Edition 124, April 2023

Vegas 2023 Startup Competition

By Cathy Roberson, Reverse Logistics Association

RLA hosts the first reverse logistics start-up pitch contest

The rising number of returns and associated costs has resulted in many start-ups looking to solve either or both of these problems.

To highlight some of the new ideas and solutions that these start-ups are bringing to the market, RLA hosted its first start-up pitch contest at its annual conference in February. Six start-ups competed in front of five renowned judges – Alex Rhodeen, Robert Echols, Sender Shamis, Stephen John, and Sylvie Thompson.

The Judges Award winner received a one-year RLA Bronze membership, and the Audience Award winner received an RLA Copper membership.

A big congratulations to the Judges Winner – Newmine, and the Audience Winner – Pollen Returns.

Navjit Bhasin (left) and Spencer Kieboom (right) (Photo credit: IDX)


Newmine started as a consulting company, but after its clients noted how they were looking for a 'silver bullet' to solve their returns problems, Newmine changed its strategy in 2018 to focus only on returns and, thus, launched an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled platform.

The SaaS platform is AI-driven and includes predictive and prescriptive analytics to reduce returns and improve retailers' financial performance.

The platform allows retailers to use insights in inventory and merchandising planning.

A case study that Newmine's CEO, Navjit Bhasin presented to the judges was one in which a retailer received several returns citing that the color was not as shown as the reason for the return. As a result, the stock was reviewed, the retailer confirmed the color swatches, re-shot the photo, and uploaded the revised photo to the website.

In another case study, damaged packages were the root cause of the returns. The shipping location & routing details were confirmed, the shipping provider was contacted, the retailer addressed the warehouse storage & packaging methods, and then assessed chargebacks.

According to Bhasin, retailers can launch the platform on average in 30 days or less, take action in 60 days and see results in 90 days.

The system allows retailers to set their rules, monitor the data, identify opportunities and collaborate via a workflow, receive prescribed remedies, and act and measure the results. The system is not static; instead, thanks to AI, it constantly learns with each transaction.

At the end of the day, Bhasin wants retailers and manufacturers to start thinking differently about returns, perhaps by adding a Chief Returns Officer to the C-Suite.

Pollen Returns

Pollen Returns also offers an online platform but to manage the transport of returns. Pollen is available at over 20,000 drop locations with a geographic footprint of 95% of the US.

According to Co-founder and CEO Spencer Kieboom, return pickup benefits can only happen if they are cost-efficient. An example Kieboom provided was that one pickup of one box might cost $15 to return, but ten pickups with one package may be 60% or more cost-effective.

Using an API, Pollen works with providers and systems such as Roadie, DoorDash, Shipt and FedEx, and UPS by providing stability and profitability to existing ecosystems.

Secure communication with end-to-end encryption is included.

In addition, according to Keiboom, it provides visibility and predictability by improving fraud protection by over 50% and faster recovery of returns by 99%. Thus, it may allow for a quicker way to resell the returns.

A dashboard is available to track and measure efficiencies, fraud, and messaging, as well as the capability to customize reports based on the brand's needs.

The service can be white labeled with the brand's name and logo to maintain that customer experience that's important to retailers.

We're doing it again!

Stay tuned. We plan to do the pitch contest again at RLA's annual conference in 2024, so if you're interested in participating, contact us at Cathy@RLA.org.

Cathy Roberson