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Linio, Rocket Internet’s Amazon Play In Latin America, Rakes In Another $79M

8 July 2014

(TechCrunch) Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based e-commerce incubator, is today announcing the latest chapter in its strategy to build out businesses in emerging countries. Linio, an Amazon-style e-commerce marketplace active in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru, has raised an additional $79 million (€58 million), led by new investor Northgate Capital and Access Industries. The company says the financing will be used to expand its footprint to other large Latin American markets like Chile and beyond.

“We are right now in the process of opening up Central America via our hub in Panama,” Andreas Mjelde, MD at Linio, tells me. “We see all of Spanish Lat-Am as our natural markets and plan to continue the expansion quickly.”

This latest round brings the total raised by Linio, founded in 2012, up to well over $150 million — including a $50 million round in November 2013; $26.5 million in February 2013; and up to another $26.5 million in that same month.

Huge numbers in one regard, but in the context of other Rocket Internet portfolio companies likeZalora and Lazada in Asia (both also with hundreds of millions of dollars in backing), and the bigger picture of the large capital investments needed for e-commerce plays to scale quickly (recall Fab’s $330m+ financing to date), we’re talking relatively normal sums here.

Mjelde says the company is not disclosing its valuation at this point in time. And frustratingly, nor is the company revealing any sales figures, details on profitability, customer numbers or any other financials.

In total, Linio sites feature a catalog of over 300,000 products across categories like technology, fashion, home goods, music and books, sourced and sold directly by Linio itself as well as via third-party merchants (following the “marketplace” model made popular by the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba).

It claims to be the No. 1 online store in Mexico, with over 15 million monthly hits on its website, over 2 million fans on its Facebook page and more than 50,000 followers on Twitter.

What’s interesting about this latest round in Linio is that it points to how Rocket Internet might see the site developing in the future. With companies like Amazon only moving slowly into Latin America — it has operations in Mexico and Brazil, but only selling Kindle devices and digital content to consume on them — the playing field is open for others like Rocket Internet to build out marketplaces in the vacuum.

“Right now we do not have a relevant competitor that challenges us across all countries, and in general the main competition we see is still from traditional retailers that also sell online,” Mjelde says.

It’s here that the Access Industries investment starts to look less like a purely financial play and potentially a lot more strategic.

Access not only was one of the major backers of Beats Electronics (acquired by Apple last monthfor around $3 billion), but it is a major shareholder in the Spotify competitor Deezer. It’s noticeable that while Linio sells a lot of consumer electronics and books and magazines, and physical films, it has yet to make any moves into digital media.

That’s one area where Access’ involvement could come in handy, not just for Deezer but potentially in other services like the Tango messaging platform.

“We will not comment on potential new product launches but are excited about the potential strategic opportunities between Linio and for instance Deezer and Tango through the Access network,” Mjelde says.