Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Shaun White, Shawn Mendes get behind Shelf Engine

Shelf Engine’s mission to eliminate food waste in grocery retailers now has some additional celebrity backers. The company brought in a $2 million extension to its $41 million Series B announced in March.

Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Shaun White and Shawn Mendes are the new backers, who came in through a strategic round of funding alongside PLUS Capital to bring the Seattle-based company’s total funding to $60 million since the company’s inception in 2016. This includes a $12 million Series A from 2020.

Shelf Engine’s grocery order automation technology applies advanced statistical models and artificial intelligence to deliver accurate food order volume so that customers can reduce their food waste by as much as 32% while increasing gross margins and sales of more than 50%. The company has already helped retailers divert 1 million pounds of food waste from landfills, Stefan Kalb, co-founder and CEO of Shelf Engine, told TechCrunch.

“We’ve had phenomenal growth last year, some of it from our mid-market customers, but mostly from customers like Target and Kroger,” Kalb said. “Our other big news is that we hired a president (Kane McCord) in the past six weeks, which is cool to have the reinforcement on the leadership side.”

Over the past 12 months, the company, which works with retailers like Kroger, Whole Foods and Compass Group, saw over 540% revenue growth. At the same time, it grew its employees to 200 from 23, Kalb said. He expects to more than double Shelf Engine’s headcount over the next 12 months.

As a result, the new funding will be used to scale with current customers and accelerate further investment in R&D of its AI systems and automation capabilities.

Meanwhile, Amanda Groves, partner at PLUS Capital, said her firm works with about 65 individuals who are in film, television, sports and culture, including the four new investors in Shelf Engine.

She says many of her clients are looking to participate in business as an investor or with sweat equity. Her firm works with them to determine interests and will then source opportunities and invest alongside them.

Shelf Engine fits into one of PLUS Capital’s core investment areas of sustainability. The firm looks across different sectors like food, energy, apparel, packaging and recycling. Shelf Engine’s approach of leveraging technology to aid in sustainability efforts was attractive to all of the investors, as was their method of scaling within grocery clients without affecting consumer behavior.

“When Shelf Engine is installed in the grocery store, they can reduce spoilage by 10% right off the bat — that immediacy of the impact was what got our clients excited,” Groves added.

One of Shelf Engine’s first celebrity investors was Joe Montana, and Kalb said partnering with celebrities enables the company’s mission to eliminate food waste and address the climate crisis to be made more aware.

“B2B software is not as glamorous, but the climate has become a big issue and something many celebrities care about,” he added. “Shawn Mendes has over 60 million followers, so for him to share about this issue is extremely meaningful. Where he invests will lead to his followers knocking on the doors of stores and saying ‘this matters to me.’ That is the strategy shift from B2B to a movement for our community.”

The company is not alone in tackling food waste, which globally each year amounts to $1.3 trillion. For example, Apeel, OLIO, Imperfect Foods, Mori and Phood Solutions are all working to improve the food supply chain and have attracted venture dollars in the past year to go after that mission.

Shelf Engine is already in over 3,000 stores nationwide in the areas of grocery, food service and convenience stores, which “is a large lift from 18 months ago,” Kalb said. Next up, the company is progressing to open new categories and managing more projects. He is specifically looking at what the company can manage in the store and manage for the customer.

“We are getting to the point where we can manage more of the store in complex categories like meat, seafood and deli that are mainly custom,” he added.

#artificial-intelligence, #b2b-software, #compass-group, #ellen-degeneres, #enterprise, #food, #food-service, #food-supply-chain, #food-waste, #funding, #greentech, #grocery-store, #joe-montana, #kroger, #plus-capital, #portia-de-rossi, #recent-funding, #retailers, #shaun-white, #shawn-mendes, #shelf-engine, #startups, #stefan-kalb, #target, #tc, #whole-foods

Sustainable e-commerce startup Olive now ships beauty products, in addition to apparel

Earlier this year, a startup called Olive launched its new shopping site and app with the goal of making e-commerce more efficient, convenient, and sustainable by offering a way for consumers to aggregate their orders from across retailers into single shipments that arrive in reusable packaging, not cardboard. If items need to be returned, those same packages are reused. Otherwise, Olive will return to pick them up. Since its February 2021 debut, the company has grown to include over 100 retailers, predominately in the fashion space. Today, it’s expanding again by adding support for another 25 beauty retailers.

