Deliverr scores $170M to bring fast delivery to every e-commerce vendor

At a time when e-commerce is exploding due in large part to the pandemic, a business that helps any online merchant ship goods to a consumer in one or two days is going to be in demand. Deliverr is a startup that fits that bill, and today the company announced a $170 million financing round.

The round breaks down to $135 million Series D financing led by Coatue. The remaining $35 million comes in the form of a convertible note led by Brookfield Technology Partners. Existing investors Activant Capital, 8VC and GLP participated in both parts of the investment. In less than four years, the company has raced from from rounds A to D, raising $240 million along the way.

Deliverr co-founder and CEO Michael Krakaris says it has been a rapid rise, but that his business requires a lot of capital. “It has been this really kind of crazy journey, and we’ve been growing very fast, but also this space is very capital intensive, and it’s a winner-take-all market where you gain efficiency at scale. You know scale is what makes your model highly defensible in this space,” Krakaris told me.

The way Deliverr works is it uses software to determine how to get goods to warehouses in parts of the country where they are needed. It then uses these warehouses’ fulfillment departments to help pick and pack the order. The software then finds the fastest and cheapest delivery method and it gets shipped to customers with a two-day delivery guarantee. They are also ramping a next-day delivery product to expand the business.

Deliverr doesn’t actually own any warehouses. It rents out space, and part of the challenge of building this business is establishing relationships with those warehouses and working out a business arrangement, one that is still evolving as the company grows. “A year ago, I would have said we typically wanted to be 5-10% of a warehouse’s business. There are cases now where we are 100% of these warehouses’ businesses. We’ve grown to that level,” he explained.

Krakaris says that the pandemic raised major challenges for the company. Just setting up a relationship with new warehouses could require driving long distances because getting on a plane would mean quarantining when they landed. In some instances there were shortages of items. In others, COVID would shut down all of the warehouses in a given region, forcing the executive team to make a set of business adjustments on the fly, but this constant crisis mentality also helped them learn how to shift resources quickly, a lesson that is highly useful in this business.

The company started 2020 with 50 people and have added 100 employees since. They plan to double that this year, although that is variable depending on how the year goes. He say that another challenge is that he has done this hiring during COVID, and has never met a majority of his workers.

“You know, I’ve never met more than half the company in person, but I’m try to be as open as I can and learn about everyone, and we hold events to try and get to know everybody, but obviously it’s not like being together in person,” he said.

#coatue, #deliverr, #ecommerce, #funding, #recent-funding, #shipping-and-logistics, #startups, #tc, #warehouses

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Flextock is a YC-backed e-commerce fulfillment provider for Africa and the Middle East

When merchants launch their e-commerce businesses, they can easily manage the end-to-end operations in the early stages. But as they begin to grow, managing their own operations, from warehousing and logistics to delivery and cash collection, can become difficult. This can prevent them from scaling effectively despite having a steady inflow of demand.

Now, there’s a need to offload some of this workload. This is where e-commerce fulfillment services come in handy.

Today, Flextock, one such company providing this service to businesses and consumers in Egypt, is announcing that it is part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch. Founded by Mohamed Mossaad and Enas Siam in September 2020, the Egyptian company launched in stealth this January.

According to COO Siam, the founders noticed that as e-commerce activities in the Middle East and North African regions accelerated due to the pandemic, merchants were left overwhelmed with the volume of orders they received.

“We saw it as an opportunity to build a tech-enabled platform to be able to help anyone that wanted to grow their own independent brand or store,” she told TechCrunch. “We wanted them to focus on their products and marketing while leaving the supply chain and logistics bit to us, which we do through our end-to-end proprietary software.”

Mossaad, the company’s CEO, describes Flextock as a tech-enabled fulfillment provider. When merchants sign up to the platform, they send their products to one of the company’s fulfillment centers. Flextock takes the whole catalog and tags the products for tracking purposes. Then, integration is made between Flextock and any online store they use, be it Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix and Odoo, among others

As orders are made, Flextock packages and ships the products from the fulfillment center to the customers. Flextock doesn’t own any delivery vehicles, so to achieve this, the company partners with existing logistics companies in Egypt. This model has helped the startup to create a marketplace for different last-mile delivery companies in the country.

Image Credits: Flextock

There’s also a dashboard for these merchants to track each order, get more visibility into their shipping process and know how well their products sell.

Flextock makes money on a per-order basis. That means the merchants on the platform pay a flat fee that changes with respect to the volume of products moved.

Mossaad says that since the company beta launched in January with more than 20 businesses, it has been growing 50% week on week. It has also completed over 300,000 orders across 28 cities in the country.

According to the CEO, Flextock is the first end-to-end fulfillment service in Egypt. And in a market that will likely see more competition in the next couple of years, Mossaad thinks Flextock has the opportunity to become the market leader.

Behind this rationale is that the six-month-old startup is backed by Y Combinator and has also raised $850,000 which is just the first part of its million-dollar pre-seed round that will close sometime this year.

“We were able to very quickly get the acceptance of YC given the size of the opportunity we are focused on. We believe that commerce is expected to change in the Middle East and Africa, and Flextock is going to be at the forefront of powering this next generation of commerce,” he said.

The founders combine a wealth of corporate experience and a strong track record of scaling tech startups in the MENA region.

L-R: Mohamed Mossaad (CEO) and Enas Siam (COO)

Siam started her career managing supply operations at Nestle across the Middle East and North Africa. Later, she became the General Manager of Careem Bus, a mass-transit service and Uber subsidiary, where she helped build the product from scratch and grew it to 150,000 monthly rides in a year.

Mossaad, on the other hand, has worked on multiple turnarounds across different African countries during his time at Bain & Company. He joined Egyptian online food delivery platform, Elmenus, as Chief Strategy Officer. He helped scale the company’s revenues 5x in less than a year and was instrumental to its $8 million Series B round.

The CEO says Flextock has its sights on other African and Middle Eastern markets — specifically Saudi Arabia — and the plan is to provide its services to over 1 million businesses in these regions over the next decade.

“We are on a mission to enable more than 1 million merchants in Africa and the Middle East to sell online without carrying out the hassle of running their own operations. We are well-positioned to do that, and hopefully, we will be able to achieve that in a record time.”

#africa, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #egypt, #logistics, #middle-east, #startups, #tc

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China’s cosmetics startup Yatsen to buy 35-year-old skincare brand Eve Lom

In China’s cosmetics world, where foreign brands were historically revered, indigenous startups are increasingly winning over Gen-Z consumers with cheaper, more localized options. One of the rising stars is the direct-to-consumer brand Perfect Diary, which is owned by five-year-old startup Yatsen.

Yatsen impressed the capital market with a $617 million initial public offering on NYSE in November. Its flagship brand Perfect Diary consistently ranks among the top makeup brands by online sales next to giants like L’Oreal and Shiseido. Now the company is plotting another big move as it set out to buy Eve Lom, a 35-year-old skincare brand owned by British private equity firm, Manzanita Capital.

On Wednesday, Yatsen, named after the father of modern China, Sun Yat-sen, announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Eve Lom, which is known for its cleanser. The deal is expected to close within the next few weeks and Manzanita will retain a minority stake in the business and serve as a strategic partner.

The size of the deal wasn’t disclosed but Bloomberg reported in February that Manzanita was looking to sell Eve Lom for as much as $200 million.

Perfect Diary rose to prominence in China by partnering with influencers who reviewed the brand’s lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes, foundation and other products on Chinese social commerce platforms like Xiaohongshu. It took advantage of its vicinity to China’s abundant cosmetics and packaging suppliers, many of whom also work with top international brands. The strategies have allowed Perfect Diary to offer affordable prices without compromising quality, and earn it the moniker, “Xiaomi for cosmetics.”

Growth has skyrocketed at Yatsen since its founding. Its gross sales more than quadrupled to 3.5 billion yuan ($540 million) in 2019 from 2018, thanks to an effective e-commerce strategy. But losses also ballooned. The company recorded a net loss of 1.16 billion yuan ($170 million) in the nine months ended September 2020, compared to a net income of 29.1 million yuan in the year before.

Yatsen has been on the hunt for potential acquisitions to diversify its product portfolio, as it noted in its prospectus. Through the Eve Lom marriage, the company hopes to “enrich our global brand-building capabilities and product offerings,” said Jinfeng Huang, founder and CEO of Yatsen in the announcement.

Yatsen has already embarked on international expansion, landing in Southeast Asia first where it is selling on e-commerce sites like Shopee. It said in the prospectus that it plans on “selectively cooperating with local partners to accelerate our international expansion and localize our product offerings.” In the competitive and entrenched makeup world, Yatsen’s overseas expedition is definitely a curious one to watch.

#asia, #china, #cosmetics, #ecommerce, #lipstick, #perfect-diary, #southeast-asia, #tc, #xiaohongshu, #xiaomi, #yatsen

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Indonesian supply chain startup Advotics raises $2.75M led by East Ventures

The rapid growth of e-commerce in Indonesia, especially during the pandemic, is placing increasing demands on its supply chain infrastructure. But the country’s logistics industry is highly fragmented, with companies usually relying on multiple providers for one shipment, and many warehouses are still concentrated around major cities. Advotics wants to help with software to make the whole supply chain easier to track, and recently closed a $2.75 million funding round led by East Ventures.

Founded in 2016 by Boris Sanjaya, Hendi Chandi and Jeffry Tani, Advotics currently counts more than 70 clients, ranging from individual resellers to large corporations like Exxonmobil, Danone, Reckitt Benckiser, Sampoerna, Kalbe and Mulia Group.

According to research institution Statistics Indonesia, there are about 5 million small and medium-sized manufacturers in Indonesia. They use a supply chain with 15 million small to mid-sized distributors and about 288,000 large distribution companies. This fragmentation means higher expenses, with Report Linker estimating that logistics costs range between 25% to 30% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.

To help make logistics more efficient for its clients, Advotics offers SaaS solutions to monitor almost their entire supply and logistics chain, from warehouse inventory to generating delivery routes for drivers. It includes a product digitalization feature that uses QR codes to track products and prevent counterfeiting. The company’s new funding will be used to launch a online-to-offline system for SMEs and grow its sales team.

Advotics is among several tech startups that are taking different approaches to tackle Indonesia’s logistics infrastructure. For example, Shipper wants to give sellers access to “Amazon-level logistics,” while Logisly is focused on digitizing truck shipments. Waresix recently acquired Trukita to connect businesses to shippers and truck shipment platform Kargo’s backers include Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.

#advotics, #asia, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #logistics, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc

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Amazon issues rare apology in India over drama series

Amazon on Tuesday issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini series hurt religious sentiments of some people in the key overseas market.

The series, called “Tandav,” has faced criticism from some people in India — including a few members of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party — over its depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses.

In a message titled, “Amazon Prime Video Apologizes,” the American e-commerce group said it “deeply regrets that viewers considered certain scenes to be objectionable” and that it had either edited those scenes or removed them altogether from the show after hearing concerns from viewers.

