About 1,300 people from the online retail industry are in Las Vegas this week for the annual Catalyst Americas conference. Every attendee is sporting a name badge they were given at the registration desk, along with a purple lanyard emblazoned with the logo for the startup Jet.com—everyone except Amazon.com employees, who brought a stash of orange lanyards.
Jet, which is planning to launch a sort of online Costco later this spring with 10 million discounted products, is a corporate sponsor of the Catalyst convention. The three-day event ends on Wednesday with a presentation from Sebastian Gunningham, Amazon's senior vice president of seller services. Employees from EBay, Newegg, and other companies at the show wore the standard-issue purple lanyards. Representatives from Amazon, which has a sizable booth at the event located in the Aria Resort and Casino, were quick to swap their purple lanyards for ones featuring the online shopping giant's own logo. Craig Berman, an Amazon spokesman, didn't respond to requests for comment.
The dispute goes beyond lanyards. Jet was founded by Marc Lore, who went toe-to-toe with Amazon for years selling diapers, soap, and other products through his company Quidsi, best known for its website Diapers.com. Amazon acquired Quidsi in 2010 for $550 million, and Lore stayed on for more than two years. After he left, it became clear that his next venture was designed to confront Amazon head-on. “We’re basically not making a dime on any of the transactions. We’re passing it all back to the consumer,” Lore said in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek cover story. Jet has plenty of cash to do so. In February the company said it had raised $140 million in funding, bringing its total to $220 million.
Lore spoke in Las Vegas on Monday, during the opening keynote at the conference, which is organized by ChannelAdvisor. He drew applause from the audience when he described Jet’s business model, which connects club members to discounts from different stores in its network, rather than selling its own goods directly. “We don’t compete with merchants at all,” he said onstage. It's safe to assume the orange-lanyard people weren't clapping.
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