Launch partners on the new effort include brands like Supergoop!, Kora Organics, Pai Skincare, Erno Laszlo, Jecca Blac, Sahajan, Clark’s Botanicals, NuFace, Purlisse, Cover FX, LYS Beauty, SiO Beauty, Peace Out Skincare, Koh Gen Do, Julep Beauty, In Common Beauty, Indie Lee, Glow Recipe, Ursa Major, RMS Beauty, Ceremonia, Sweet Chef, Follain, and BalmLabs.

They join Olive’s numerous apparel and accessory retailers like Adidas, Superga, Rag & Bone, Birdies, Vince, Goop, Khaite, and Veronica Beard, among others.

To support the expansion, Olive also developed a new set of reusable packaging that has protective elements for more damageable items. While before, the company had offered a variety of packages like soft-sided garment bags and various sizes of more rigid containers (see below), it’s now introducing its own alternative to the air bubble strips you’ll find in most Amazon boxes these days. Olive’s version is integrated into its reusable packaging and can be easily deflated by the customer when it’s time to return the package at pickup.

Image Credits: Olive, founder Nate Faust

The idea for Olive is a timely one. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce adoption has soared. But so has consumers’ guilt. Multiple packages land on doorsteps every week, with cardboard and plastic to recycle — if that’s even available in your area. Delivery trucks — Amazon, UPS, FedEx, and others — are now a daily spectacle on every city street. Meanwhile, market leaders like Amazon and Walmart seem largely interested in increasing the speed of delivery, not necessarily the efficiency and sustainability. (Amazon allows shoppers to pick an Amazon Day delivery, for consolidated shipments, but it’s opt-in.)

Olive founder Nate Faust says he was inspired to build the company after realizing how little interest there was from larger e-commerce players in addressing some of the inconveniences and inefficiencies in the market. Faust had previously served as a vice president at Quidsi (which ran Diapers.com and Soap.com and sold to Amazon), then co-founder and COO at Jet, which was acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion. Before Olive, he was a senior vice president at Walmart.

After some soul searching, he realized he wanted to build something in the e-commerce space that was focused more on the social and environmental impact, not just on driving growth and consumption.

Image Credits: Olive

“I had an epiphany one evening when taking out the trash and recycling,” Faust explains. “It’s pretty crazy that we’re this far into e-commerce and this is the status quo delivery experience —  all this waste, which is both an environmental issue and a hassle for consumers,” he says. “And the bigger issue than the packaging is actually the fact that the majority of those packages are delivered one at a time, and those last-mile emissions are actually the biggest contributor of carbon emissions in the post-purchase e-commerce supply chain.”

Consumers may not think about all the issues, because many of them are hidden, but they do struggle in other ways beyond dealing with the waste. Returns are still a hassle — so much so, that Amazon now allows customers to go to Kohl’s where it’s partnered on in-store return kiosks that also help the brick-and-mortar retailer increase their own foot traffic.

Plus, consumers who shop from different sites have to set up online accounts over and over, entering in addresses and payment information many times, which is an annoyance. Olive offers the convenience of an Amazon-like one-stop-shop experience on that front.

Meanwhile, Olive addresses the return issue by allowing consumers to simply place their unwanted items back in Olive’s packaging then leave them on their doorstep or with the building’s doorman for return. It works with both the USPS and a network of local carriers to serve the customers in its current footprint, which is about 100 million U.S. consumers on both coasts.

While customers don’t have to deal with packaging, it hasn’t been entirely eliminated from the equation at this point. Olive today partners with retailers who ship packages to its own west coast and east coast warehouses, where they repackage them into the reusable containers to deliver to customers. Right now, that means Olive is responsible for the recycling issues. But it’s working with its brand partners to have them pack orders directly into the reusable packaging from the start — before shipping to Olive’s consolidation warehouses for delivery. Today, it has a few retailers on board with this effort, but it hopes that will eventually expand to include all partners.

The company generates revenue on an affiliate commission model, which works for now. But over time, it may need to evolve that business model over time, as its customer base and partnerships grow. At present, around 10,000 consumers have used Olive, ahead of any large-scale marketing and customer acquisition efforts on the startup’s part.

For now, New York-based Olive is growing its business by way of a fundraise of around $15 million from investors including Invus, Primary Venture Partners, and SignalFire.

#adidas, #amazon, #birdies, #diapers-com, #e-commerce, #east-coast, #ecommerce, #fedex, #goop, #kohls, #marketing, #nate-faust, #new-york, #online-shopping, #primary-venture-partners, #product-management, #quidsi, #retailers, #reuse, #soap-com, #startups, #united-states, #usps, #walmart, #west-coast

Amazon partners with AXS to install Amazon One palm readers at entertainment venues

Amazon’s biometric scanner for retail, the Amazon One palm reader, is expanding beyond the e-commerce giant’s own stores. The company announced today it has acquired its initial third-party customer with ticketing company AXS, which will implement the Amazon One system at Denver, Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre as an option for contactless entry for event-goers.

