AMPLIFIER
Early stage venture capital fund and innovation unit, investing into disruptive mobility and logistics tech across the supply chain. www.amplifierlab.io

We’ve all ordered something online only to return it. The e-commerce order volume has only grown due to the pandemic. But return stock often ends up in the landfill. James Song, a visiting analyst at Amplifier, looks at solutions for an end-to-end transformation in the last mile.

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown of economies across the world has accelerated the growth of e-commerce. A recent IBM report shows the pandemic accelerating the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by up to five years. And where e-commerce grows, so does the returns problem.

Today, in Europe alone there are over 800,000 e-commerce shops found mostly in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands, with some of the highest levels of returns. In Germany, for example, 52% of online purchases go back. The majority of returned goods become overstock that is either sent to the landfill or liquidated for pennies (in the US, more than two billion kilograms of returned goods end up in the landfill). The problem is massive and requires an end-to-end transformation in the last mile. This is where Amplifier comes into play.


When we know more about outer space than our oceans, it’s a problem. Especially since over 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea. Read on to catch a glimpse into Amplifier Ventures’ strategy and why we chose to invest in the SaaS platform Nautilus Labs.

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Today, it would appear that when it comes to exploration and innovation, more public attention is given to SpaceX and NASA’s Mars programmes than our own oceans. There are some obvious reasons for this. Firstly, who doesn’t like a great big rocket? Secondly, it motivates us. …


The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the trade war between the US and China, and led many companies to rethink their supply chains. Amplifier Partner Henry Palmer tackles reshoring as a possible solution and looks at areas that could best benefit from innovation.

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The US-China tensions of 2019 and the resultant geopolitical turbulence drove many companies to rethink their supply chains, but few expected it to be a dress rehearsal for the chaos caused by COVID-19.

As entire areas of industrial output were shut down, suddenly arguments for reshoring the point of production, or at least diversifying it, gained a new validity. It was no longer simply about cost savings but the basic ability to produce during times of such momentous disruption. Bringing supply chains back onshore, further regionalising, and dual sourcing (using two suppliers) are all now being considered by every type of company. …


Why would a supply chain VC invest in a robotics AI startup? We explain how important the impact of AI in robotics will be for logistics and look at the barriers to adoption for end-to-end automation.

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© Micropsi Industries

For most people, on hearing that we invested into the robotics artificial intelligence startup Micropsi Industries, the reaction is either to express fear of the rise of the machines, or to excitedly ask how soon we can expect robots to be serving us our breakfast.

At Amplifier, we are certainly in the excited camp, but for very different reasons. While most people radically overestimate how developed robotics technology is, there is no doubting it has made huge strides in recent years, driven primarily by innovation in neural and vision technology. …


To support Amplifier’s growth and our continued investment in the supply chain, Siobhan Brewster has joined Amplifier as Partner. She has roots in private equity and real assets before transitioning into angel investing and early-stage VC over recent years. After stints in New York and Mexico City, she is now working with us from Berlin. Siobhan is an expert on fund management, infrastructure and energy investments. We are excited to welcome her to our team!

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Teotihuacán from above (Photo by Siobhan Brewster)

Q&A with Siobhan Brewster

How would you describe yourself in one tweet?

I am an intellectually curious nomad, always excited about a new idea or a different way of looking at things. …


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected supply chains and disrupted manufacturing operations around the world. Lockdowns forced people to rely on online services, whilst many companies and SMEs couldn’t complete their orders for lack of parts that would usually be shipped in from other countries. Here we take a quick look at the effects of the pandemic on the global supply chain up to now.

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Figure 1: Photo by Andy Li on Unsplash

COVID-19: A black-swan event?

The concept “black swan events”, was first defined by Nassim Taleb in 2007; “First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact.’


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There is no doubting the negative effect that this pandemic will have upon the macro-economic climate and our interpersonal relationships.

However, it has also brought the supply chain into sharp focus and we have seen key technological trends rapidly accelerate, as pain points that have long been present are exacerbated or new market conditions present unique opportunities to undertake industry transformations previously regarded as unattractive or unnecessary.

To this end, we have identified three such trends driving opportunities.

I. Supply Chain Traceability

Long seen as desirable, but only at zero or low cost. Today, the supply chain is experiencing dramatic disruption, requiring ever greater agility to switch points of manufacture or product sourcing. Most manufacturers may be aware of issues at their Tier 1 suppliers but are unlikely to hold data for suppliers further down the value chain, heightening the confusion in times of disruption. …


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Picking the right partner at the dance is not always easy …

Advice from a venture capital investor to start-ups (pt. 1)

When it comes to the Due Diligence (DD) of startups, there are many aspects and documents you need to look at as an investor. For this post, however, let’s focus on cap table, who is in the on list and how it is strucutred.

In short, the cap table is a list made up of all the names of the existing shareholders, along with:

  1. Stage of investment
  2. Stock class (common or preffered)
  3. Stock authorised and price paid
  4. Valuation at each stage and dilution over time
  5. Any outstanding convertible loans or SAFE…


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As the world is becoming more connected, the way we communicate, and transfer data is becoming of vital importance. The big question in supply chain is how to transfer information from one end to another in real time, secure and in an affordable way.

We know that there is no single solution for all but a combination of multiple layers, depending on the environment and use case. A vessel in the middle of the ocean would either require satellite connectivity or to be part of a mesh network in order to extend the reach of on-shore wireless networks. …


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Digitalisation is waking up the shipping industry. Innovating and reinventing entire operating models. Take the huge increase in the volume of available maritime data — it allows the development of deep and machine learning and applications to enhance everything from vessel performance to asset-backed lending.

This change is set to redefine the boundaries of the industry itself. Creating entirely new and alternative opportunities for future growth and sustainability. Removing shipping from it’s silo and placing it within the interconnected ecosystem that is the supply chain.

We see our domain as interconnected. Any good or product does not know the difference between a vessel and truck. With black spots being removed (with improved sensors, tracking, data aquisition etc.), data flows almost without interruption from production to final delivery irrespective of which segment of the supply chain it is generated from. The technology that enables autonomisation of last mile delivery drones, or cars on the road, can just as easily be applied to warehouse robotics or port terminal operations. …

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