This Seattle e-commerce startup didn’t raise any VC money and was just acquired in a nine-figure deal

This Seattle e-commerce startup didn’t raise any VC money and was just acquired in a nine-figure deal

This Seattle e-commerce startup didn’t raise any VC money and was just acquired in a nine-figure deal
Pacvue co-founders Zhaohui Tang, chairman, and Melissa Burdick, president. (Pacvue Photos)

A huge exit doesn’t always require venture capital money. That’s what Pacvue just demonstrated.

Los Angeles-based e-commerce software company Assembly announced today that it acquired Pacvue, a Seattle startup that sells similar B2B e-commerce tools.

Terms were not disclosed, but pegged the purchase price at nine figures. A spokesperson for Pacvue confirmed that the acquisition price was nine-figures, but did not provide the amount.

Pacvue flew under our radar here at GeekWire, as it quietly bootstrapped its way to a large acquisition. The 4-year-old company provides advertising and sales tools to online retailers selling products on Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, and other marketplaces. Clients include Duracell, Keurig, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and others. Its revenue has tripled each year since launching, and the company has 150 employees across three cities.

Pacvue is an anomaly in today’s startup world, where the path to exit often requires millions of dollars from investors. So how’d they do it?

“We never wavered with our mission and vision for the company,” co-founder and president Melissa Burdick told GeekWire. “A lot of people take years to figure out what their product is, or what they’re going to do. We had a very clear beginning vision of the product and the problems we were tackling. That helped us accelerate as fast as we did.”

The resumes of the co-founders and the complementary nature of their skillsets was also a key advantage.

Burdick previously worked for a decade at Amazon on the company’s retail merchandising and advertising teams. That gave her unique insights into how brands were selling products online. Pacvue was also one of the first software platforms to integrate with the Amazon Advertising API, and similar APIs from Walmart, Instacart, and others.

Pacvue’s chairman and other co-founder is Zhaohui Tang, who founded and sold search engine marketing giant Ad Sage in China. He was also a principal group program manager at Microsoft where he worked on Bing advertising search algorithms.

“Zhaohui was able to scale a development team very quickly and have the perfect expertise to build the right product,” Burdick said. “We had a product within six months, we had clients, and we just were off to the races. So we really never had the need to raise money. We were profitable after the first year.”

Another part of the secret sauce, according to Burdick: “It’s just having the best product, taking customer feedback very quickly, and innovating very fast.”

Pacvue co-founder and president, Melissa Burdick (left), sits down with Assembly co-founder and CEO, Sandeep Kella. (Assembly Photo)

Pacvue is one of several e-commerce startups that provide back-end infrastructure for online shopping, including several based in the Seattle region such as Fabric, Stackline, Shipium, Flexe, Stackline, FlavorCloud, Pipe17, Pandion, and SoundCommerce. These companies are riding tailwinds from the e-commerce boom driven by the pandemic as more people shopped online.

Burdick will continue to lead Pacvue, which will maintain its product and brand.

Assembly provides similar tools to Pacvue but has thus far focused on small and medium-sized merchants.

“With Pacvue, Assembly is now strategically positioned to offer customers at all stages the software they need to scale their business,” Sandeep Kella, co-founder and CEO of Assembly, said in a statement.

Founded in 2019, Assembly recently reached a $1 billion valuation after raising an undisclosed investment last month. It has made five acquisitions to date.