“We respect our viewers’ diverse beliefs and apologize unconditionally to anyone who felt hurt by these scenes. Our teams follow company content evaluation processes, which we acknowledge need to be constantly updated to better serve our audiences. We will continue to develop entertaining content with partners, while complying with the laws of India and respecting the diversity of culture and beliefs of our audiences.”

The show, which stars several top Bollywood actors including Saif Ali Khan, premiered in mid-January and immediately prompted controversy and criminal complaints. Things have escalated in recent weeks as several high-profile executives of Amazon Prime Video have been questioned by the authority.

Prime Video has amassed millions of subscribers in India, where it competes with Disney’s Hotstar, Netflix, Times Internet’s MX Player, and dozens more streaming services. Amazon has grown more aggressive with Prime Video in India in recent months. It recently introduced an even cheaper subscription tier and secured rights for streaming some cricket matches.

Amazon’s rare apology today comes days after New Delhi announced new rules for on-demand video streaming services and social media firms.

Until now Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services have operated in India without having to worry too much about the nature of their content. But that’s changing, according to the new rules.

“The category classification of a content will take into account the potentially offensive impact of a film on matters such as caste, race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality that may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion,” the new rules state.

As we wrote recently, the controversy surrounding the political drama and the new rules from India for streaming services are only few of the challenges that Amazon is facing in India, where it has committed to deploy over $6.5 billion.

Last month, an influential India trader group that represents tens of millions of brick-and-mortar retailers called New Delhi to ban Amazon in the country after an investigation by Reuters claimed that the American e-commerce group had given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers in India, publicly misrepresented its ties with those sellers and used them to circumvent foreign investment rules in the country.

#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #asia, #ecommerce, #india, #media, #netflix, #prime-video

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Vestiaire Collective raises $216 million for its second-hand fashion platform

Vestiaire Collective announced a new funding round. The company has raised $216 million, or €178 million — it has reached a valuation above $1 billion, making it a unicorn. French fashion and luxury group Kering is leading the round with Tiger Global Management. Kering now owns 5% of Vestiaire Collective.

The startup operates an online marketplace where you can find pre-owned luxury and fashion items. And it’s a complicated industry as you don’t want to buy a damaged item or a cheap knockoff. The company controls and authenticate some items before they reach the buyer. If you opt for direct shipping, you can get reimbursed if there’s something wrong with what you ordered.

In addition to the two lead investors, many of the company’s existing shareholders are investing once again, such as Vestiaire Collective’s own CEO Max Bittner, Bpifrance’s Large Venture fund, Condé Nast, Eurazeo through Eurazeo Growth and Idinvest Venture, Fidelity International, Korelya Capital, Luxury Tech Fund and Vitruvian Partner.

As you may have noticed, it’s been a bit harder to travel and buy fashion items in store. Many fashion e-commerce companies have been thriving during the coronavirus outbreak, and Vestiaire Collective is one of them. Transaction volume doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. There are 140,000 new listings every week.

In addition to the current pandemic, many consumers are concerned about the impact of fashion on the environment. At the lower end of the spectrum, retailers and fast fashion brands encourage you to buy more and more stuff as trends change with each season. At the higher end of the spectrum, luxury brands don’t want to undermine the value of their goods by putting items on sale to clear room for a new collection.

That’s why Vestiaire Collective is particularly well positioned to find new customers who are looking for quality goods that are going to last for a while and that haven’t been specifically produced for them. Similarly, people can sell their stuff instead of throwing them away.

While Vestiaire Collective originally started in Europe, the company is now growing rapidly in the U.S. and Asia. “As of January 2021, local sellers in those regions had increased their items sold by more than 250% year-over-year,” Tiger Global partner Griffin Schroeder said in the release.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to further develop partnerships with brands through buy-back circular solutions. The company also wants to encourage more people to sell something every time they buy something. Vestiaire Collective aims to be carbon neutral by 2026 and get the B Corp certification. The startup will also hire 155 people in the technology team.

#ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #startups, #vestiaire-collective

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EBay and Adevinta to sell UK sites Gumtree, Motors.co.uk and Shpock to get their $9.2B deal past regulators

After inking a $9.2 billion deal to merge their classifieds businesses last year, eBay and Norway’s Adevinta have announced a deal to sell off three popular web properties in the UK to get the deal cleared by local regulators, the Competition Markets Authority. The companies plan to sell off Adevina-owned Shpock, and eBay-owned Gumtree and Motors.co.uk — three UK sites that let individuals sell used goods and find/offer services — with the transactions expected to be completed in time for eBay and Adevinta to complete their bigger deal in Q2 2021, pending final regulatory approvals.

“EBay and Adevinta remain excited about the proposed combination of Adevinta and eBay Classifieds Group and now target closing the transaction in Q2 2021, subject to final ratification of the remedies execution plan by the CMA and receipt of outstanding regulatory approval in Austria,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The companies have not yet said whether they plan to sell them in a single package or to independent buyers, but a spokesperson for Adevinta said that it’s likely that the CMA will give another update in 2-4 weeks. She declined to give a price range for the properties.

But in the statement from the companies, eBay said that Gumtree and Motors, which form its UK classifieds business, account for less than 10% of its consolidated revenues ($10.3 billion last year); and Adevinta said that Shpock revenues make up less than 1% of its consolidated revenues (which were about $80 million in the last 12 months). Adevinta is the majority owner of Norwegian publisher Schibsted, among other businesses.

The CMA provisionally has said that it would support the deal if the sale of the three properties gets completed.

“The CMA considers that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the undertakings offered by Adevinta and eBay, or a modified version of them, might be accepted by the CMA under the Enterprise Act 2002,” it noted in a brief update (which was dated 2 March, 2020, although I think that was a typo).

The divestment decision comes as a result of the CMA last month announcing that the deal raised competition concerns as is.

“It is important that people have choice when it comes to selling items they no longer require or searching for a bargain online, and that they can enjoy competitive fees and services,” said CMA’s Joel Bamford, Senior Director of Mergers, in a statement. “There is a realistic chance that without this deal Gumtree and Shpock would have been direct competitors to eBay, which is by far the biggest player in this market. This is the latest in a series of merger probes by the CMA involving large digital companies, where we are thoroughly examining deals to ensure that competition is not restricted, and consumers’ interests are protected.”

Interestingly, one of those other deals also involves eBay, indirectly. Another asset that eBay sold off as part of its wider divestment efforts aiming to streamline its business was selling secondary ticket market company Stubhub to Viagogo in a $4 billion deal. That acquisition closed last year, but then the merger was investigated by the CMA, which last month ordered Viagogo to divest the company’s business outside of North America. It’s a crushing blow when you consider that events have fallen off a virtual cliff (literally and figuratively).

Turning back to Gumtree, Shpock and Motors.co.uk, even if those sites are a relatively small part of eBay and Adevinta’s wider business revenue-wise, collectively they form a very popular option for people looking to buy or sell used goods or hire people for service jobs in the UK. I’ve been a regular user of both in my time, to sell and buy items, and to advertise for/discover several excellent au pairs. Coincidentally, people also use them to resell tickets.

It’s notable that the CMA didn’t consider Facebook, or any others, big enough yet to be seen as viable competitors in that market. It will be worth watching to see how and if that changes though. With deals like last week’s $191 million fundraise for Wallapop, and Facebook’s persistent Marketplace efforts, it is clear that there is still business to be found in classified listings, both as a standalone enterprise, or as something that creates stickiness for users to hang around for other services and advertising alongside them.

#adevinta, #ebay, #ecommerce, #europe, #fundings-exits, #gumtree, #ma, #schibsted, #shpock

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Coupang may raise up to $3.6 billion in its IPO, at a potential valuation of $51 billion

According to an amended S-1 filing, South Korean e-commerce leader Coupang expects to price its initial public offering between $27 to $30 per share, potentially raising up to $3.6 billion. After the IPO, Coupang will have a total of 1.7 billion shares outstanding, including Class A and Class B. This means the means the pricing would give Coupang a potential market capitalization between $46 billion to $51 billion, a huge increase over the $9 billion valuation it reached after its last funding round in 2018, led by SoftBank Vision Fund.

Coupang and some of its existing shareholders will offer a total of 120 million shares during the IPO.

If Coupang’s IPO is successful, it would be a huge win for SoftBank Vision Fund, which will own 36.8% of its Class A shares after the listing.

Founded in 2010 by Bom Kim, Coupang is known for its ultra-speedy deliveries and is now the largest e-commerce company in South Korea, according to Euromonitor. According to the filing, Kim will hold 76.7% of voting power after the listing, while SoftBank Vision Fund will hold about 8.6%. Other investors that currently own 5% or more of Coupang’s shares include Greenoaks Capital Partners, Maverick Holdings, Rose Park Advisors, BlackRock and Ridd Investments.

Coupang filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange last month, under the symbol CPNG. Based on Bloomberg data, Coupang’s listing will be the fourth-biggest by an Asian company on a U.S. exchange, and the largest since Alibaba’s $25 billion IPO in 2014.

#asia, #coupang, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #ipo, #south-korea, #startups, #tc

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Walmart drops the $35 order minimum on its 2-hour ‘Express’ delivery service

In a move designed to directly challenge Amazon, Walmart today announced it’s dropping the $35 minimum order requirement for its two-hour “Express” delivery service, a competitor to Amazon’s “Prime Now.”  With Walmart Express Delivery, customers can order from Walmart’s food, consumables or general merchandise assortment, then pay a flat $10 fee to have the items arrive in two hours or less.

The service is useful for more urgent delivery needs — like diapers or a missing ingredient for a recipe, SVP of Customer Product, Tom Ward, noted in an announcement. They’re not meant to sub in for larger shopping trips, however — Express orders are capped at 65 items.

Today, Express Delivery is available in nearly 3,000 Walmart stores reaching 70% of the U.S. population, Walmart says. It builds on top of stores’ existing inventory of pickup and delivery time slots as a third option, instead of giving slots away to those with the ability to pay higher fees.

Like Walmart’s grocery and pickup orders, Express orders are shopped and packaged for delivery by Walmart’s team of 170,000 personal shoppers and items are priced the same as they are in-store. This offers Walmart a potential competitive advantage against grocery delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, for example, where products can be priced higher and hurried or inexperienced shoppers aren’t always able to find items or search the back, having to mark them as “out of stock.”

In theory, Walmart employees will have a better understanding of their own store’s inventory and layout, making these kind of issues less common. It will also have direct access to the order data, which will help it better understand what sells, what replacements customers will accept for out-of-stocks, when to staff for busy times, and more.

In addition to grocery delivery, Express Delivery competes with Amazon’s Prime Now, a service that similarly offers a combination of grocery and other daily essentials and merchandise. Currently, Prime Now’s 2-hour service has a minimum order requirement of $35 without any additional fees in many cases — though the Prime Now app explains that some of its local store partners will charge fees even when that minimum is met, and others may have higher order minimums, which makes the service confusing to consumers.