This is the first time the Amazon One system will be used outside an Amazon-owned retail store, and the first time it’s used for entry into an entertainment venue. Amazon says it expects AXS to roll out the system to more venues in the future, but didn’t offer any specifics as to which ones or when.

At Red Rocks, guests will be able to associate their AXS Mobile ID with Amazon One at dedicated stations before they enter the amphitheatre, or they can enroll at a second station once inside in order to use the reader at future AXS events. The enrollment process takes about a minute and customers can choose to enroll either one or both palms. Once set up, ticketholders can use a dedicated entry line for Amazon One users.

“We are proud to work with Amazon to continue shaping the future of ticketing through cutting-edge innovation,” said Bryan Perez, CEO of AXS, in a statement. “We are also excited to bring Amazon One to our clients and the industry at a time when there is a need for fast, convenient, and contactless ticketing solutions. At AXS, we are continually deploying new technologies to develop secure and smarter ticketing offerings that improve the fan experience before, during, and after events,” he added.

Amazon’s palm reader was first introduced amid the pandemic in September 2020, as a way for shoppers to pay at Amazon Go convenience stores using their palm. To use the system, customers would first insert their credit card then hover their palm over the device to associate their unique palm print with their payment mechanism. After setup, customers could enter the store just by holding their palm above the biometric scanner for a second or so. Amazon touted the system as a safer, “contactless” means of payment, as customers aren’t supposed to actually touch the reader. (Hopefully, that’s the case, considering the pandemic rages on.)

On the tech side, Amazon One uses computer vision technology to create the palm signatures, it said.

In the months that followed, Amazon expanded the biometric system to several more stores, including other Amazon Go convenience stores, Amazon Go Grocery stores, and its Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star stores. This April, it brought the system to select Whole Foods locations. To encourage more sign-ups, Amazon even introduced a $10 promotional credit to enroll your palm prints at its supported stores.

When palm prints are linked to Amazon accounts, the company is able to collect data from customers’ offline activity to target ads, offers, and recommendations over time. And the data remains with Amazon until a customer explicitly deletes it, or if the customer doesn’t use the feature for at least two years.

While the system offers an interesting take on contactless payments, Amazon’s track record in this area has raised privacy concerns. The company had in the past sold biometric facial recognition services to law enforcement in the U.S. Its facial recognition technology was the subject of a data privacy lawsuit. And it was found to be still storing Alexa voice data even after users deleted their audio files.

Amazon has responded by noting its palm print images are encrypted and sent to a secure area built for Amazon One in the cloud where Amazon creates the customers’ palm signatures. It also has noted it allows customers to unenroll from either a device or from its website, one.amazon.com once all transactions have been processed.

#alexa, #amazon, #amazon-music, #ceo, #computer-vision-technology, #computing, #denver, #e-reader, #ecommerce, #facial-recognition, #privacy, #retail-store, #retailers, #technology, #united-states, #whole-foods

Fintech startup SellersFunding raises $166.5M in equity, credit round to support e-commerce sellers

SellersFunding secured $166.5 million in a combination of Series A equity funding and a credit facility to continue developing its technology and payments platforms for e-commerce businesses.

Northzone led the round and was joined by Endeavor Catalyst and Fasanara. SellersFunding CEO Ricardo Pero did not disclose the funding breakdown, but did say the company previously raised two seed rounds for a total of $40 million in equity and more than $100 million in credit facilities, including one that the company was expanding to $200 million.

SellersFunding, with offices in Florida, New York and London, created a digital platform that delivers financial tools and resources to streamline global commerce for thousands of marketplaces, including working capital, cross-border cash management, tax solutions and business valuation.

Pero got the idea for the company after spending 20 years in the financial industry. He left JP Morgan in 2016 with a drive to start his own company. He was consulting for a friend selling on Amazon who asked him to help make sense of Amazon’s fees and to review the next year’s budget because the friend was struggling to keep up with growth.

“I helped him address the fees issue, but when I went to talk to traditional lenders, I found that they have no clue about e-commerce and the needs of SMEs,” he said.

In addition to being a lending source for businesses selling on these marketplaces, SellersFunding leverages sales data provided by the marketplaces and e-commerce platforms to create sales and cash flow estimates based on the credit limits given to clients so that owners can better understand the fees they are paying and make more informed decisions.

