Billion Vegans, the online vegan marketplace created by entrepreneurs Amir Lavi and Alon Hochberg, has recently launched with the initial offering of 4,500 vegan products, and was billed as the Vegan Amazon at the time. Aiming to be a one-stop marketplace, Billion Vegans offers a wide range of certified vegan products from food, clothing, and cosmetics to toys and books.
Billion Vegans says, “It takes time to check the ingredient lists for the foods you buy. It takes time to research whether the makeup you love is cruelty-free, and if it’s not, to find something new that fits…We want to help you with your vegan journey by providing a place where you can find everything you need, from food, clothing, and cosmetics to toys and books, that’s been curated, checked and certified vegan by us, as well as suggested, reviewed and recommended by other vegans like you.”
It’s a great concept which offers a solution to plant-based consumers who may encounter a vast variety of issues when shopping. Co-founder and CEO, Alon Hochberg spoke with vegconomist about this exciting new venture.
Can you introduce Billion Vegans, and what was the motivation behind your launch?
Billion Vegans is the first and largest online marketplace for vegans in the US. Its mission is to make veganism convenient, affordable and fun. Maintaining a vegan lifestyle is challenging, but especially difficult and time-consuming when it comes to online shopping. There is a lack of variety and a trusted vegan certification across all categories: food, clothing, shoes, cosmetics, home goods, pet supplies and much more.
At the same time, it’s among the fastest growing communities in the world. The number of vegans in the US has grown exponentially. A 2017 report by research firm GlobalData claimed that 6 percent of Americans now identify as vegan, up from 1 percent in 2014, an increase of 500 percent. This means there are about 20 million vegan consumers whose needs are not being met, which represents a tremendous business opportunity.
Which categories are available on Billion Vegans and which products are the bestsellers?
Currently, we have eight categories available: Grocery, fashion, beauty, health, shoes, kids, home & garden, and pets. The best selling categories are grocery, beauty, and shoes. The best seller products are meat and dairy replacements, cosmetics, shoes and pet supplies.
Where are your services available and do you have plans to expand to other markets?
Our service is currently available in the US and we are planning on extending it to Canada at the beginning of 2019, and to the UK later that year.
What differentiates Billion Vegans from other vegan marketplaces?
We are the only online marketplace that carries only vegan products in such a wide range of categories, and that performs a thorough vegan certification process for each and every product and seller. Our mission is to offer almost all vegan products available, at the best available online prices.
Beyond carrying only vetted vegan products, we also provide additional information that is important to vegans, and others, about the products and the sellers. We are planning, for example, to add information about fair trade and sustainability and palm oil.
What are the advantages for vegan business owners to list their products on an online marketplace such as Billion Vegans, as opposed to online stores, whether vegan or not?
In general, a multi-vendor online store manages the products, inventory and delivery by themselves which is quite limiting. A marketplace allows the sellers to do most of these, so it can offer many more products and grow much faster. A marketplace can also be much more efficient, offer lower prices and charge lower commissions from the sellers.
In our case, because our marketplace has been created to make veganism as accessible as possible, we are committed to making Billion Vegans a win for both sellers and customers. We want everyone to be happy with our service.
How do you assess the current vegan market?
It’s obvious that veganism is not just a passing trend. It has grown exponentially all over the world and is becoming mainstream. I think that it’s getting harder to hide information and the truth about animal welfare, environmental impact and health are they main reasons. I predict the market will continue to grow.
Can you say something about your recent pre-seed investment round and its impact on your company?
All of our pre-seed investors are colleagues from the hi-tech industry in Israel and provide value and assistance way beyond the funds. This includes active participation in the advisory board and utilizing their networks, which amplifies the company’s accumulated experience, knowledge and reach tremendously.
You are currently raising funds on WeFunder. How much interest are you getting?
Phenomenal. Way beyond our wildest dreams, especially from the vegan community all around the world. We wanted a way to raise money that involved the vegan community and give them a chance to invest. WeFunder is an equity crowdfunding platform that allows anyone from across the globe to own a stake in Billion Vegans for as little as $100 investment.
In just over a month since launching the campaign, we hit our minimum target of $100k and are now focusing on raising $1 million so we can ramp up our marketing and operations to expand internationally and become the alternative to Amazon for vegan products. Aside from investment, we are getting a lot of messages from vegans that appreciate the need for our marketplace and are offering to assist.
What are the benefits to those who invest in the WeFunder campaign, and when are they likely to see returns on their investment?
There are two aspects to this: As a member of the vegan community and as a financial investor. As vegans they get to be members of a closed group that serves as the extension of the company, involved in shaping the product roadmap and receiving various perks. As financial investors they will hopefully get returns that are much larger than their investments.
Nobody can predict the company’s future and project the returns. However, there are some trends and assumptions that could be relevant: Global trends of health, sustainability and animal welfare, the growth and size of the vegan community, and the past and current trends in the ecommerce arena. It would be a safe to assume that the ecommerce scene that is relevant to that specific market will start to consolidate within three to four years. Companies that will have a strong brand, a large customer base and good KPIs, would be a target for acquisitions or IPOs.
What are your plans for the end of 2018 – 2019?
Our main objective is to bring more sellers and products onto the site. Another objective is to position ourselves as an anchor in the vegan community, making a real impact on the convenience, affordability and fun of maintaining a vegan lifestyle, and promoting new vegan products and services.
Where do you see Billion Vegans in the next five years?
We hope to be a large and dominant player in the ecommerce arena, both vegan and beyond, the go-to place for vegan and ethical shopping and information, and a heavyweight player in the promotion of veganism in the world
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