Walmart’s news comes at a time when Amazon appears to be trying to push consumers away from the Prime Now standalone app, too.

When you open the Prime Now app, a large pop-up message informs you that you can now shop Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh from inside the Amazon app. A button labeled “Make the switch” will then redirect you. Meanwhile, on Amazon’s website touting Prime’s delivery perks, the “Prime Now” brand name isn’t mentioned at all. Instead, Amazon touts free same-day (5 hour) delivery of best sellers and everyday essentials on orders with a $35 minimum purchase, or free 2-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods and Fresh.

When asked why Amazon is pushing Prime Now shoppers to its main app, Amazon downplayed this as simply an ongoing effort to “educate” consumers about the option.

Walmart, on the other hand, last year merged its separate delivery apps into one.

After items are picked, Walmart works with a network of partners, including DoorDash, Postmates, Roadie, and Pickup Point, as well as its in-house delivery services, to get orders to customers’ doorsteps. This last-mile portion has become an key area of investment for Walmart and competitors in recent months — Walmart, for example, acquired assets from a peer-to-peer delivery startup JoyRun in November. And before that, a former Walmart delivery partner, Deliv, sold to Target.

This is not the first time Walmart has dropped order minimums in an attempt to better compete with Amazon and others.

In December, Walmart announced its Prime alternative known as Walmart+ would remove the $35 minimum on non-same day Walmart.com orders. But it had stopped short of extending that perk to same-day grocery until now.

To some extent, Walmart’s ability to drop minimums has to do with the logistics of its delivery operations. Walmart has been turning more its stores into fulfillment centers, by converting some into small, automated warehouses in partnership with technology providers and robotics companies, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.

And because its stores are physically located closer to customers than Amazon warehouses, it has the ability to deliver a broad merchandise selection, faster, while also turning large parking lots into picking stations — another thing that could worry Amazon, which is now buying up closed mall stores for its own fulfillment operations. 

Walmart today still carries a $35 minimum on other pickup and delivery orders and same-day orders from Walmart+ subscribers.

#amazon, #ecommerce, #food, #grocery-store, #instacart, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #whole-foods

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Jumia co-CEO Jeremy Hodara talks African e-commerce, and his company’s path to profitability

This month, African e-commerce giant Jumia released its second full-year financials for Q4 and its fiscal year 2020. The results were mixed — active customers and gross profit increased, while orders and gross merchandise volume (GMV) fell.

A particular feature that has troubled the company since its inception in 2012 was also present, namely persistent adjusted EBITDA and operating losses. However, those metrics fell year over year, and the company, in a statement, said that it had demonstrated “meaningful progress on our path to profitability.”

The unevenness of Jumia’s business is also reflected in how its share price performed in the past year. In March 2020, the company hit rock bottom and traded at an all-time low of $2.15 after facing fraud allegations. But it hit an all-time high of $69.89 almost a year later this February. 

With the release of its financials, two things were top of TechCrunch’s mind: What made Jumia’s value swell by more than 3,000 percent in the last year, and will the e-commerce player’s unending losses end anytime soon?

I spoke with Jumia co-CEO Jeremy Hodara to get his insights on these two questions and on issues that have faced the company in the past.

Talking profitability with Jumia

This interview has edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: This time last year, Jumia was trading between $2 and $4. Now it’s within $40 to $50. What do you think has been the driving factor behind this?

Jeremy Hodara: What I think is really important about the stock rise is two things. First, in general, the world realized that there was a big paradigm shift in e-commerce and that e-commerce was the way to go for the future. This is something you can look at for every e-commerce company in the past 12 to 18 months. The second thing that happened is that we at Jumia have been very clear about the opportunities e-commerce represents in Africa. E-commerce is a real problem of access to consumption and has a strong value proposition to those who necessarily don’t fancy brick-and-mortar stores in Africa.

What we never really have proven is that you can build a profitable e-commerce business. However, I think that will change soon because what we’ve done quarter after quarter is to be disciplined to bring clarity that we’re going after a profitable business model and profitable growth. And as people understood and saw what we were doing, it also gave them more confidence about how exciting this opportunity is. In my opinion, what happened in the last 12 months was the combination of people understanding how important e-commerce is worldwide. Secondly, Jumia brought proof points that it was building a sustainable and profitable business model.

Would you say Andrew Left’s reversal in October and his decision to take long positions at Jumia also affected the share price?

Not really. Like I said earlier, I think it had to do with the story of e-commerce change for the future. That didn’t start in October; it started months before. Also, we being disciplined quarter after quarter to build what’s right started months before, so I can’t really comment if his decision affected our share price or if an investor’s negative or positive comments would change market sentiment towards our stock.

You’ve talked about how Jumia is trying to build a profitable business. But how’s it going to do that if the company reports losses quarter after quarter and year after year?

I think we’re on the right path, considering that our EBITDA losses reduced by 47 percent last quarter, and we’ll be trying to do so every quarter. We want to go about it by improving the efficiency of the business and opening new avenues for growth.

The most exciting thing about e-commerce is that first, you build large assets for your own use, but it becomes relevant for other stakeholders over time. For us, we have an application and website with very engaged visitors, and we’re exploring having third-party advertisers who place ads on the platform.

Our logistics service is also another way. We’re building tools and technology to equip our logistics partners and help them become more productive. This drives our costs per delivery down and is the type of benefit that comes with scaling. So I think there’s a path to profitability by opening the assets we’ve built for ourselves to benefit our ecosystem.

Jumia’s expenses dropped last year, but revenue also dropped despite a little increase in customer base. Aren’t those worrying signs?

On the revenue side, here’s how we should look at it. When you’re a marketplace, your revenue is the commission that you make from a transaction. So if you’re a seller on Jumia and sell something that costs $100 and your commission is 10 percent, your revenue inside the P&L of Jumia will be $10. If I buy a product from you at $90 and sell it to my consumer for $100, I’ll record $100 as the revenue.

That’s the insurance from the financial pinpoint between what you call the third-party and the first-party model. At the first-party model, you record as the revenue the value of the product. At the marketplace, you only record the commission. Jumia has, give or take, 10 percent of its business as the first-party model and 90 percent as the marketplace model. But that percentage changed over time, and when it did, you can see how the revenue went down.

So we don’t base our profitability on revenue. What is the right KPI for us is the gross profit as it shows the monetization of Jumia. It has been growing quarter after quarter, this time by 12% percent. Our active consumers growing 12 percent from 6.1 million in Q4 2019 to 6.8 million in Q4 2020 shows a disciplined growth towards profitability.

If there’s indeed a path to profitability, why did Jumia investors — Rocket Internet and MTN — exit the company? And does that put pressure on the company?

Oh, not at all. The fact that Jumia was able to gain support from the companies was a blessing, and they’ve come a long way with us. But like any investor after six to nine years, I think it was time for them to decide to leave the company, and I’ll say the company was lucky to have had them along our side from the beginning. Well, I can’t say for them, but for myself, I don’t think one can say that their leaving after so many years is a sign of distrust in our ability to become profitable.

One of the positives of your financials was JumiaPay. Does it tie into Jumia’s journey to being profitable?

JumiaPay is an amazing opportunity for us. Once you have a great commerce platform, you have a fantastic opportunity to build a great payments solution for your consumers. We can see that consumers are adopting it very fast, and I think this is because the platform also gives them access to other digital services where they top up their phone, pay bills and get loans. Also, it is a great payment method for consumers who want to prepay for services. And when you prepay for products, you make logistics more efficient and have more sales.

Sales remind me of the fraud issues in 2019 when some J-Force team members engaged in improper sales practices. What is Jumia doing to avoid situations like that?

It’s a lesson we’ve learnt, and we have put in the right compliance, the right internal control team to resolve such situations. I’ll say one of the reasons why we’re becoming one of the most professional organizations in Africa is because we now have these systems in place.

As an African company, how is Jumia addressing concerns around diversity, especially at top positions?

I think what’s really African with Jumia is who we are serving, our African sellers, our African consumers and our African team. In Nigeria, Juliet Anammah, who was the CEO of Jumia Nigeria, is now the chairperson of Jumia Group. I don’t know what constitutes an African or a non-African company, but what I can tell you is that our team is African, our consumers are African, and we’re selling on the continent every day. I think that’s what should make sense to our ecosystem.

#africa, #e-commerce, #earnings, #ecommerce, #jumia, #tc

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Customer data platform Lexer raises $25.5M Series B for global expansion

Left to right: Lexer founders Dave Whittle, Aaron Wallis, Chris Brewer

Left to right: Lexer founders Dave Whittle, Aaron Wallis, Chris Brewer

The massive shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic means retailers need to analyze customer data quickly in order to compete against rivals like Amazon. Lexer, a customer data platform headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, helps brands manage data by organizing it on one platform, making analysis easier for small to medium-sized brands. The company announced today that it has raised $25.5 million in Series B funding for expansion in Australia, the United States and Southeast Asia.

The round was led by Blackbird Ventures and King River Capital, with participation from returning investor January Capital, and brings Lexer’s total raised so far to $33 million. Blackbird Ventures co-founder and partner Rick Baker will join Lexer’s board.

The company was founded in 2010 by Aaron Wallis, Chris Brewer and Dave Whittle, and its clients include Quiksilver, DC Shoes, John Varvatos and Sur La Table. The new funding will be used to add 50 more people to Lexer’s team, with plans to double its headcount in Australia, the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Whittle, the company’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch it will also add more features to provide retailers with enterprise-grade customer data, insight, marketing, sales and service capabilities.

Brands use Lexer to increase their incremental sales, which includes sales to both existing and new customers, by helping them understand things like shopping patterns among different groups of visitors, which customers are most likely to make future purchases and what marketing strategies results in the most sales.

Lexer’s best-known competitors include Segments, which was acquired by Twilio for $3.2 billion last year, and Adobe Analytics. Whittle said Lexer’s key differentiator is providing an end-to-end solution.

While brands often have to use multiple data and analytics software to understand data from different sources, Lexer’s goal is to make everything accessible in one platform. “Our customers don’t have to engage expensive and time-consuming third parties for strategy, implementation, customization and project management,” he said.

Before Lexer’s Series B, most of its growth came from single brands, or groups of mid-market retail brands. Now it’s focusing on working with all sizes of brands, Whittle added.

The pandemic has forced many brands to place a greater emphasis on digital engagement to increase their online sales and stand out from other e-commerce merchants.

“There are literally hundreds of tactics we have enabled our customers to deploy to help them adapt to the limitations and barriers COVID put in place. For example, we helped retailers migrate offline customers to shop on their e-commerce sites,” said Whittle. “Another way was that if stock was low due to supply constraints caused by COVID, we helped retailers target their high-value and loyal customers to ensure customers satisfaction.”