He founded the company in 2017, and today has over 30,000 registered users and is approaching $10 billion in sales volume that is feeding data into SellersFunding’s daily models. The company makes money as both a lender and on fees it charges for payments collected by its customers. Merchants can collect money from marketplaces and pay their suppliers in local or foreign currency.

SellersFunding has consistently grown 300% year over year, Pero said. As such, he intends to use the new funding to scale globally, expand the team, create a marketing budget and look for two small acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe.

The company will continue to invest on the payments side and to promote cross-border payments.

“When I look at the payments landscape, companies are competing on pricing and I don’t think we will ever have a focus there, but instead will compete on customer experience,” Pero added. “Our core business will always be lending and our core investments will be payments and technology, but then we will extend to other services that our clients want.”

With an eye on expanding internationally, it fit to bring on Northzone as a partner, he added. The venture firm is based in Europe and was of a similar vision for thinking globally.

Jeppe Zink, general partner at Northzone, said via email that Pero and his team “are the most experienced in this category” and are building a category leader that is “more experienced and understanding of the lending side than its competitors.”

“We have seen this massive rise in e-shopping, most of the new ones coming from marketplaces like Amazon and Shopify, and if you look at the sellers, thousands are small businesses sourcing their goods which means that they are very important customers,” Zink added. “Normal banks like Barclay can’t check credit. SellersFinding is helping small businesses get this credit, and rightly so. In the same way we thought neobanks won with accounts created when it comes to delivering credit and banking products, they are nowhere to be found yet.”

#banking, #ecommerce, #endeavor-catalyst, #enterprise, #fasanara, #financial-tools, #funding, #jeppe-zink, #northzone, #online-lending, #payments, #recent-funding, #retailers, #ricardo-pero, #saas, #sellersfunding, #startups, #tc

GrubMarket gobbles up $120M at a $1B+ pre-money valuation to take on the grocery supply chain

When people talk about “online food delivery” services, chances are that they’ll think of the Uber Eats, Instacarts and Getirs of this world. But today a startup that’s tackling a different aspect of the market — addressing the supply chain that subsequently turns the wheels of the bigger food distribution machine — is announcing a big round of funding as it continues to grow.

GrubMarket, which provides software and services that help link up and manage relationships between food suppliers and their customers — which can include wholesalers and other distributors, markets and supermarkets, delivery startups, restaurants, and consumers — has picked up $120 million in a Series E round of funding.

The funding is coming from a wide mix of investors. Liberty Street Funds, Walleye Capital, Japan Post Capital, Joseph Stone Capital, Pegasus Tech Ventures, Tech Pioneers Fund are among the new backers, who are being joined by existing investors Celtic House Asia Partners, INP Capital, Reimagined Ventures, Moringa Capital Management, and others, along with other unnamed participants

Mike Xu, GrubMarket’s founder and CEO (pictured, above), tells me that the company is currently profitable in a big way. It’s now at a $1 billion annualized run-rate, having grown revenues 300% over last year, with some markets like New York growing even more (it went from less than $10 million ARR to $100 million+).

With operations currently in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, and some 40 warehouses nationwide. GrubMarket had a pre-money valuation of over $1 billion, and now it will be looking to grow even more, both in terms of territory and in terms of tech, moving ahead in a market that is largely absent from competitors.

“We are still the first mover in this space,” Xu said when I asked him in an interview about rivals. “No one else is doing consolidation on the supply chain side as we are. We are trying to consolidate the American food supply chain through software technologies, while also trying to find the best solutions in this space.”

(And for some context, the $1 billion+ valuation is more than double GrubMarket’s valuation in October 2020, when it raised $60 million at a $500 million post-money valuation.)

Longer term, the plan will be to look at an IPO provisionally filing the paperwork by summer 2022, Xu added.

GrubMarket got its start several years ago as one of many companies looking to provide a more efficient farm-to-table service. Tapping into a growing consumer interest in higher quality, and more traceable food, it saw an opportunity to build a platform to link up producers to the consumers, restaurants and grocery stores that were buying their products. (Grocery stores, incidentally, might be independent operations, or something much bigger: one of GrubMarket’s biggest customers is Whole Foods, which uses GrubMarket for produce supply in certain regions of the U.S. It is currently is the company’s biggest customer.)

As we wrote last year, GrubMarket — like many other grocery delivery services — found that the pandemic initially provided a big fillip, and a big rush of demand, from that consumer side of the business, as more people turned to internet-based ordering and delivery services to offset the fact that many stores were closed, or they simply wanted to curtail the amount of shopping they were doing in-person to slow the spread of Covid-19.

