RLA News & Views

RLA Inaugural Startup Pitch Contest

By Cathy Roberson, Reverse Logistics Association

January 11, 2023

Retail return rates for 2022 appear to be leveling off, according to data from the National Retail Association and research partner, Appriss. NRF and Appriss estimate $816.7 billion in retail returns will be made in 2022 - 16.5% of total retail sales, the same rate as in 2021.

An interesting finding in the NRF and Appriss survey is that Buy online, return in-store (BORIS) return fraud is expected to be 48% higher than fraud in returns to non-store locations, which is  “potentially spotlighting an area to further streamline data and process protocols when multichannel return processes are present.”

The biggest retail challenges from the NRF and Appriss survey include the following:

  • Self-service returns
  • Damaged returns or policy abuse
  • Re-processing goods at warehouse on digital returns

Indeed, a lot of work still needs to be done in reverse logistics.

A number of logistics providers, carriers and tech companies are introducing reverse logistics services and options.

As such, the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA) will shine the light on six of these firms in RLA’s annual conference in Las Vegas, Feb 7-9, in its inaugural Reverse Logistics Startup Pitch Contest.

Each startup will have 7 minutes to ‘pitch’ its company in front of five esteemed judges and over 600 attendees.

Two awards will be rewarded – The Judges Award and the Audience Award – including an exclusive interview for RLA’s RL Magazine.


The startups are:

Boomerang - Founded in 2021, Boomerang offers an online platform that manages end-to-end returns management powered by pickup. The platform integrates with UPS, FedEx, USPS, Shopify, Purolator, DoorDash, and more.

Carolina Sisters – Since 2018, Carolina Sisters has been sourcing from retailers and selling pallets of wholesale products to the general public.

Newmine – Newmine provides retailers and consumer brands with the opportunity to think differently about returns. While most solution providers focus on the 'post-purchase' easing of the returns process, we offer an alternative. Decipher the reasons for those returns in time to take corrective action and prevent them from happening in the first place. With AI, natural language processing and prescriptive analytics, retailers reduce product returns and create a sustainable and efficient business for their customers, environment, and bottom line.

Pollen Returns - Pollen provides data-driven insights that can help retailers to identify trends and optimize their return strategy. According to the company, it provides a faster, greener, and more cost-effective way to leverage existing inventory.

Returns Worldwide – Returns Worldwide is a full-service reverse logistics provider managing returns of all kinds and overstock and liquidation services. The company offers B2B and B2C services, with oversight and controls that will eliminate refund overages. 

Tompkins Robotics – Expanded its reverse logistics capabilities in 2018. Its tSort robotic system offers inbound and outbound returns sortations, unit handling, and more.


 Our judges are:

Alexander Rhodeen serves as supply chain catalyst with the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia’s technology business incubator, at Georgia Tech. Previously he was with Geodis, Kanga, and Lovesac.


Sender Shamiss is president and CEO of goTRG, a leading reverse logistics third-party service party provider. Previously Sender was with Kyozou Inc, a multichannel and inventory management technology company.


Robert Echols is an investor and entrepreneur. He is founder of Bargain Hunt and Treverse LLC, a wholesale, liquidation & auction business based in Nashville, TN.


Sylvie Thompson is consulting vice president and partner of consumer brands, retail, and distribution for NTTData, an information technology service and consulting company. In addition, Sylvie sits on the board of advisors for the Center for Supply Chain Research at Penn State University. Previously, Sylvie worked at Infosys Consulting and Optoro.


Stephen John is the founder of telecom and technology-focused consultancy HCG Holdings LLC. HCG Holdings LLC focuses on helping companies develop and execute strategic growth plans, including M&A, capital raises, and organizational development. Previously, Stephen worked at Field Square and Westell.


Join us in Las Vegas

There’s still time to join us in Las Vegas for RLA’s annual conference. Besides the Startup Pitch Contest, we will have panel discussions on automation, holiday returns, non-profits, retail, wireless & mobility, asset recovery, finding ESG opportunities in reverse logistics and more.

In addition, we will have our pre-conference retailers and manufacturers-only round table and our academic roundtable in which we’ll provide updates on research projects.

For more information, please visit the RLA website.

Cathy Roberson

Cathy has over 20 years within the supply chain market including eleven years with UPS where she spent most of her time on competitive and market analysis for the Supply Chain Solutions subsidiary. After UPS, Cathy spent several years with various supply chain consulting firms focusing on market research before starting her own supply chain market research firm, Logistics Trends & Insights. Prior to UPS, Cathy worked at an e-commerce consulting start-up and at several libraries as a reference librarian. Cathy also writes for Air Cargo World magazine and other publications and is a frequent speaker at various supply chain conferences.