#australia, #customer-data-platform, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #lexer, #startups, #tc

0

Infra.Market becomes India’s newest unicorn with $100 million fundraise

The newest unicorn in India is a startup that is helping construction and real estate companies in the world’s second most populated nation procure materials and handle logistics for their projects.

Four year-old Infra.Market said on Thursday it has raised $100 million in a Series C round led by Tiger Global. Existing investors including Foundamental, Accel Partners, Nexus Venture Partners, Evolvence India Fund, and Sistema Asia Fund also participated in the round, which valued the Indian startup at $1 billion.

The new round, which brings Infra.Market’s total to-date raise to about $150 million, comes just two months after the Mumbai-headquartered startup concluded its Series B round. The startup was valued at about $200 million post-money in the December round, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Avendus Capital advised Infra.Market on the new transaction.

Infra.Market helps small businesses such as manufacturers of paints and cements improve the quality of their production and meet various compliances. The startup adds its load cells to the manufacturing facilities of these small businesses to ensure there is no lapse in quality, and also helps them work with other businesses that can provide them with better raw material and provide guidance on pricing. It also works closely with businesses to ensure that their deliveries are made on time.

These improvements, explained co-founder Souvik Sengupta, help small manufacturers land larger clients that have higher expectations from the businesses with which they engage. He said the startup has helped small manufacturers reach customers outside of India as well. Some of its clients are in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai.

“We are bringing a service layer to these small manufacturers, enabling them to grow their business. We don’t own the asset and are creating private label brands,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch in December. Infra.Market works with more than 170 small manufacturers and counts the vast majority of major construction and real estate companies such as giants Larsen & Toubro, Tata Projects and Ashoka Buildcon as its clients. Sengupta said the startup sells to more than 400 large clients and 3,000 small retailers.

Sengupta said in December that the startup was on track to hit the ARR (annual recurring revenue) of $100 million before the pandemic hit early last year. This nearly cut the startup’s business in half for at least two early months of the pandemic. But the startup has picked up pace again, and is now on track to hit the ARR of $180 million. The startup aims to grow this figure to $300 million by March.

“We are delighted to partner with Souvik and Aaditya in the growth journey of Infra.Market which is reshaping India’s construction materials supply chain. With pioneering technology innovation and the ability to stitch together private label brands, Infra.Market is positioned for strong growth, healthy economics and profitability,” said Scott Shleifer, Partner of Tiger Global Management, in a statement.

Sengupta added today: “We are seeing rapid acceleration in demand as Infrastructure and real-estate companies are looking to shift their procurement to get consistent quality and minimize delays.”

#accel-partners, #asia, #ecommerce, #evolvence-india-fund, #funding, #india, #nexus-venture-partners, #sistema-asia-fund, #tiger-global

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Jumia narrows losses, as its payment service grows in financial results

After years of losses, African e-commerce giant Jumia claimed significant progress towards profitability in its Q4 2020. Backing that claim, Jumia reported record gross profit and some improvements to its cost structure.

The company wrote in its earnings release that while “2020 has been a challenging year operationally with COVID-19 related supply and logistics disruption,” it had also proven “transformative” for its business model.

Let’s examine its financial results to see how Jumia fared during the pandemic year and see if we can see the same path to profitability discussed in its written remarks.

The results

Jumia’s core metrics were uneven in 2020. The company saw its user base grow by 12% in 2020, from 6.1 million customers in 2019 to 6.8 million customers. That means the company added 700,000 customers in 2020 compared to the 2 million customers it acquired the year before.

Other metrics were negative. The company’s gross merchandise value (GMV), the total worth of goods sold over a period of time, grew 23% from the previous quarter to €231.1 million. The company said this was a result of the Black Fridays sales in the quarter. However, when compared year-over-year, Q4 GMV was down 21% “as the effects of the business mix rebalancing initiated late 2019 continued playing out during the fourth quarter of 2020,” Jumia wrote.

Image Credits: Jumia

In terms of orders made on the platform, Jumia saw a 3% year-over-year drop from 8.3 million in Q4 2019 to 8.1 million in Q4 2020But while the company’s metrics were mixed during Q4 and the full-year 2020 period, there were encouraging signs to be found.

Last year, Jumia’s Q4 gross profit after fulfillment expense was €1.0 million. We reported at the time that the number’s positivity was commendable if merely another mile of the company’s path to profitability

The company built on that result in 2020, allowing it to report a record gross profit after fulfillment expense result of €8.4 million in the final quarter of last year. From a full-year perspective, the numbers are even starker, with Jumia managing just €1.5 million in 2019 gross profit after fulfillment expense; in 2020, that number grew to €23.5 million.

That Jumia managed those improvements while seeing its 2019 revenues of €160.4 million slip 12.9% in 2020 to €139.6 million is notable.

JumiaPay and improvement in losses and expenses

There are other metrics that are encouraging for Jumia.

Its gross profit reached €27.9 million in 2020, representing a year-over-year gain of 12%. Sales and Advertising expense decreased year-over-year by 34% to €10.2 million, while General and Administrative costs, excluding share-based compensation, came to €21.8 million in the year, falling 36% year-over-year.

In 2019, Jumia incurred a massive €227.9 million in losses, a 34% increase from 2018 figures of €169.7 million. But that changed last year as Jumia reported a smaller €149.2 million in operating losses, representing a 34.5% decrease from 2019

Turning from GAAP numbers to more kind metrics, Jumia’s Q4 2020 adjusted EBITDA loss also decreased. The company recorded an adjusted EBITDA of -€28.3 million in the final quarter of 2020, falling 47% year-over-year from 2019’s €53.4 million Q4 result. For the full 2020 period, Jumia reported €119.5 million in adjusted EBITDA losses, down 34.6% from FY19’s -€182.7 million result.

Jumia lost less money on an adjusted EBITDA basis in 2020 of any of its full-year periods we have the data for. Still, the company remains deeply unprofitable today and for the foreseeable future.

Fintech

Jumia’s fintech product, JumiaPay, has been a factor behind its improving metrics.

In Q1 2020, it processed 2.3 million transactions worth €35.5 million. That number grew to €53.6 million from 2.4 million transactions in Q2 2020. In the third quarter of last year, it recorded 2.3 million transactions with a payment volume of €48.0 million. For Q4, JumiaPay performed 2.7 million transactions worth €59.3 million.

In total, JumiaPay processed 9.6 million transactions with a total payment volume (TPV) of €196.4 million throughout 2020. TPV increased by 30% in Q4 2020 from its 2019 result and 58% in 2020 as a whole.

JumiaPay is a critical part of Jumia’s business, as 33.1% of its orders in Q4 2020 were paid for with the service, up from 29.5% in Q4 2019.

Share price and optimism around profitability

Jumia went public in April 2019. Since opening as Africa’s first tech company on the NYSE at $14.50 per share, the company’s stock has been on a rollercoaster ride.

It traded at $49 per share at one point before battling with scepticism about its business model, fraud allegations, and shorting by Andrew Left, a well-known short-seller and founder of Citron Research. What followed was the company’s share price crashing to $26 before reaching an all-time low of $2.15 on the 18th of March 2020.

Later, Left made a reversal after claiming Jumia had handled its fraud problems. He took long positions at the company and later proposed it would hit $100 per share. That change in market sentiment, coupled with the fact that Jumia changed its business model and halted operations in Cameroon, Rwanda, and Tanzania, enabled its share price to climb back, reaching an all-time high of $69.89 this February 10th.

Before today’s earnings call, Jumia was trading at $48.81. Since dropping its latest data, the company’s share price has expanded by around 10% to just over $54 per share as of the time of writing, indicating investor bullishness despite its continued operating and adjusted EBITDA losses

#africa, #ecommerce, #jumia, #tc

0

BigCommerce customers can now sell on Walmart’s online marketplace

BigCommerce has partnered with Walmart to allow its customers to sell on the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer’s ecommerce marketplace, it announced this morning. Shares of Austin-based BigCommerce rose sharply in pre-market trading after the news, gaining around 10% before the bell.

Walmart, best-known for in-person shopping, has proven an ecommerce success story in recent years. For example, in its most recent quarter while Walmart as a whole grew 7.3%, its ecommerce sales advanced 69%.

BigCommerce has also reported strong growth in recent quarters, supported in part by partnerships similar to the one that it announced today. The ecommerce SaaS provider rolled out an integration with Wish last year, for example.

In a call concerning its earnings, which were announced before the Walmart news was announced, BigCommerce CEO Brent Bellm told TechCrunch that his company had been impressed with customer uptake of the Wish integration. Regarding the Walmart partnership, in a second interview Bellm told TechCrunch that it was overdue on the BigCommerce side; given the historical success of the Wish deal, it will be curious to dig into how many of the ecommerce platform’s customers opt to sell on Walmart, and how quickly they do so.

TechCrunch also spoke with Walmart exec Jeff Clementz about the arrangement. He stressed Walmart’s online customer monthly-actives — 120 million, per his company — and the breadth of their demand; BigCommerce customers selling on Walmart could expand its product diversity, helping the traditionally physical retailer possible continue its rapid growth.

The two companies are incentivizing adoption of the deal amongst BigCommerce customers by waiving certain fees for a month for retailers that sign up to sell on Walmart; Clementz described it as the first time that his company had offered a “new-seller discount.”

TechCrunch has had its eye on BigCommerce for some quarters now, thanks in part to its 2020 IPO. But the company is also interesting as its regular earnings results provide a lens into the world of ecommerce growth amongst independent digital retailers. Shopify, a chief BigCommerce rival, provides a similar view into the ecommerce world.

Shopify previously integrated with Walmart in the middle of 2020.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if the Walmart partnership helps BigCommerce continue its improving revenue growth. The company is in a marketshare race with Shopify. But while BigCommerce’s rival has posted impressive growth from its integrated solutions, like its payments service, the Austin-based company stresses what it calls a more open model. Shopify charges many customers a percentage of their transaction volume for using a third-party payment solution over its own, for example, which Bellm described as a “tax” during an interview.

“Merchant Solutions” revenue at Shopify, which it generates “principally” from “payment processing fees from Shopify Payments,” grew 116% in 2020 to a little over $2 billion.

So with BigCommerce collecting a partnership with Walmart to match Shopify’s own, we’re seeing not merely two ecommerce platforms go toe-to-toe on providing their customers with as much market access as they can, but two different business philosophies compete. Akin to Microsoft Teams and Slack, it’s a competition to spectate.

#bigcommerce, #ecommerce, #mobile, #shopify, #tc

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Shippo raises $45M more at $495M valuation as ecommerce booms

This morning Shippo, a software company that provides shipping-related services to ecommerce companies, announced a new $45 million investment. The new capital values the startup at $495 million. TechCrunch is calling the new funding a Series D as it is a priced round that followed its Series C; the company did not award the round a moniker.