But fast forward to today, while the startup still serves consumers, this is currently not the primary part of its business. Instead, it’s B2B2C, serving companies that in turn serve consumers. Xu says that overall, demand from consumers has dropped off considerably compared to a year ago.

“We think that restaurant re-openings have meant more people are dining out again and spending less time at home,” Xu said, ” and also they can go back to physical grocery stores, so they are not as interested as they were before in buying raw ingredients online. I don’t want to offend other food tech companies, but I think many of them will be seeing the same. I think B2C is really going to slow down going forward.”

The opening for GrubMarket has been not just positioning itself as a middleman between producers and buyers, but to do so by way of technology and consolidating what has been a very regionalized and fragmented market up to now.

GrubMarket has snapped up no less than 40 companies in the last three years. While some of these have been to help it expand geographically (it made 10 acquisitions in the Los Angeles area alone), many have also been made to double down on technology.

These have included the likes of Farmigo, once a Disrupt Battlefield contender that pivoted into becoming a software provider to CSAs (an area that GrubMarket sees a lot of opportunity), as well as software to help farms manage their business staffing, insurance and more: Pacific Farm Management is an example of the latter.

GrubMarket’s own in-house software, WholesaleWare, a cloud-based service for farmers and other food producers, saw its sales grow 3,500% over the last year, and it is now managing more than $4 billion in wholesale and retail activity across the U.S. and Canada.

There will be obvious ways to extend what GrubHub does deeper into the needs of its customers on the purchasing end, but this is in many ways also a very crowded market. (And not just crowded, but crowded with big companies. Just today, Toast, the company that builds software for restaurants, filed for a $717 million IPO at potentially a $16.5 billion valuation.) So instead, GrubHub will continue to focus on what has been a more overlooked aspect, that of the suppliers.

“I am focused on the food supply chain,” Xu said. “Operators in the food supply chain business most of the time don’t have any access to software and e-commerce technology. But we are not just a lightweight online ordering system. We do a lot of heavyweight lifting around inventory management, pricing and customer relations, and even HR management for wholesales and distributors.” That will also mean, longer term, that GrubMarket will likely also start to explore connected hardware to help those customers, too: robotics for picking and moving items are on that agenda, Xu said.

“GrubMarket has built a profitable, high-growth business underpinned by its best-in-class technology platform that’s reinventing how businesses access healthy, fresh foods,” said Jack Litowitz, director of strategic investments at Reimagined Ventures, in a statement. “We’re proud to support GrubMarket as it continues to expand into new regions and grow its WholesaleWare 2.0 software platform. At Reimagined Ventures, we always seek to invest in businesses that are disrupting inefficient industries in innovative ways. Mike Xu and the GrubMarket team have built one of these businesses. We’re excited to back their vision and work in making the food supply chain more efficient.”

“GrubMarket is transforming the trillion-dollar food distribution industry with unprecedented speed by implementing advanced digital solutions and operational discipline. The company’s scale, growth, and profitability are extraordinarily impressive. Pegasus is delighted and honored to be part of GrubMarket’s exciting journey ahead,” added Bill Reichert, partner at Pegasus Tech Ventures.

#arizona, #california, #canada, #ceo, #connecticut, #digital-solutions, #farmigo, #food, #food-delivery, #food-supply-chain, #funding, #georgia, #grocery-store, #grubhub, #grubmarket, #instacart, #japan-post-capital, #los-angeles, #massachusetts, #michigan, #mike-xu, #missouri, #new-jersey, #new-york, #olo, #online-food-delivery, #online-food-ordering, #oregon, #partner, #pegasus-tech-ventures, #pennsylvania, #reimagined-ventures, #retailers, #software, #software-platform, #supply-chain, #texas, #uber-eats, #united-states, #washington, #whole-foods

Olsam raises $165M to buy up and scale consumer and B2B Amazon Marketplace sellers

On the heels of Heroes announcing a $200 million raise earlier today, to double down on buying and scaling third-party Amazon Marketplace sellers, another startup out of London aiming to do the same is announcing some significant funding of its own. Olsam, a roll-up play that is buying up both consumer and B2B merchants selling on Amazon by way of Amazon’s FBA fulfillment program, has closed $165 million — a combination of equity and debt that it will be using to fuel its M&A strategy, as well as continue building out its tech platform and to hire more talent.

