RevZilla joins forces with Cycle Gear

"We aren't going anywhere. We're going to keep growing, right here in Philadelphia," Anthony Bucci, cofounder of RevZilla, one of the city's most successful online companies, said Wednesday, after confirming that his software-based motorcycle accessories retail firm, whose biker-friendly YouTube videos claim 60 million views, is partnering with - not selling out to - the California-based Cycle Gear store chain.

The two biker-gear firms and Boston-based investment group J.W. Childs Associates, which owns Cycle Gear, are forming a joint holding company that will own both firms and eventually coordinate their complementary retail strategies.

Bucci and his partners won't detail the power-sharing arrangement among the new co-owners, other than noting that he and his partners are now part-owners of the larger company along with Childs.

With 113 stores at locations including Route 70 in Cherry Hill and U.S. 40 in Bear, Del., Cycle Gear is the larger partner. With about $105 million in sales last year, up from $75 million in 2014, and 185 employees, RevZilla is the faster-growing partner.

Bucci and cofounder Matt Kull will serve on the holding company's board. J.W. Childs vice president Hemanchu Patel and Cycle Gear officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Bucci, a software developer who started RevZilla in a Center City garage in 2007 with cofounder Nick Auger, says their goal was to create the Barneys, or the Zappos, of motorcycle gear, with "George Foreman-style" video-demo marketing and lots of listening to customers. The partners "bootstrapped" their business from sales profits, without having to sell partial control to a lot of venture capitalists.

But it's time to seek a deep-pocketed partner with capital to step up expansion, Bucci says - via a pooling of interests that leaves each RevZilla owner with a piece of the larger company, instead of an outright sale.

On the other side of the deal, Cycle Gear - like QVC, the West Chester home-shopping giant that bought Seattle-based online-shopping network Zulily last year for $2.4 billion - was looking for an online partner.

"We are forming a supergroup," Bucci tells me. "They are consumer branding experts. We have the digital acumen. They've been around 40 years; they are the only national chain. We are still in hypergrowth mode."

The two won't be "commingling the brands" - it "would be silly" to try to mash them together - but they will over time coordinate their businesses more closely, Bucci adds. "We go to market in unique ways. Two brands in the same shared family ownership. Along the lines of Lexus and Toyota."

The Philadelphia area is a center of online retailing, with Michael Rubin's Kynetic group of companies, newly independent eBay Enterprise in King of Prussia, and Urban Outfitters' mix of store and online operations, based like RevZilla at the Navy Yard.

JoeD@phillynews.com

215-854-5194 @PhillyJoeD

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