Shippo’s 2020 Series C, a $30 million transaction that was announced last April, valued the company at around $220 million. D1 Capital led both Shippo’s Series C and D rounds, implying that it was content to pay around twice as much for the company’s equity in 2021 than it was in 2020. (Recall that investors doubling-down on previous bets as lead investor in successive rounds is no longer considered to be a negative signal concerning startup quality, but a positive indicator.)

Why raise more money so soon after its last round? According to Shippo CEO and founder Laura Behrens Wu, her company made material progress on customer acquisition and partnerships last year. That led to a decision around the time of Shippo’s Q4 board meeting with her investors that it was a good time to put more capital into the company.

In a sense the timing is reasonable. As Shippo scales its customer base, it can negotiate better shipping deals with various providers, which, in turn, help it continue to attract new customers. Behrens Wu noted in an interview with TechCrunch that when her company was helping its early customers ship just a few packages, shipping companies it supports on its platform didn’t want to meet with the startup. Now armed with more volume, Shippo can recycle customer demand into partner leverage, improving its total customer offering.

Behrens Wu said that Shippo had secured such a partnership with UPS before it raised its new round.

Turning to growth, Shippo doubled its platform spend, or “GPV” last year. GPV is the company’s acronym for gross postage volume. It roughly tracks with revenue, TechCrunch confirmed. So Shippo likely doubled its top-line last year. That’s good. Shippo wants to do that again this year, Behrens Wu told TechCrunch. The startup will also double its headcount this year, adding around 150 people.

Now flush with more capital, what’s next for Shippo? Per its CEO, the startup wants to invest more in platforms (where Shippo is baked into a marketplace, for example), international expansion (Shippo only does a “little bit” of international shipping, per Behrens Wu), and double-down on what it considers its core customer base.

TechCrunch was curious about how broad Shippo might take its product from its original home in shipping labels. The startup said that there’s lots of room in the journey of a packaged, from pre-purchase on, where her company might expand into. However, Behrens Wu cautioned that such a broadening of product work is not an immediate focus at her company.

Let’s see how long the current ecommerce boom lasts and how far this new capital can take Shippo. If it doubles in size again this year we’ll have to start its IPO countdown sometime in mid-2022.

#ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #shippo, #startups, #tc

0

Furniture startup Burrow raises $25M

Burrow, a startup that first launched with a modular sofa, eventually aims to sell you furniture for every room in your home. Today, it’s announcing that it’s raised $25 million in Series C funding.

Burrow participated in the Y Combinator accelerator in 2016 with an initial aim of building sofas that, by virtue of being modular, were easier to move and adapt to a variety of living spaces. Now its product lineup also includes armchairs, ottomans, tables, rugs, lights and other accessories. In fact, the company says it launched 19 new products last year, including a modular shelving system.

When I asked via email about this expansion, co-founder and CEO Stephen Kuhl told me that the company follows “a very rigorous research process” involving customer surveys, focus groups, online search data and more.

“The goal is to match the largest customer needs with the biggest market opportunities,” Kuhl said. “Once it’s clear what category to enter, we use our research to define how we’re going to develop the best version(s) of each product for our customer base, and how we’re going to build the best end-to-end customer experience around that product. I’m probably going to jinx it, but every single product we’ve ever launched has exceeded projections, a testament to our customer-centric, research-driven design process.”

Burrow says it saw triple-digit revenue growth last year, a trend it anticipates continuing in 2021. Kuhl suggested that the startup is also benefitting from broader trends accelerated during the pandemic, including the shift to e-commerce, an increased focus on the home and people moving to the suburbs (and buying more furniture in the process).

“Over the last 18 months, we launched innovative new products in every category of living room furniture,” he said. “In 2021, we’ll continue that expansion into every room of the home.”

The startup has now raised a total fo $55 million. Its Series C was led by Parkway Venture Capital, with Managing Partner Gregg Hill joining Burrow’s board of directors. NEA, Red & Blue Ventures, Winklevoss Capital and Michael Seibel also participated in the new round.

Burrow says it will use the new funding to launch new products while also investing in operations and building out its international supply chain.

“Parkway looks for brands that are changing how we live today as well as innovating to stay ahead,” Hill said in a statement. “We believed in Burrow’s business model from the beginning, having invested in their Series B round, and recognize all their future potential.”

 

#burrow, #ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #furniture, #parkway-venture-capital, #startups

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Pipe17 closes $8M to connect a range of e-commerce tools without any code required

This morning Pipe17, a software startup focused on the e-commerce market, announced that it has closed $8 million in funding.

Pipe17’s service helps smaller e-commerce merchants connect their digital tools, without the need to code. With the startup’s service, e-commerce operations that may lack an in-house IT function can quickly connect their selling platform to shipping, or point-of-sale data to their ERP.

The venture arm of a large logistics investor GLP, GLP Capital Partners led the round.

Pipe17 co-founders Mo Afshar and Dave Shaffer told TechCrunch in an interview that the idea for their startup came from examining the e-commerce market, noting the energy to be found concerning selling platforms, and the comparative dearth of software to help get e-commerce tools to work together; Shopify and BigCommerce and Shippo are just fine, but if you can’t code you might wind up schlepping data from one platform to the next to keep your e-commerce operation humming.

So they built Pipe17 to fill in the gap.

According to Afshar, Pipe17 wants to simplify operations for e-commerce merchants through the lens of connection; the pair of co-founders believe that easy cross-compatibility is the key missing ingredient in the modern-day e-commerce software stack, likening the current e-commerce maket to the IT and datacenter worlds before the advent of Splunk and Datadog.

The prevailing view in the e-commerce industry, the co-founders explained, is that to fix a problem e-commerce players should purchase another application. Pipe17 thinks that most ecommerce companies probably have enough tooling, and that they instead need to get their existing tooling to communicate.

What’s neat about the startup is that it’s building something that we might call no-code-no-code, or no-code to a higher degree. Instead of offering a interface for non-developers to visually map out connections between different software services, it has pre-built what might need to be mapped. Just pick the two e-commerce services you want to link, and Pipe17 will connect them for you in an intelligent manner. For folks who find any sort of coding hard (which probably describes a lot of indie online store operators), the method could be an attractive pitch.

The startup’s customer target are sellers doing single-digit millions to nine-figures in year sales.

Why did Pipe17 raise capital now? The co-founders said that there are only so many chances to simplify a large market, akin to what Plaid and Twilio did for their own niches, so taking on funds now made sense. In Afshar’s view, e-commerce operations is going to be simply massive. Given the growth in digital selling that we saw last year, it’s a perspective that is hard to dispute.

The niche that Pipe17 wants to fill has more than one player. While the startups themselves might quibble about just how much competitive space they share, Y Combinator-backed Alloy recently raised $4 million to build a no-code e-commerce automation service. Which is related to what Pipe17 does. It will be interesting to see if they wind up in competition, and, if so, who comes out on top.

#alloy, #automation, #bigcommerce, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #shopify, #startups, #tc

0

Wholesale marketplace Abound raises $22.9M

Abound, an online marketplace that helps independent retailers stock their shelves with new products from up-and-coming brands, is announcing that it has raised $22.9 million in its first institutional round of funding.

CEO Bill Shope founded the company with Niklas de la Motte and Drew Sfugaras. He told me that small retailers are constantly on the hunt for new products, which means attending trade shows several times a year. Abound, on the other hand, allows them to find those products through an online shopping experience, with wholesale prices (a.k.a. discounts of up to 50 percent), free returns and, in some cases, Net 60 sale terms (meaning retailers don’t have to pay until 60 days after the invoice).

The startup actually began as a community connecting manufacturer’s representatives and retailers, but Shope said the team “kept seeing the limits of that model,” while some retailers were asking to buy from the brands directly. So the team decided to support that experience, starting out by recruiting 50 brands with an offer of free consulting — as long as they were willing to be one of the brands on the marketplace when it launched in October 2019.

Of course, the retail environment changed dramatically in the following months, as the pandemic forced stores to close and/or adopt social distancing measures. Shope said the startup saw a dramatic, short-term decline in sales — but things quickly bounced back and kept growing as “all the trade shows got canceled.”

Partly, that’s because Abound also supports e-commerce retailers, but Shope noted that “the brick and mortars that were succeeding had a very powerful hybrid model,” where they continued to operate a physical store while also quickly launching websites and adding features like curbside pickup.

Abound screenshot

Image Credits: Abound

Abound says that since the beginning of 2020, it has added 180,000 new products in categories like baby and kid products, beauty, food and drink, home and living, jewelry and more. And monthly sales volume has increased 20-fold.

“From a retail perspective, I don’t think there’s any going back [to pre-COVID buying models,]” Shope said. After all, even before the pandemic, independent retailers had to compete with giants like Amazon and Walmart. “You’re not going to beat them on convenience products. The store that’s helping consumers discover new brands, or donating 10 percent of profits to charities — those are types of stories and products you need to have to draw consumers into your store.”

The funding was led by Left Lane Capital, with participation from RiverPark Ventures, All Iron Ventures and branding firm Red Antler. This will allow Abound to grow the team, expand internationally and continue developing the product.

In a statement, Left Lane Managing Partner Harley Miller said:

My family has been in independent retail for the last 20 years. Growing up, I attended many industry events, so I have long understood how under-optimized the wholesale buying and selling experience is. With the cancellation of most major trade shows in 2020 and 2021, emerging brands and independent retailers have been seeking new distribution channels to support their business ambitions. Abound offers an exciting and unique alternative to the legacy wholesale model at a time when small businesses need it most.

#ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #left-lane-capital, #startups, #tc

0

YC-backed Taste brings multi-course fine dining into your home

Jeff Chen has a pithy pitch for his new startup Taste: “We made the Instagram of nice food.”

In other words, just as Instagram made it easy for regular smartphone users to look like talented photographers, Taste makes it easy for customers to prepare impressive meals at home.

That’s because the real preparation is being done by fine-dining restaurants — Chen told me there are 16 Michelin-starred and Michelin-rated restaurants currently on the platform — whose food doesn’t translate easily to a delivery or takeout experience. Taste offers “dinner kits,” which Chen said are neither standard takeout (where everything has been fully prepared but doesn’t necessarily travel well) or a regular meal kit (where “everything is separate and raw”).

Instead, he suggested Taste’s dinner kits are “this in-between thing” where the food is mostly, but not entirely, prepared in advance, allowing customers to “heat and assemble much faster.”

For example, when I tried out Taste last week, my girlfriend and I received three-course meals from Intersect by Lexus and its “restaurant in residence” The Grey. A couple of the (delicious) courses and sides had to be heated in the oven or the microwave for five, 10 or 20 minutes, but there was no real prep or cooking required — the real work was cleaning up afterwards.

Taste screenshot

Image Credits: Taste

Even the packaging was impressive (if a little overwhelming), with a large, fancy box for each kit, and then individual packages for each course, plus a separate package for spices. There are optional wine pairings, and some restaurants will also provide plating instructions and a Spotify playlist for the meal.

