It’s not every day that you hear about a home grown Washington, D.C. entrepreneur with a public company. Unless you are Bill Angrick.
Angrick is the CEO, chairman, and co-founder of Liquidity Services, Inc., a leading provider of the world’s most transparent, innovative, effective online marketplaces, and integrated services for surplus assets of corporations, public sector agencies, and buying customers.
After paying his way through the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern (by running his own mini-businesses), Angrick moved to the D.C. area for work, just as the concept of online shopping was beginning to heat up.
“While eBay popularized the use of online auctions for consumer items, I felt there was a wonderful opportunity to use that platform and apply it to business and government markets,” Angrick said. “In the late summer of 1999 I founded Liquidity Services Inc. with the vision to take this online auction model and apply it to large enterprises who had warehouses full or supply chains complete with end of life assets, seasonal inventory, returned consumer merchandise at retail stores, or the return centers.”
Much like the Alarm.com’s story, Angrick bought the URL name “liquidation.com” before starting his business plan. In 1999, Angrick initially set up Liquidity Services Offices by subleasing from the Al Gore Presidential campaign, due to the low cost of the building.
“I seeded the company with $100,000 of my savings and purchased our initial marketplace URL, liquidation.com, which I actually found in a Wall Street Journal ad,” Angrick said. “Then I brought together a team that allowed us to build the technology application and the initial service offering to take this business to business marketplace and service offering to large organizations, both in the commercial arena and the government arena.[The Al Gore Office Space] was something like $18 per square foot; today I think market rates are probably $60 to $70 per square foot. It was a great initial deal for us. We were very fortunate to be located in the seat of the government because it allowed us to stay very close to the needs of public sector agencies and understand that there were ways to drive efficiencies for federal, state, and local agencies who have lots of material and equipment that needs to be disposed of in an efficient and transparent way that brings value back to taxpayers.”
And monetarily, Liquidity Services has grown immensely from its initial inception. Angrick told us that from 1999 to 2003, the company went from zero to $72 million in gross merchandise value (GMV) sold. From 2004 to 2008, GMV went up another $280 million, and has grown from $360 million to roughly $850 million since fiscal 2008. Today, Angrick says the company is over $1 billion of annualized GMV, and it’s had the chance to grow over the past year in several different ways.
“First, we’ve expanded our industry coverage and now serve over 130 Fortune 1000 companies in every major sector of the economy, retail, and supply chain,” Angrick said. “We serve seven of the top ten retailers and half of the top thirty andwork with many technology manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers like Acer and Microsoft. In addition, we work with eight of the top ten multinational energy companies, have a big practice in the energy business, and are very active in the healthcare marketplace. We also have a lot of test and measure equipment upgraded every year, and have grown with transportation, selling truck and tractor trailer fleets for large clients such as Wal-Mart, Pepsi, and UPS.
But we have also expanded greatly geographically. Today, we provide blue chip multinational companies with a uniform level of service in over 25 countries around the world, and we’ve done some great work in building out our technology and product roadmap.”
But like every entrepreneur, there are challenges to foresee and overcome, as well as opportunities for impact, and Angrick said the challenges come down to three things: investment, global HR, and information dissemination. But his company’s versatility in being “wherever [the] clients are” is, to Angrick, an advantage when it comes to increasing globalization and large companies.
“We have buyers in over 200 countries and territories that will log in and bid for items,” Angrick said. “This allows us to give our clients this global support and I think that’s increasingly important for these companies, because they are looking to drive transparency, best value, and they want to share data across the organization. An online business model is rich with that.”
And with the challenges and opportunities Liquidity Services has, it only seems natural to wonder how the industry might be transforming. Angrick said industry transformation is all about creating a more transparent marketplace “where sellers can access buyers globally, where information is made available to buyers transparently, and where the price is set for these end of life items in the excess inventory in a competitive way using competitive auctions.” But it is also about a life cycle that is increasingly becoming shorter with every new invention.
“We are in an era where the life cycle of products in almost every category continues to become shorter and shorter,” Angrick said. “Whether it is a television, a phone, a laptop, a gaming console, or a camera, there is so much technology that’s driving product obsolescence. That means that retailers and the vendors who supply them must be able to quickly reset their supply or their inventory offering to be relevant to the consumer.
When there is a new iPad released or a new iPhone or a new Xbox system released, every other previous release of those products has less value, less relevance to the audience, to the consumer. We’ve created channels and programs that allow these retailers to quickly, centrally recover value from all of those less than current products and redeploy them next to full margin next generation products.”
A recent ABC News Nightline segment, “Many Happy Returns,” touches upon this idea of product consumption and value by focusing on where the goods and products consumers return go: to a liquidation warehouse, not back on store shelves. If you watch the full segment, the network explores the idea of “getting bang for your buck” in an economy where bargain hunting is now in fashion. The segment shows examples of buying 10 wedding dresses in bulk (yes, instead of one) to save money, buying a stock of Prada or Michael Kors purses for $200, or really getting into the back-to-school spirit with 1,000 backpacks.
So is this a way to curtail product obsolescence? Though it will be interesting to see where the industry continues to transform, perhaps only time, and the holiday season, will tell.
Angrick has a lot to be proud of as a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO. And at the end of the day, it’s a pride that is as personal as it is professional.
“It is being able to enjoy the growth of your family and the development of your children as a father, coach, and mentor,” Angrick said. “That’s the number one fun thing for me outside of work; spending time with my wife and two boys.”