Apeiron Investment Group — an investment firm started by German entrepreneur Christian Angermayer — led the Series A equity round, with Elevat3 Capital (another Angermayer firm that has a strategic partnership with Founders Fund and Peter Thiel) also participating. North Wall Capital was behind the debt portion of the deal. We have asked and Olsam is only disclosing the full amount raised, not the amount that was raised in equity versus debt. Valuation is also not being disclosed.

Being an Amazon roll-up startup from London that happens to be announcing a fundraise today is not the only thing that Olsam has in common with Heroes. Like Heroes, Olsam is also founded by brothers.

Sam Horbye previously spent years working at Amazon, including building and managing the company’s Business Marketplace (the B2B version of the consumer Marketplace); while co-founder Ollie Horbye had years of experience in strategic consulting and financial services.

Between them, they had also built and sold previous marketplace businesses, and they believe that this collective experience gives Olsam — a portmanteau of their names, “Ollie” and “Sam” — a leg up when it comes to building relationships with merchants; identifying quality products (versus the vast seas of search results that often feel like they are selling the same inexpensive junk as each other); and understanding merchants’ challenges and opportunities, and building relationships with Amazon and understanding how the merchant ecosystem fits into the e-commerce giant’s wider strategy.

Olsam is also taking a slightly different approach when it comes to target companies, by focusing not just on the usual consumer play, but also on merchants selling to businesses. B2B selling is currently one of the fastest-growing segments in Amazon’s Marketplace, and it is also one of the more overlooked by consumers.”It’s flying under the radar,” Ollie said.

“The B2B opportunity is very exciting,” Sam added. “A growing number of merchants are selling office supplies or more random products to the B2B customer.”

Estimates vary when it comes to how many merchants there are selling on Amazon’s Marketplace globally, ranging anywhere from 6 million to nearly 10 million. Altogether those merchants generated $300 million in sales (gross merchandise value), and its growing by 50% each year at the moment.

And consolidating sellers — in order to achieve better economies of scale around supply chains, marketing tools and analytics, and more — is also big business. Olsam estimates that some $7 billion has been spent cumulatively on acquiring these businesses, and there are more out there: Olsam estimates that there are some 3,000 businesses in the UK alone making more than $1 million each in sales on Amazon’s platform.

(And to be clear, there are a number of other roll-up startups beyond Heroes also eyeing up that opportunity. Raising hundreds of millions of dollars in aggregate,  others have made moves this year include Suma Brands ($150 million); Elevate Brands ($250 million); Perch ($775 million); factory14 ($200 million); Thrasio (currently probably the biggest of them all in terms of reach and money raised and ambitions), HeydayThe Razor GroupBrandedSellerXBerlin Brands Group (X2), Benitago, Latin America’s Valoreo and Rainforest and Una Brands out of Asia.)

“The senior team behind Olsam is what makes this business truly unique,” said Angermayer in a statement. “Having all been successful in building and selling their own brands within the market and having worked for Amazon in their marketplace team – their understanding of this space is exceptional.”

#amazon, #amazon-marketplace, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #berlin-brands-group, #business, #christian-angermayer, #co-founder, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #entrepreneur, #financial-services, #founders-fund, #funding, #latin-america, #london, #marketing, #peter-thiel, #retailers, #sales, #united-kingdom

UK-based Heroes raises $200M to buy up more Amazon merchants for its roll-up play

Heroes, one of the new wave of startups aiming to build big e-commerce businesses by buying up smaller third-party merchants on Amazon’s Marketplace, has raised another big round of funding to double down on that strategy. The London startup has picked up $200 million, money that it will mainly be using to snap up more merchants. Existing brands in its portfolio cover categories like baby, pets, sports, personal health and home and garden categories — some of them, like PremiumCare dog chews, the Onco baby car mirror, gardening tool brand Davaon and wooden foot massager roller Theraflow, category best-sellers — and the plan is to continue building up all of these verticals.

Crayhill Capital Management, a fund based out of New York, is providing the funding, and Riccardo Bruni — who co-founded the company with twin brother Alessio and third brother Giancarlo — said that the bulk of it will be going towards making acquisitions, and is therefore coming in the form of debt.

Raising debt rather than equity at this point is pretty standard for companies like Heroes. Heroes itself is pretty young: it launched less than a year ago, in November 2020, with $65 million in funding, a round comprised of both equity and debt. Other investors in the startup include 360 Capital, Fuel Ventures and Upper 90.

Heroes is playing in what is rapidly becoming a very crowded field. Not only are there are tens of thousands of businesses leveraging Amazon’s extensive fulfillment network to sell goods on the e-commerce giant’s Marketplace; but some days it seems we are also rapidly approaching a state of nearly as many startups launching to consolidate these third-party sellers.

