Norway’s Kolonial rebrands as Oda, bags $265M on a $900M valuation to grow its online grocery delivery business in Europe

Food delivery startups, and specifically those focused on grocery delivery, continue to reap super-sized rounds of funding in Europe, buoyed by a year of pandemic living that has led many consumers to shift to shopping online. Today, the latest of these is coming out of Norway.

Kolonial, a startup based out of Oslo that offers same-day or next-day delivery of food, meal kits and home essentials — its aim is to provide “a weekly shop” for prices that compete against those of traditional supermarkets — has raised €223 million ($265 million) in an equity round of funding. Along with that, the company — profitable as of last year — is rebranding to Oda and plans to use the money (and new name) to expand to more markets, starting first with Finland and then Germany in 2022.

The market for online grocery ordering and delivery is gearing up to be a very crowded one, with hundreds of millions of dollars being poured by investors into the fuel tanks of a range of startups — each originating out of different geographies, each with a slightly different approach. Oda believes it has the right mix to end up at the front of the pack.

“We have found ourselves in a unique position,” CEO and co-founder Karl Munthe-Kaas said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We have built a service targeting the mass market with instant deliveries and low prices, because if you want to capture the full basket for the family, you can’t be a premium service. We’ve done that, and we’re profitable.”

And now, it will have the backing of two e-commerce heavyweights for its next steps. SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and Prosus (the tech holdings of South Africa’s Naspers), are co-leading the round, with past backers Kinnevik and a strategic investor, Norwegian “soft discount” chain REMA, also participating.

Munthe-Kaas confirmed to TechCrunch in an interview that Oda is valued at €750 million ($900 million) post-money.

The funding is a big leap for Oda (the name is not officially going to come into effect until the end of this month, although the company is already describing itself with the new brand, so we’ll follow that lead). PitchBook data notes that before this round, Oda had only raised about $96 million, and its last valuation was estimated to be just $178 million in 2017.

The company has certainly come a long way. Founded in 2013 by ten friends, Kolonial originally seemed to have a more modest vision when it first started out: Kolonial in Norwegian doesn’t mean “colonial” (a connotation Munthe-Kaas nevertheless said the startup wanted to avoid, one big reason for the change), but “cornershop.” These days, Oda is focused more on competing against large supermarkets — its average order size is $120 — yet with a significantly more efficient cost base behind the scenes.

It’s also been helped by the current climate. Online grocery shopping has been growing and maturing for a while now, but the last year been a veritable hothouse in that process: Covid-19, shelter in place orders and a general desire for people to keep their distance all compelled many more consumers to try out online grocery shopping for the first time, and many have stuck with it.

“We have seen a significant inflection point with grocery over the last year with the market transitioning online, accelerated by Covid,” said Larry Illg, CEO of Prosus Food, in a statement. “Oda’s leadership and impressive growth in Norway paired with its ground-breaking technology and ambition to scale across Europe and beyond makes them an ideal partner to tackle the grocery opportunity over the coming years.”

Oda has over the years grown to become the sector leader in a category it arguably helped define in its home country. It was profitable last year on revenues of €200 million, and it currently controls some 70% of Norway’s online grocery ordering and delivery market based on its own particular approach to the model.

That model involves Oda building and controlling its own supply chains from producers to consumers (no partnerships with third y partphysical retailers), producing several of the products itself (such as baked goods) to order, and using centralized fulfillment centers to manage orders for large geographies.

“Centralized warehouses means 50 supermarkets in one location,” Munthe-Kaas said, adding that this also makes the business significantly greener, too.

Those fulfillment centers, meanwhile, are operated at “extreme efficiency”, in his words. Oda’s grocery item picking averages out at 212 units per hour — that is, the amount of items “picked” for orders in a week divided by the number of hours in a week. The next closest UPH number in the industry, Munthe-Kaas said, was Ocado in the UK at 170 UPH, and the norm, he added, was more like 100 UPH, with physical store picking (where customers select items from shelves themselves) averaging out at 70 UPH.

All of this translates to much more cost-effective operations, including more efficient ordering and stock rotation, which helps Oda make better margins on its sales overall. Munthe-Kaas declined to go into the details of how Oda manages to get such high UPH numbers — that’s competitive knowledge, he said — noting only that a lot of automation and data analytics goes into the process.

That will be music to the ears of SoftBank, which has had a complicated run in e-commerce in the last several years, backing a number of interesting juggernauts that have nonetheless found themselves unable to improve on challenging unit economics.

“Oda’s leading position in Norway is testament to the merits of its bespoke and data-driven approach in offering a personalised, holistic and reliable online grocery experience,” said Munish Varma, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “We believe that Oda’s customer-centric focus, market-leading automation technology and fulfillment efficiency are a winning combination, and position Oda for success in scaling internationally for the benefit of customers and suppliers alike.”   