Taste — which is part of the current batch of startups at Y Combinator — is currently New York City-only, where it works with restaurants including Dirt Candy, Meadowsweet and the Musket Room. As you might expect, these kits cost more than your standard dinner delivery. Many of them are in the $60-to-$100 per person range, although there are also dinners below $40, as well as a la carte options.

Chen (who sold his last startup Joyride to Google) said that he and his co-founder Daryl Sew have been excited to help New York City chefs reinvent their offerings for delivery and weather the pandemic.

“We also do a very key thing, which is pre-ordering and batching for the restaurant,” he added. “When a restaurant works with Taste, all the orders come in two days before to the restaurant, and we pick it up at designated times, which help tremendously with capacity lift.”

Taste founders Daryl Sew, Jeff Chen

Taste founders Daryl Sew and Jeff Chen

And while Taste might seem particularly appealing now, when indoor fine dining options are either illegal, unsafe or transformed by social distancing and mask-wearing, Chen anticipates healthy demand even after the pandemic. After all, he suggested that before COVID-19, there were many people — busy parents, for example, or people who work long hours — who felt like they could’t take advantage of these restaurants as often as they wanted, or at all.

“Everything is getting moved into the home,” he said. “Movies are getting moved into the home with Netflix, workouts are getting moved into the home with Peloton and Tonal, and now we’re going to move nice dining experiences into the home.”

#ecommerce, #food, #jeff-chen, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

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Indian trader group calls for ban on Amazon following explosive report

An influential India trader group that represents tens of millions of brick-and-mortar retailers called New Delhi to ban Amazon in the country after a report claimed that the American e-commerce group had given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers in India, publicly misrepresented its ties with those sellers, and used them to circumvent foreign investment rules in the country.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Wednesday “demanded” serious action from the Indian government against Amazon following revelations made in a Reuters story. “For years, CAIT has been maintaining that Amazon has been circumventing FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] laws of India to conduct unfair and unethical trade,” it said.

Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General of CAIT, which claims to represent 80 million retailers and 40,000 trade associations in India, said, “It’s an open and shut case that Amazon is wilfully playing with rules. What more we are waiting for. It should be banned in India with immediate effect.”

CAIT has for years expressed concerns over what they allege are unlawful business practices employed by Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart in the country. They say these actions are posing existential threats to small merchants.

India is a key overseas market for Amazon, which has committed to invest over $6.5 billion in its operations in the world’s second largest internet market.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company cannot confirm the veracity or otherwise information and claims made in the Reuters story as it has not seen the documents. “The article appears to be based on unsubstantiated, incomplete, and/or factually incorrect information, likely supplied with the intention of creating sensation and discrediting Amazon,” the spokesperson said.

“Amazon remains compliant with all Indian laws. In the last several years, there have been number of changes in regulations governing the marketplaces and Amazon has, on each occasion taken rapid action to ensure compliance. The story therefore seems to have outdated information and does not show any non-compliance. We continue to focus on delivering first class service to India’s consumers, and helping India’s manufacturers and SMB’s reach customers across India and around the world,” it added.

Long-standing laws in India have constrained Amazon and other e-commerce firms to not hold inventory or sell items directly to consumers. To bypass this, the company has operated through a maze of joint ventures with local companies that operate as inventory-holding firms. India got around to fixing this loophole in late 2018.

Citing private company documents, Reuters said that Amazon had exercised significant control over the inventory of some of the biggest sellers. The report claimed that 33 Amazon sellers accounted for about a third of the value of all goods sold on Amazon, and two sellers in which Amazon had an indirect stake accounted for around 35% of the platform’s sales revenue in early 2019.

The new report — and its potential repercussions — is just the latest headache for Amazon in India.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #india

0

NY AG sues Amazon over treatment of warehouse workers

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit alleging that Amazon failed to provide adequate safety health and safety measures in two New York facilities, and that it unlawfully disciplined and fired employees who complained.

James opened an investigation into Amazon in March of last year, which her office says initially focused on conditions at a fulfillment center in Staten Island and a distribution center in Queens — collectively employing more than 5,000 people — before expanding to look at the firing and disciplining of employees as well.

In a statement, James said:

While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hardworking employees were forced to endure unsafe conditions and were retaliated against for rightfully voicing these concerns. Since the pandemic began, it is clear that Amazon has valued profit over people and has failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers. The workers who have powered this country and kept it going during the pandemic are the very workers who continue to be treated the worst. As we seek to hold Amazon accountable for its actions, my office remains dedicated to protecting New York workers from exploitation and unfair treatment in all forms.

Last week, Amazon preemptively sued James, arguing that workplace safety is a federal matter and that she did not have authority to bring her suit.

“We care deeply about the health and safety of our employees, as demonstrated in our filing last week, and we don’t believe the Attorney General’s filing presents an accurate picture of Amazon’s industry-leading response to the pandemic,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel in a statement.

Among other things, the suit alleges that Amazon violated state laws around cleaning and disinfection protocols, as well as contact tracing, and that it failed to alter its productivity policies to allow employees “to take the time necessary to engage in hygiene, sanitation, social-distancing, and necessary cleaning practices.”

The suit also points to the firing of Christian Smalls (who has filed his own lawsuit against the company) and its warnings to Derrick Palmer as “swift retaliatory action against workers’ complaints.”

James’ office says that it’s seeking changes in Amazon’s policies, backpay/damages and reinstatement for Smalls, damages for Palmer and “requiring Amazon to give up the profits it made as a result of its illegal acts.”

#amazon, #ecommerce, #policy

0

YouTube to expand Shorts to the U.S., add 4K and DVR to YouTube TV, launch in-video shopping and more in 2021

YouTube has a host of big product updates coming this year, and it just detailed a lot of them in a blog post from Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan. Google’s streaming video site plans to expand its TikTok-esque Shorts mobile video creation and consumption tool to the U.S. (it’s currently in beta in India), make YouTube TV a more full-featured in-home cable alternative, add customization and control options to YouTube Kids and more.

Many of the product updates detailed by Mohan are expansions of existing tests and beta features, but there are also entirely new developments that could significantly change how YouTube works for both creators and audiences. YouTube’s focus on monetization and new formats also indicates a desire to keep creators happy, which makes a lot of sense in the context of the platform’s popular new mobile-first competitor TikTok.

Here’s a TL;DR of everything YouTube announced today for its 2021 roadmap:

  • Expansion of its in-video e-commerce shopping experience beyond the current limited beta
  • Expansion of Applause tipping feature
  • YouTube Shorts launching in the U.S.
  • Adding the ability for parents to specify individual channels and videos for their kids to be able to watch on YouTube Kids
  • New features for user playlists on YouTube Music, and making those playlists more discoverable to others
  • A new paid add-on coming to YouTube TV that offers 4K streaming, DVR for off-line playback, and unlimited simultaneous in-home streams
  • Automatic video chaptering for some videos that don’t have creator-defined ones
  • A redesigned YouTube VR experience focused on accessibility, search and better navigation

YouTube has a big year planned, and some of these changes could significantly alter the dynamics of the platform. Making it possible for every creator to turn their channel in a mini shopping channel has a lot of potential to alter what it looks like to build a business on the platform, while YouTube TV’s transformation narrows the gap even further between that service and traditional cable and satellite provider offerings.

#ecommerce, #google, #india, #neal-mohan, #social-media, #software, #streaming-video, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video, #video-hosting, #virtual-reality, #world-wide-web, #youtube, #youtube-music

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Jet co-founder Nate Faust is building a more sustainable e-commerce experience with Olive

Nate Faust has spent years in the e-commerce business — he was a vice president at Quidsi (which ran Diapers.com and Soap.com), co-founder and COO at Jet (acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion) and then a vice president at Walmart.

Over time, he said it slowly dawned on him that it’s “crazy” that 25 years after the industry started, it’s still relying on “single-use, one-way packaging.” That’s annoying for consumers to deal with and has a real environmental impact, but Faust said, “If any single retailer were to try to tackle this problem right now on their own, they would run up into a huge cost increase to pay for this more expensive packaging and this two-way shipping.”

So he’s looking to change that with his new startup Olive, which consolidates a shopper’s purchases into a single weekly delivery in a reusable package.

Olive works with hundreds of different apparel brands and retailers, including Adidas, Anthropologie, Everlane, Hugo Boss, Outdoor Voices and Saks Fifth Avenue. After consumers sign up, they can install the Olive iOS app and/or Chrome browser extension, then Faust said, “You shop on the directly on the retailer and brand sites you normally would, and Olive assists you in that checkout process and automatically enters your Olive details.”

Olive chrome extension

Image Credits: Olive

The products are sent to an Olive consolidation facility, where they’re held for you and combined into a weekly shipment. Because the retailers are still shipping products out like normal, all that packaging is still being used — but at least the consumer doesn’t have to dispose of it. And Faust said that eventually, Olive could work more closely with retailers to reduce or eliminate it.

Until then, he said the real environmental impact comes from “the consolidation of deliveries into fewer last mile stops” — the startup estimates that doubling the number of items in a delivery reduces the per-item carbon footprint by 30%.

The weekly shipments are delivered by regular mail carriers in most parts of the United States, and by local couriers in dense urban areas. They arrive in reusable shippers made from recyclable materials, and you can return any products by just selecting them in the Olive app, then putting them back in the shipper and flipping the label over.

In fact, Faust argued that the convenience of the return process (no labels to print out, no visits to the local FedEx or UPS store) should make Olive appealing to shoppers who aren’t drawn in by the environmental impact.

“In order to have the largest environmental impact, the selling point can’t be the environmental impact,” he said.

Olive delivery is available at no extra cost to the consumer, who just pays whatever they normally would for shipping.

Faust acknowledged that Olive runs counter to the “arm’s race” between Amazon and other e-commerce services working to deliver purchases as quickly as possible. But he said that the startup’s consumer surveys found that shoppers were willing to wait a little longer in order to get the other benefits.

Plus, Olive is starting with apparel because “there’s not that same expectation of speed” that you get in other categories, and because the items cost enough that the delivery economics still work out, even if you only order one product in a week.

#ecommerce, #olive, #startups

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Live video shopping startup Talkshoplive raises $3M

Talkshoplive is a startup that’s worked with stars like Paul McCartney and Garth Brooks, as well as small businesses, to host shopping-focused live videos. Today, it’s announcing that it has raised $3 million in seed funding from Spero Ventures.

CEO Bryan Moore founded the company with his sister Tina in 2018. Moore previously led social media efforts at Twentieth Television (previously known as Twentieth Century Fox) and CBS Television, and he said he was inspired  to launch Talkshoplive by the rise of livestreamed shopping experiences in China.

At the same time, Moore said it wasn’t enough to just copy what worked in China: “Small businesses are different here, talent is different, the needs are different.” One of the keys, in his view, is to focus on helping creators and businesses meet their customers where those customers already are — which he also suggested differentiates Talkshoplive from competing services as well.