Many a roll-up play follows a similar playbook, which goes like this: Amazon provides the Marketplace to sell goods to consumers, and the infrastructure to fulfill those orders, by way of Fulfillment By Amazon and its Prime service. Meanwhile, the roll-up business — in this case Heroes — buys up a number of the stronger companies leveraging FBA and the Marketplace. Then, by consolidating them into a single tech platform that they have built, Heroes creates better economies of scale around better and more efficient supply chains, sharper machine learning and marketing and data analytics technology, and new growth strategies. 

What is notable about Heroes, though — apart from the fact that it’s the first roll-up player to come out of the UK, and continues to be one of the bigger players in Europe — is that it doesn’t believe that the technology plays as important a role as having a solid relationship with the companies it’s targeting, key given that now the top Marketplace sellers are likely being feted by a number of companies as acquisition targets.

“The tech is very important,” said Alessio in an interview. “It helps us build robust processes that tie all the systems together across multiple brands and marketplaces. But what we have is very different from a SaaS business. We are not building an app, and tech is not the core of what we do. From the acquisitions side, we believe that human interactions ultimately win. We don’t think tech can replace a strong acquisition process.”

Image Credits: Heroes

Heroes’ three founder-brothers (two of them, Riccardo and Alessio, pictured above) have worked across a number of investment, finance and operational roles (the CVs include Merrill Lynch, EQT Ventures, Perella Weinberg Partners, Lazada, Nomura and Liberty Global) and they say there have been strong signs so far of its strategy working: of the brands that it has acquired since launching in November, they claim business (sales) has grown five-fold.

Collectively, the roll-up startups are raising hundreds of millions of dollars to fuel these efforts. Other recent hopefuls that have announced funding this year include Suma Brands ($150 million); Elevate Brands ($250 million); Perch ($775 million); factory14 ($200 million); Thrasio (currently probably the biggest of them all in terms of reach and money raised and ambitions), HeydayThe Razor GroupBrandedSellerXBerlin Brands Group (X2), Benitago, Latin America’s Valoreo and Rainforest and Una Brands out of Asia. 

The picture that is emerging across many of these operations is that many of these companies, Heroes included, do not try to make their particular approaches particularly more distinctive than those of their competitors, simply because — with nearly 10 million third-party sellers today on Amazon globally — the opportunity is likely big enough for all of them, and more, not least because of current market dynamics.

“It’s no secret that we were inspired by Thrasio and others,” Riccardo said. “Combined with Covid-19, there has been a massive acceleration of e-commerce across the continent.” It was that, plus the realization that the three brothers had the right e-commerce, fundraising and investment skills between them, that made them see what was a “perfect storm” to tackle the opportunity, he continued. “So that is why we jumped into it.”

In the case of Heroes, while the majority of the funding will be used for acquisitions, it’s also planning to double headcount from its current 70 employees before the end of this year with a focus on operational experts to help run their acquired businesses. 

#360-capital, #amazon, #asia, #berlin-brands-group, #companies, #crayhill-capital-management, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #eqt-ventures, #europe, #finance, #fuel-ventures, #heroes, #latin-america, #lazada-group, #liberty-global, #london, #machine-learning, #marketplace, #new-york, #player, #prime, #retailers, #startup-company, #united-kingdom

Quip’s new $100M round will usher in more than just clean teeth

Quip is on a mission to be the go-to platform for both personal and professional oral care, and a new $100 million cash infusion is giving the New York-based company fuel to do it.

The new round from Cowen Sustainable Investments (CSI), labeled a Series B, follows the company reaching profitability in April 2020 and gives Quip more than $160 million in total funding since the company was founded in 2015. Its last publicly announced raise was $40 million in 2018. The company showcased its service at TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s Startup Alley in 2015.

At that time, Quip was best known as a subscription-based toothbrush replacement service, but over the years has steadily taken on more of the $435 billion global oral healthcare market by adding other products like flossers, mouthwash, gum, smart electric toothbrushes and, most recently, a virtual orthodontist-enabled clear aligner service launched in April.

Company co-founder and CEO Simon Enever told TechCrunch that its long-term vision is to “build a lasting global business in the oral care category, and it is important to keep the business on the right scale.” Quip is focused on growth, innovation and community building among its over 7.5 million customers in 100 countries.

“The timing of this round, and raising such a significant round, was deliberate and strategic,” he added. “We wanted to prove a couple of things: that we create a high-profile, profitable core business that people know today, aligning the first pieces of the pie on our oral care app and then services, such as the clear aligner that we launched a couple of months ago.”

