e-bike line and differentiate us."
Retrospec will start with two e-bike models. The Beaumont 7S Electric Bike can reach up to 20mph and last up to 15 to 25 miles, depending on the battery. It's a stylish option for city riding available in four colors, including soft pink, pale blue, eggshell and matte gray.
The Jax Folding Electric can also reach up to 20 mph and last up to 35 miles, depending on the battery. It has a more rugged design with a foldable frame and thicker tires, and comes in matte black or olive.While Retrospec is entering the e-bike market late in the pandemic and won't be able to gauge COVID-19's impact on demand for its e-bikes, the company did see an increased interest in their other products, from bikes to home fitness equipment over the last year. People who could no longer use their indoor gyms began looking for ways to exercise at home, and also experienced a renewed interest in outdoor activities. For many companies, including Retrospec, this demand ran up against supply chain issues, as Retrospec quickly sold out of products it couldn't immediately restock.
"A year later, we're still playing catch up," Khakshouri said. "What's cool about that is I think a lot of the used gear out there has gotten another turn. There's been a lot more upcycling that's gone on and that's obviously really good from a sustainability standpoint, too."
Retrospec's next move will be a literal one. It will leave the Vernon headquarters it's outgrown next month for a much larger space in the Inland Empire, and will also open an office in Los Angeles.
This story has been updated to reflect a change in the release date for Retrospec's line of e-bikes.
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The Honest Company, the packaged consumer goods company founded by actor Jessica Alba and serial entrepreneur Brian Lee in 2011, filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday to go public.
Selling everything from eco-friendly diapers to skincare products, it has never turned a profit. The Santa Monica-based brand is seeking to raise $100 million by going public, a move which it has flirted with several times during its past few tumultuous years. It will trade on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol "HNST."
The SEC filing reveals Honest recorded a net loss of $14.5 million last year, which was hardly unusual. It has carried over $243 million in losses since 2017.
"We have incurred net losses each year since our inception and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future," the filing warns.
Honest revealed it increased gross margins by 35.9% last year with revenue soaring by 27.6%, to $300.5 million in 2020 from $235.6 million in 2019. The wellness category did especially well, bolstered by the pandemic which drove sale of disinfecting and sanitizing products. Revenue in that category skyrocketed 116%.
Much of Honest's business hinges on its partnership with two mega retailers, which accounted for 45% of its revenue last year. And 70% of all retail sales came from Target and Costco, where the company is competing for shelf space against larger, more well-funded brands.
"The loss of our relationship with Target, Costco or any other large retail partner could have a significant impact on our revenue," the filing warns. "We also face severe competition to display our products on store shelves and obtain optimal presence on those shelves. Due to the intense competition for limited shelf space, retailers are in a position to negotiate favorable terms of sale, including price discounts, allowances and product return policies."
Honest was rumored to be preparing an IPO in 2016, and Lee, who departed in 2017, reportedly had been thinking about it since 2014, but after soaring growth in its infancy, the company struggled amidst quality control problems and investors who had grown wary of direct-to-consumer businesses that had to compete against the likes of Amazon.
In 2015, Honest became a unicorn, valued at $1.7 billion. But two years later it was raised a dreaded down round amidst stagnating revenue.
Several incidents tarnished its central marketing promise as a safe alternative to traditional brands. The company voluntary recalled its baby powder and baby wipes in 2017 after concerns they could cause skin and eye infections. The year before, it reformulated its laundry detergent after reports that it misled consumers about ingredients.
Unliever was reportedly close to buying Honest in 2016 but ultimately decided to acquire one of its main competitors, Seventh Generation.
The past year has been a boon for ecommerce, but some companies have struggled to handle the sudden onslaught of orders.
Flowspace, with software that helps businesses manage warehousing and fulfillment needs, aims to make things easier.
The Los Angeles-based company has raised $31 million in Series B funding, bringing its fundraising haul to $46 million since coming out of Y Combinator's accelerator program in 2017.
"The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of e-commerce among businesses and consumers alike and warehousing and fulfillment is critical in supporting this growth," co-founder and CEO Ben Eachus said in a statement announcing the raise Tuesday. "We make it easy for brands to scale by giving them access to one of the largest and most efficient fulfillment networks in the country."
Before he started Flowspace, Eachus experienced firsthand the perils of warehousing when he oversaw fulfillment at The Honest Company, panicking as he watched trailers of diapers arrive at his warehouse but not having enough space to store them.
BuildGroup co-founder Jim Curry (L) and Flowspace co-founder Ben Eachus.
The latest investment in Flowspace was led by BuildGroup of Austin, Texas, which specializes in SaaS growth stage investments. Existing investors also participated, including Canvas Ventures, Industrious Ventures, Moment Ventures, 1984 Ventures, eGateway Capital and Y Combinator. 75 & Sunny Ventures, the investment company of dot.LA co-founder and Chair Spencer Rascoff, also invested in the round.
"In the same way that the pandemic increased adoption of video conferencing, it also accelerated the adoption of plug-and-play warehousing and fulfillment services by retailers and e-commerce companies, Jim Curry, co-founder and managing partner of BuildGroup said in a statement.
"As the industry continues to advance, no company is better positioned for long-term category leadership than Flowspace."
Flowspace last raised $12 million of Series A venture funding in a deal led by Canvas Ventures in 2019 at pre-money valuation at $28 million, according to Pitchbook data.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include Spencer Rascoff's investment.