For one thing, the startup does not require consumers to download any additional apps in order to watch its videos. Instead, it’s created a video player that works on the Talkshoplive website, on the websites of its partners and anywhere else that videos can be embedded. And wherever those videos are played, they also include a one-click buy button.

Moore said Talkshoplive started out with a focus in books and music, working with famous names like Matthew McConaughey, Alicia Keys and Dolly Parton, as well as the aforementioned Brooks and McCartney. For example, Brooks used Talkshoplive to exceed more than 1 million vinyl pre-sales for his “Legacy Collection” box set in 2019.

On the book side, Talkshoplive has worked with publishers including Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan. And Moore claimed the platform three to nine times the sales an author would see on other e-commerce sites.

At the same time, he emphasized that the startup is also working with more than 3,500 small businesses, and he said that when a small business owner is broadcasting on Talkshoplive, “You’re creating your own micro-fandom by being able to tell the story … You’re making yourself a brand story, even as a small business.”

He added, “When you’re able to help people move $25,000 in a show — for a small business, that’s a huge deal.”

In this sense, Moore said he sees Talkshoplive as a continuation of his previous work in social media, all connected by the question, “How are you creating human connection in a digital landscape?” The “ultimate goal,” he added, is turn the platform into a “digital Main Street” for businesses everywhere.

More recently, Talkshoplive has been moving into other categories like food and beauty, and Moore said he’s excited to work with Spero Founding Partner Shripriya Mahesh (previously an executive at eBay and First Look Media) to “continually evolve our product and create these tools that help us scale faster — and also help benefit these businesses.”

“From the moment we met the talkshoplive team, we were impressed with their focus on enabling SMB’s with a new, creative, innovative way to build their businesses,” Mahesh said in a statement. “Talkshoplive also innovates on the marketplace model with a way for buyers to truly engage with the sellers, get to know them, and experience shopping in a whole new way. We are incredibly excited by the community that is taking shape at talkshoplive and are thrilled to be working with Bryan, Tina, and the TSL team as they grow their community and the marketplace.”

 

#ecommerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #spero-ventures, #startups

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Valoreo closes on $50M to roll up LatAm e-commerce brands

A new breed of startups is acquiring and growing small but promising third-party merchants, and building out their own economies of scale.

And while there are a number of such startups based in the U.S. and Europe, none had emerged in the Latin American market. Until now.

Valoreo, a Mexico City-based acquirer of e-commerce businesses, announced Tuesday that it has raised $50 million of equity and debt financing in a seed funding round.

The dollar amount is large for a seed round by any standards, but most certainly ranks among the highest ever raised by a Latin American startup — further evidence of increased investor interest in the region’s burgeoning venture scene

Upper90, FJ Labs, Angel Ventures, Presight Capital and a slew of angel investors participated in the round. Those angels included David Geisen, head of Mercado Libre Mexico; BEA Systems’ co-founder Alfred Chuang; and Tushar Ahluwalia, founder of Razor Group, a European marketplace aggregator, among others.

Founded in late 2020, Valoreo aims to invest in, operate and scale e-commerce brands as part of its self-described mission “to bring better products at more affordable prices” to the Latin American consumer.

“We were substantially oversubscribed and were therefore able to select investors that not only provide capital, but also additional know-how in key areas,” said co-founder Alex Gruell.

Valoreo joins the growing number of startups focused on rolling up e-commerce brands.

The company’s model is similar to that of Thrasio — which just raised another $750 million–  and Perch in the U.S. But Valoreo says its approach has been tailored to “the specific needs of the Latin American market and is specifically focused on the Latin American end customer.”

Another new company in the space called Branded recently launched its own roll-up business on $150 million in funding. Others in the space include Berlin Brands Group, SellerX, Heyday and Heroes.

But as my colleague Ingrid Lunden points out, “the feverish pace of fundraising in the area of FBA roll-ups feels very much like a bubble in the market — not least because none of these still-young companies have yet to prove that the strategy to buy up and consolidate these sellers is a useful and profitable one.”

How it works

Valoreo (which the company says is an extension of the Spanish word “valor,” meaning to add value), acquires merchants that operate their own brands and primarily sell on online marketplaces such as Mercado Libre, Amazon and Linio. The company targets brands that offer “category-leading products” and which it believes have “significant growth potential.” It also develops brands in-house to offer a broader selection of products to the end customer.

Like Thrasio, Valoreo says it’s able to help entrepreneurs who may lack the resources and access to capital to take their businesses to the next level.

Co-founder and co-CEO Stefan Florea says the company takes less than five weeks typically from its initial contact with a seller to a final payout. 

Then, the acquired and developed brands are integrated into the company’s consolidated holding. By tapping its team of “specialists” in areas such as digital marketing and supply chain management, it claims to be able to help these brands “reach new heights” while giving the entrepreneurs behind the companies “an attractive exit,” or partial exit in some cases.

We have different structures, always taking into account the personal objectives of the seller,” Stefan Florea added.

Generally Valoreo acquires the majority of the business, with the purchase price typically being a combination of an upfront cash payment and a profit share component so sellers can still earn money.

Looking ahead, Valoreo plans to use its new capital mostly to acquire and develop “interesting” brands, as well as build out its current team of 10 while expanding its infrastructure and operations.

The company is currently focused on the Mexican and Brazilian markets, but is planning its expansion into other Latin American countries where it has strong local support systems, such as Colombia, according to co-founder Martin Florea.

Our mission is to be a pan-Latin American player providing value to the entire region,” Martin Florea said. “Latin America in general and Mexico in particular are in a distinct situation which provides phenomenal opportunities for e-commerce merchants on the one hand but also presents particular challenges on the other hand.”

Those challenges, according to Martin Florea, include limited access to growth capital, a lack of specialized expertise in certain areas (such as supply chain management), limited opportunities to sell their business and pursue new ventures, as well as operational burdens and the lack of capacities to expand into new countries and marketplaces.

Valoreo emphasizes it is not out to compete with Mercado Libre, Amazon and other regional marketplaces but instead wants to partner with them.

“Without these platforms, this opportunity would not exist,” Martin Florea said.

Hernán Fernández, founder and managing partner of Angel Ventures, believes Valoreo “will add a lot of value” to the Latin American e-commerce landscape, which is experiencing both market growth and the fragmentation of the seller space.

Jüsto co-founder and CEO (and Valoreo investor) Ricardo Weder notes that the e-commerce market is at an inflection point in Latin America. According to eMarketer, the region was the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the world in 2020, with 37% year over year growth. However, it is a much more fragmented and crowded market compared to other regions, such as the United States.

This, Valoreo believes, provides an opportunity for consolidation.

“There are still many consumers that are not aware of the great variety of outstanding local brands that sell innovative products on marketplaces online,” Stefan Florea said. “In the U.S. or Europe e-commerce is the new way of shopping, offering an even greater range of products and brands than offline shopping. We firmly believe it will not take long until end-customers in Mexico and across Latin America discover all the benefits that e-commerce offers.”

#amazon, #angel-ventures, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #funding, #latin-america, #mercadolibre, #mexico, #mexico-city, #online-marketplace, #online-marketplaces, #recent-funding, #ricardo-weder, #startups, #thrasio, #valoreo

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Private equity firm Marlin snatches up e-commerce optimization platform Lengow

French startup Lengow has a new landlord as Marlin Equity Partners has acquired a majority stake in the company. Lengow operates a softare-as-a-service platform to optimize e-commerce listings. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

In particular, many sellers now list their items on multiple e-commerce websites at once. For instance, a company could have its own e-commerce website and also sell products on Amazon, eBay, etc. And you may have noticed the same third-party sellers on different marketplaces.

Manually listing items across multiple e-commerce platforms would be extremely tedious. Behind the scenes, Lengow tries to automate as many steps as possible. First, you can import your products by connecting Lengow with your product information management system (PIM) or your e-commerce back end — it can run on Akeneo, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc.

You can then publish your products on multiple sales channels at once. It can be a marketplace, a price comparison website, a social network or an adtech platform. Examples include Amazon, Google Shopping, Criteo, Instagram, etc.

Lengow also helps you track orders, create rules when you’re running low on stock and manage your advertising strategy. Essentially, it’s the glue that makes all the moving parts of e-commerce stick together. There are 4,600 merchants using Lengow globally.

Marlin describes the deal as a growth investment. The firm plans to increase the value of Lengow in the coming years as it hasn’t reached its full potential yet. “We are looking forward to leveraging our operational and financial resources to support Lengow’s growth trajectory and continued international expansion,” Marlin principal Roland Pezzutto said in a statement.

#ecommerce, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #lengow, #marlin, #marlin-equity-partners, #startups

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Tony Florence, the low-flying head of NEA’s tech practice, on the art of building household brands

Tony Florence isn’t as well known to the public as other top investors like Bill Gurley or Marc Andreessen, but he’s someone who founders with SaaS and especially marketplace e-commerce companies know — or should. He’s responsible for the global tech investing activities for NEA, one of the world’s biggest venture firms in terms of assets under management (it closed its newest fund with $3.6 billion last year).

Florence has also been involved with a long list of e-commerce brands to break through, including Jet, Gilt, Goop, Casper, Letgo, and Moda Operandi.

It’s because we talked earlier this week with one of his newer e-commerce bets, Maisonette, that we wanted to ask him about brand building more than a year into a pandemic that has changed the world in both fleeting and permanent ways. We wound up talking about how customer acquisition has changed; what he thinks of the growing number of companies trying to roll up third-party sellers on Amazon; and how upstarts can maintain momentum when even younger companies become a shiny new fascination for customers.

Note: one topic that he couldn’t and wouldn’t comment on is the future of one famed founder who Florence has backed twice, Marc Lore, who stepped down from Walmart last month to begin building what he recently told Vox is a multi-decade project to build “a city of the future” supported by “a reformed version of capitalism.”

Part of our chat with Florence, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows:

TC: You’ve funded a number of very different businesses that have managed to grow even as Amazon has eaten up more of the retail market. Is there any sector or vertical you wouldn’t back because of the company?

TF: You have to be thoughtful about Amazon. I wouldn’t say there’s one particular area that you either can ignore or feel like you’re completely comfortable and open to, given the scale of their platform. At the same time, there are founding principles and fundamentals that we think about as they relate to companies being able to compete and operate successfully.

TC: And these are what? You’ve backed Marc Lore, Philip Krim (of Casper), Sylvana and Luisana of Maisonette. Do they have something in common?

TF:  Sometimes [founders] come at the problem organically; they’re living it [and want to solve it]. Other times, somebody like Marc sees a business opportunity and just attacks it. But there are commonalities. These are folks who are very customer centric, who are focused on good, fundamental unit economics, and who are obsessive about their people, their teams. It takes a village to build a young successful company, and all of those founders you mentioned are great at recruiting world-class people. There’s a sense of vision and mission and culture.

When you wake up and decide to do something, the majority of people you talk to just want to tell you the reasons why it can’t work, so it also takes a certain [wherewithal] to have such conviction around what you’re doing that you’re kind of all in on it, and you’re going to break through no matter what.