The big challenge for Oda going forward will be whether it can transplant its business model as it has been developed for Norway into further markets.

Oda will not only be looking for customer traction for its own business, but it will be doing so potentially against heavy competition from others also looking to expand outside their borders.

There are other online supermarket plays like Rohlik out of the Czech Republic (which in March bagged $230 million in funding); Everli out of Italy (formerly called Supermercato24, it also raised $100 million); Picnic out of the Netherlands (which has yet to announce any recent funding but it feels like it’s only a matter of time given it too has publicly laid out international ambitions); and Ocado in the UK (which also has raised huge amounts of money to pursue its own international ambitions).

And there is also the wave of companies that are building more fleet-of-foot approaches around smaller inventories and much faster turnaround times, the idea being that this can cater both to individuals and a different way of shopping — smaller and more often — even if you are a family.

Among these so-called “q-commerce” (quick commerce) players, covering just some of the most recent funding rounds, Glovo just last week raised $528 million; Gorillas in Berlin raised $290 million; Turkey’s Getir — also rapidly expanding across Europe — picked up $300 million on a $2.6 billion valuation as Sequoia took its first bite into the European food market; and reportedly Zapp in London has also closed $100 million in funding.

Deliveroo, which went public last week, is also now delivering groceries (in partnership with Sainsbury’s) alongside its restaurant delivery service.

These, ironically, are more cornershop replacements than Oda itself (formerly called Kolonia, or “cornershop” in Norwegian), and Munthe-Kaas said he sees them as “complementary” to what Oda does.

Indeed, Munthe-Kaas remains very committed to the basic rulebook that Oda has lived by for years.

“You need to beat the physical stores on quality, selection and price and get it home delivered,” he said. “This is a margin business and the only way to optimize is to be completely relentless.”

But he also understands that this might ultimately need to be modified depending on the market. For example, while the company has not worked with other retailers in Norway — even the investment by REMA is not for distribution but for better economies of scale in procuring products that REMA and Oda will sell independently from each other — this might be a route that Oda chooses to take in other markets.

“We’re in discussions with several other retailers, wholesalers and producers,” he said. “It’s important to get sourcing terms and have upstream logistics, but there are many ways of achieving that. We are super open to making partnerships on that front, but we still think the way to win is to run the value chain.”

#ecommerce, #europe, #food, #funding, #grocery, #grocery-delivery, #online-grocery, #prosus, #softbank

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Prosus classifieds group OLX shuts down Berlin’s Frontier Car Group to focus OLX Autos on LatAm and Asia

Cazoo is picking up significant capital today by teaming up with a SPAC in the U.S. at a $7 billion valuation, but it’s the end of the line for another big European name in used-car sales. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that Berlin-based Frontier Car Group, which builds used-car marketplaces with a focus on emerging markets, is shutting down its operations in the city.

Its majority owner OLX Group, a division of Prosus (the tech holdings of Naspers that is now listed as a separate entity), said that it wants to refocus on more local operations in Latin America and Asia under its OLX Autos brand, into which it will fold in the remaining FCG operations.

The company currently has operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Peru. OLX Autos independently also had three other brands: CarFirst brand in Pakistan, Cars45 in Nigeria, and webuyanycar.com in the US.

OLX took a controlling stake in Frontier as a result of an investment of about $400 million in late 2019, valuing Frontier at around $700 million at the time. There was no official announcement of the closure, but we saw the news in passing on Twitter, and Prosus spokesperson confirmed the details to TechCrunch in a statement.

“OLX Group can confirm the closure of the FCG Germany GmbH entity based in Berlin over the coming months,” said the spokesperson. “This entity represents a subset of the OLX Group workforce in Berlin – other OLX Group employees in Berlin were not impacted by this entity closure, and those operations are ongoing. This decision to close FCG Germany GmbH was not taken lightly. The decision reflects the evolution of the OLX Autos strategy to focus more strongly on the LatAm and Asia markets. In order to have our development teams closer to our customers, we will shift core product development operations to India, a key market for OLX Autos. OLX Group is committed to taking care of our people in such a difficult situation and has offered a financial runway beyond what is compulsory, to allow time and flexibility to find new roles. Effected employees are being encouraged to apply for open roles within our other entities.”

About 100 people are being impacted by the news, the company confirmed to us and it looks to be an immediate move. If you go to FCG’s site now, it automatically redirects to OLX.

Although it was founded and headquartered in Berlin, Frontier Car Group had always focused on emerging markets and taking the used-car marketplace model to those countries.

