Amazon Launchpad carves out flashy new shelf space just for start-ups

Amazon Launchpad gives young companies new tools to pitch products and sell them online.

Rick Wilking/AP/File
Two freshly delivered Amazon boxes are seen on a counter in Golden, Colo.

Amazon revealed a new wing of its massive online marketplace – an improved digital bazaar built specifically for start-ups.

On Tuesday, Amazon cut the ribbon on Launchpad, which will give new companies a place to sell their products and tell their stories to the millions of customers already loyal to the retail giant. 

“We appreciate that startups have different needs than more established companies,” Amazon says in a statement. “Amazon Launchpad has been designed to meet these needs while giving [start-ups] the marketing benefits typically reserved for our more established Amazon vendors, right from day one.”

This move shows the growing influence of hot, young companies. Projects such as Kickstarter have created massive buzz behind exciting, new products, thanks in part to well produced videos about each group's mission and backstory. Launchpad borrows from this social-savvy playbook. It keeps the spotlight on these fledgling firms, while giving Amazon a cut of the action. 

Registered start-ups will get special product pages that feature larger images, room for videos, and more flexibility to show product detail. The start-ups can also tap into Amazon's established customer support, credit card processing, and shipping options.

More than 200 products already employ Launchpad pages, including Casper mattresses, Electric Objects digital art panels, and Bluesmart smart carry-on luggage, which won't even be available until September 30.

Amazon built up this initial stable of Launchpad members by partnering with more than 25 venture capital firms and crowdfunding groups. These Silicon Valley heavy hitters include Indiegogo, Y Combinator, and Andreessen Horowitz – but not Kickstarter. Start-ups that are not affiliated with Amazon's partners may still apply for access to Launchpad. 

Many software start-ups already rely on Amazon for server space. Amazon Web Services has been a go-to source for website hosting, cloud computing, and backup. Launchpad extends this relationship to start-ups that produce physical goods. It also lets Amazon throw its considerable weight around to body-check several rival services. For example, Shopify gives small companies easy tools to sell products online and Shyp handles the packaging and shipping of products around the world. In theory, Amazon Launchpad provides both services under one roof.

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