TC: Maisonette was going to open a brick-and-mortar store but put a pin in that plan because of COVID. Will we go back to seeing direct-to-consumer brands opening real-world locations when this is over? Has the pandemic permanently changed that calculation?

TF: Leading up to the pandemic, a lot of the young DTC companies that were direct-to-consumer brands, and even the traditional e-commerce marketplaces, were experimenting with offline. Some of it was out of necessity, frankly. Sometimes [customer acquisition costs] became so expensive that it was actually cheaper for them to go offline. In other cases, it was done because the customer wanted that closed loop experience, as with [mattress maker] Casper.

A lot of companies [opened these stores] in a contained way it worked really well. It’s very accretive financially to the overall business contribution, margin wise. It was accretive for the overall customer experience. And in many cases, it didn’t cannibalize anything. It just expanded the [total addressable market].

We’re spending a lot of time right now continuing to think through what are the permanent changes that are going to come out of the pandemic, but I would say the omnichannel model has really has started to take shape and succeed if you look at big retailers like Walmart and Target, so I think there will be an omnichannel dynamic to many of these companies that we’re talking about. Also, over the last 12 months, the cost of acquisition and the efficacy of marketing has swung back in the favor of these young companies. It’s improved to a point where we don’t really even need to think about offline.

TC: I know it had become expensive to acquire customers digitally because it was so crowded out there. Did it become less crowded?

TF: There were very few platforms that these companies could use pre pandemic that weren’t oversaturated . . . it was just very competitive, and that would bid up the cost of acquisition. In the last 12 months, you’ve seen big parts of that market go away. With airlines and financial services and a lot of the spend going way down, it’s become a lot cheaper for companies to market digitally.

TC: Still, it feels at times that it’s hard to maintain a brand’s momentum over time; there’s always some new outfit nipping at its heels. How does a brand itself fresh and relevant in 2021?

TF: There’s a hits dynamic — a fad dynamic — in the consumer space, so that’s always a challenge. You [compete by] continually reinventing and adding [to your offerings]. You see that in social categories, you see that in marketplaces [where they add] managed services and other components [like] payments, and you clearly see it in the way some of the direct-to-consumer companies continue to add new products to the mix.

You focus on the core aspects of your brand and its mission and vision and make sure that the customers really feel that. There’s a community dynamic that has really occurred the last four or five years around e-commerce companies. Glossier is a great example of a company that built a great community around a core set of product offerings, and that has really propelled that company beyond its core customer customer base.

There’s also a contextual commerce opportunity. Goop is a great example this; Gwyneth [Paltrow] brilliantly came up with [an effective way] to merge content and commerce, and that’s something a lot of companies in the commerce space have started to invest in.

TC: Content, community and not necessarily speed, so focusing on what Amazon does not. Can I ask: do you think Amazon needs to be reigned in?

TF: If you’re competing with them [in the] cloud market or a commerce market, they’re a very formidable competitor, and you got to take them very, very seriously. They’re at a scale that’s just incredibly impressive. But I do think you’re seeing a lot of innovation around the edges and companies finding areas that Amazon maybe can’t focus on or isn’t focusing on.

TC: What do you think of these Amazon Marketplace roll-ups that we’re seeing? There’s been at least a half of dozen of them that already, including Thrasio, which announced $750 million this week. All are raising money hand over first.

TF: We haven’t made an investment in the area, though we’re watching very closely. It can be a very capital intensive strategy to execute on because you’re buying brands and then bringing them onto the platform to consolidate and grow, but there’s just an enormous long tail to the e-commerce space and this is an opportunity to consolidate that.

TC: Like, an infinite opportunity? How many roll-ups can the market support?

TFL I do think that we’ll see a handful of these companies get to decent scale. The question will be whether you’ve got more of an arbitrage going on [by] buying companies and generating synergies or there’s some fundamental bigger breakthrough. If you could use AI [and] machine learning to understand how to better serve customers and think about customer acquisition a little bit better, that would be really interesting. If there are real economies of scale to the supply chains [or] baseline infrastructure, that would certainly be interesting.

It’s early on. It remains to be seen how this is gonna play out.

Pictured above, left to right: NEA’s global managing director, Scott Sandell, and Florence, who is the head of global tech investing activities at NEA and who works alongside Mohamad Makhzoumi, who oversees the firm’s healthcare practice.

#casper, #ecommerce, #glossier, #goop, #jet, #maisonette, #marc-lore, #marketplaces, #nea, #tc, #tony-florence, #venture-capital

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Thrasio raises $750M more in equity for its Amazon roll-up play

The Amazon Marketplace roll-up play is well and truly underway. In the latest development, Thrasio — one of the biggest and earliest movers in the market to consolidate third-party sellers on the platform, with the promise to provide better economies of scale to manage and grow those businesses — announced that it has raised another $750 million at a valuation that is likely to be over $3.75 billion.

The funding is being led by existing backers Oaktree and Advent, and it includes participation from previous unnamed investors. (That list of equity backers has included Peak6, Western Technology Investment, and Jason Finger, the co-founder of one of the early players in food delivery startups, Seamless.)

Thrasio said it will be using the money to continue its rapid pace of buying up more third-party sellers in the “Amazon FBA ecosystem”, a reference to smaller merchants that sell and distribute their products using the “Fulfilment By Amazon” service from the e-commerce giant.

“Thrasio continues its exceptional growth,” said Joshua Silberstein, who co-founded and co-leads the company with Carlos Cashman. “Over the past two months, we’ve been acquiring $1.5 million in revenue per day.” Those are his italics. “Thrasio is now closing two or three deals every week.”

Thrasio to date has acquired nearly 100 FBA businesses says that it reached that number by way of evaluating 6,000 possible companies and 14,000 “category-leading products.”

Six thousand may sound like a big number, but one estimate puts the number of third-party sellers on Amazon at around 5 million, a number that appears to be growing exponentially at the moment, with more than 1 million sellers joining the platform last year.

The size of the opportunity, plus the Amazon-proven promise of economy of scale in the world of e-commerce, are likely two reasons why we have seen so many startups emerging looking to roll them up.

Thrasio’s $750 million fundraise is an all-equity venture round. Based on its $3 billion valuation in January (when it closed a debt round of $500 million), this latest cash injection appears to be coming in at a $3.75 billion valuation, but quite possibly more.

“Quite possibly more” because the news comes at a particularly overheated time in this specific area of e-commerce.

Thrasio’s news came out yesterday afternoon, only hours after we reported on a new rival called Branded, which launched its own roll-up business on $150 million in funding and with a critical detail: one of the “co-founders” is the deep-pocketed European VC firm Target Global.

And that comes on the heels of others in this space — they include, in addition to Thrasio and Branded, Berlin Brands Group, SellerXHeydayHeroesPerch and more — collectively raising or committing from their own balance sheets well over $1 billion in aid of their own efforts to buy up small but promising third-party merchants.

For its part, Thrasio notes that the funding was raised quickly and diluted existing shareholders by 11.1%, and that it has now raised $1.75 in equity and debt.

We have asked Thrasio to confirm its valuation and will update as we learn more.

Thrasio products do not carry any kind of Thrasio branding. But I’m guessing that as Thrasio and its rivals look for a better edge and aim to give the impression of more quality (rather than the fly-by-night feeling that some of these sellers have today), we may see more of that coming out.

Brands that it owns include Vybe Percussion deep tissue massage gun, Circadian Optics bright light therapy lamps, and skincare products from Sdara Skincare, Thrasio said.

In the competition for the best of these, Thrasio claims its marketing and analytics can help these newcomers “compete with top household name labels, quickly becoming the trusted items that consumers turn to for their everyday needs.”

The feverish pace of fundraising in the area of FBA roll-ups feels very much like a bubble in the market — not least because none of these still-young companies have yet to prove that the strategy to buy up and consolidate these sellers is a useful and profitable one.

(The only one that has stated that it is profitable, Berlin Brands Group, has done so on its existing business model, which has involved building a variety of third-party sellers from the ground up itself, not buying up others, with whatever legacy baggage they may carry, good or bad.)

Thrasio is very much in the go-big-or-go-home stage of scaling with funding, and in its favor, although it’s only three years old (founded in 2018), that age has made it one of the oldest and more proven in this current wave.

“In ten years, omnichannel retail will be the backbone of the entire consumer products ecosystem – but today, it’s still in its genesis. Every day, the very fabric of this market is twisting as it continues to evolve,” said Cashman in a statement. “Our balance sheet isn’t built to win yesterday’s battles – it is designed to pursue the accelerating opportunities that accompany these kinds of seismic changes in an industry.”

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #funding, #roll-ups, #thrasio

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Mexican online grocer Jüsto raises $65M in General Atlantic-led Series A

Jüsto, an online supermarket based in Mexico City, announced Tuesday it has raised $65 million in Series A round led by General Atlantic.

The amount is sizable for a Series A in general, but supersized for a LatAm startup. In fact, according to Pitchbook data cited by General Atlantic, the round represents the largest Series A raised in Latin America in the past decade.

Existing backers also participated in the round including Foundation Capital and Mountain Nazca.

Ricardo Weder, former president of Cabify (a large ride-sharing company operating in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal) founded Jüsto in 2019 with a mission to “disrupt the Latin American grocery industry.” It claims to be the first supermarket in Mexico with no physical store. Customers can buy their groceries directly from the website or via the app and Jüsto delivers the order to the customer’s location of choice.

The concept is clearly resonating with consumers as Jüsto saw impressive growth in 2020 with a 16-fold increase in revenue. 

Jüsto prides itself on working directly with fresh produce suppliers so that it can offer “the freshest” fruits, vegetables, meats and fish in the market. It also offers a variety of products such as pantry staples, personal hygiene and beauty, home and cleaning, drinks and pet-related items.

The startup only sells items from local suppliers, with whom it prides itself on developing fair trade agreements. (“Jüsto” means fair in Spanish) It also uses artificial intelligence to forecast demand and to try and reduce food waste at its micro-fulfillment centers. The company’s approach results in “competitive prices, lower transaction costs, and improved convenience to consumers by eliminating intermediaries in the supply chain,” according to the company.

Looking ahead, Jüsto plans to use its new capital on expanding across Mexico and Latin America as a whole, enhancing its last-mile logistics infrastructure and marketing initiatives.

Luis Cervantes, managing director and head of Mexico City for General Atlantic, believes Mexico is at an inflection point in its transition to a digital economy.

“We see Jüsto as leading the way in the high-growth online grocery space with its technology-centric, mission-driven approach,” he said in a written statement. “Under Ricardo’s leadership, we believe Jüsto is positioned for significant expansion as it disrupts and transforms the legacy grocery value chain.”

 Jüsto marks General Atlantic’s fifth investment in Mexico since 2014. Since then, General Atlantic has invested nearly USD $1 billion in what it describes as “high-growth” Mexican companies. 

The financing brings Jüsto’s tot