Inspired by Cazoo rival Auto1 — another Berlin-based used-car marketplace that went public via a listing in Germany in February and is now valued at $12.6 billion (likely an encouraging comparison for Cazoo investors) — Frontier founders Sujay Tyle, Peter Lindholm and André Kussmann thought they could take that model to less developed markets for a bigger opportunity.

“I fell in love with the Auto1 model,” Tyle told TechCrunch back in 2018. “I could see how it could be applied to emerging markets. Emerging markets represent nascency.” Tyle himself is a whizz-kid who hails from the U.S. and was in his early 20s when he co-founded Frontier. He left it in August 2020 and now lives in Mexico City, building a new e-commerce investor there called Merama.

Frontier, in part because of the success of Auto1 (which took hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from the likes of Sequoia, SoftBank and others), became a part of the guard of exciting new tech startups building businesses out of Berlin.

That focus on emerging markets linked up Naspers’ global expansion strategy, and so OLX, a classifieds operation that had an interest in automotive marketplaces, became a strategic investor in Frontier, first with a smaller stake, and eventually taking majority ownership and control of the operation.

It’s not clear why OLX decided to wind down the Frontier brand and to double down OLX Autos but notably, over the last year it looks like OLX was restructuring in other markets, including with the layoff of 250 people in its operations in India after shutting down marketplaces focused on real estate and used goods.

While some companies like Cazoo have apparently seen a strong surge of business in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health crisis has hit a number of economies, economic sectors and specific companies harder than others, leading to tightening costs. Overall, we’ve seen big slumps in new car sales in different markets around the world.

A Prosus spokesperson said that both OLX and OLX Autos were impacted at the start of Covid-19 but have since recovered. Prosus has remained profitable in what has been a turbulent year, but some have pointed out that those profits have declined. (It will next update its financials in June.)

#ecommerce, #emerging-markets, #europe, #frontier-car-group, #marketplaces, #naspers, #olx, #prosus, #used-cars

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Leading a $15 million round, Prosus Ventures makes the challenger bank Klar its first bet in Mexico

Klar, a new online bank based in Mexico City, has become the first big bet that Prosus Ventures (the firm formerly known as Naspers Ventures) is taking in Latin America outside of Brazil.

Founded by Stefan Moller, a former consultant at Bain & Co. who advised large banks, Klar blends Moller’s work experience in Mexico with his connections to the German banking world and the tech team at Berlin -based n26, to create a challenger bank offering deposit and credit services for Mexican customers.

The Mexican market is woefully underserved when it comes to the finance industry, according to Moller. Only 10% of Mexican adults have a credit card, something Moller said is the cheapest consumer lending instrument around.

That’s why Klar launched last year with both credit and debit services. The company has 200,000 banking customers and roughly 27,000 of those customers have taken out loans through the bank. A typical loan is roughly $110, according to Moller, and each loan comes with a 68% annual percentage rate. 

If that sounds usurious, that’s because it is — at least by U.S. standards. In the U.S. a typical credit card will run somewhere between 16% and 24%, according to data from WalletHub. In Mexico, Moller said the typical interest rate is 70% (no wonder only 10% of adults have credit cards).

Still, the opportunity to expand credit and debit services made sense to Prosus, which led the company’s Series A round alongside investors including the International Finance Corporation and former investors Quona capital, who led Klar´s SEED round, Mouro Capital (formerly Santander Innoventures) and aCrew.

Banafsheh Fathieh, the Prosus Ventures principal who led the investment for the firm, said that the commitment to Klar will likely be the first of many investments that her firm makes in the region — both in fintech and likely in Mexico’s tech ecosystem more broadly.

Prosus is famous for making early bets on emerging technology companies in developing markets. Perhaps most famously the firm’s parent company was an early investor in Tencent — a multi-million dollar bet that has generated billions in returns.

Before this investment, Prosus had confined its work in the Latin American region to investments in Brazilian technology companies like Creditas and Movile .

“Prosus Ventures partners with entrepreneurs that are solving big societal problems with technology, in a uniquely local way. We invest in sectors of the economy where technology can lead to meaningful change in the lives of consumers. Klar has identified a massive need in the Mexican financial market and brings a unique solution through their credit and debit offering,” said Banafsheh Fathieh from Prosus Ventures, in a statement. “In less than a year, the team has shown an ability to build a world-class digital bank for the masses, one focused on financial access and inclusion. We are very excited to partner with them on that mission.”

#bank, #banking, #berlin, #brazil, #credit-card, #creditas, #economy, #financial-technology, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #mouro-capital, #movile, #n26, #naspers, #naspers-ventures, #online-bank, #prosus, #prosus-ventures, #tc, #technology, #tencent, #united-states

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