When Quip first launched and received funding six years ago, there were very few oral care startups and not much funding going into the space, Enever said. In fact, that was what led him to start the company in the first place — a dental visit eight years ago where he learned how little investment was being made to improve the space. Since then, more startups are innovating dental care and there is investment in both the personal care side and professional, especially in sub areas like orthodontics and appointment bookings, which Quip is working on, he added.

The new funding will enable the company to further scale its personal care platform, which already has over 7.5 million users, and continue to connect them with a network of more than 50,000 dental professionals. It will also go into new verticals, expand its global footprint and roll out new features to its oral care companion mobile app.

Quip expects to reach over 1 million app users in 2022, Enever said. New features will complement the company’s mission to track oral habits, coaching and health monitoring. Members can then earn points by improving their habits and health and redeem them for products and discounts from Quip and other partners.

Enever also plans to double Quip’s 200-person team (located in New York and Salt Lake City) by the end of 2022.

“We had an amazing lean and driven team that has gotten us to the point where we are at now, and we are excited to scale that and have more support to take things to the next level,” he added. “It is incredible to watch the team. In the past few years, they hit their goals and launched four brand new personal care product lines, rolled out in Walmart and helped us become profitable. It has been amazing to watch the team despite the pandemic.”

Retail sales are up more than 100% compared to last year, according to the company. In addition to going into Walmart, the company’s products are also in Target, giving it over 10,000 retail locations.

As part of the investment, Artem Mariychin, managing director at CSI, is joining the company’s board. CSI, an environmental sustainability focused growth investment strategy, looks for companies having a positive impact on the world’s environment, like addressing waste, which was one of the attractions to Quip, he said.

The company estimated over 100 million single-use plastic components were diverted from landfills through its paper packaging and refillable products recycling program. It aims to reach over 1 million pounds of plastic reduction or diversion in the next 12 months.

Mariychin was also attracted to Quip’s growth versus other consumer companies and its ability to be capital efficient and also consumer-centric, something he said was unique in the oral care business.

“They aren’t expensive, but they are high-quality and solve consumer needs and pain points,” he said. “Simon’s origin was to improve brushing outcomes — only 50% of people brush twice a day now. However, with the brush built, they looked at what else they can do and expanded into the floss pick and mouthwash. What is impressive is that subscribers are now purchasing other products. Quip is now expanding into other parts of dental, like the liners, and that is atypical of others in e-commerce.”

#apps, #artem-mariychin, #cowen-sustainable-investments, #ecommerce, #enterprise-software, #funding, #health, #quip, #recent-funding, #retailers, #simon-enever, #startups, #tc

Flip bags $28M to turn beauty, wellness social commerce on its head

Social commerce startup Flip is mixing live commerce mobile apps with real customer reviews to improve the buying experience and opportunity for the creator economy. Today, the Los Angeles-based company closed on a $28 million Series A led Streamlined Ventures.

Nooruldeen “Noor” Agha, a serial e-commerce entrepreneur, founded Flip in 2019 after emigrating to the United States from Iraq. He had previously lived in Dubai, where he built some companies in the e-commerce space.

It was while leading the companies that he realized that the vision of commerce was broken and that people had a fragmented path to purchase: They may start on social media, then move to video platforms and conclude on yet another site to make the purchase.

Agha believes the future of e-commerce will be driven by shoppers and the experiences they have with social media, so Flip is pulling all of those experiences into one app, mixing in user-generated reviews and live shopping shows for beauty, wellness and health brands. It then adds same-day shipping and back-end logistics, Agha told TechCrunch. Users post video reviews of their purchases and can see in real-time data how they did, as well as receive commissions from sales that resulted from their posts.

“It’s not only a social platform, it is the best post-purchase experience — shipping, rewards, returns — everything people love and in a two-click process,” he added. “Our app is like if TikTok and Amazon had a baby.”

Joining Streamlined Ventures in the latest round is Mubadala Capital Ventures, BDMI and a group of early backers and angel investors, including Ruby Lu, an early investor in Kuaishou, China’s leading social commerce platform. In total, Flip raised $31.5 million, which includes a small seed two years ago, Agha said.

He intends to use the new funding to scale the company and its creator ecosystem, while also expanding the end-to-end logistics part of the platform.

Live commerce originated in China, where McKinsey estimates the market reached $171 billion in 2020 and will jump to a valuation of $423 billion by 2022. Meanwhile, U.S. live commerce market is trailing behind, expecting to reach $11 billion by the end of 2021.

Flip is now signing an average of 20 new brands per week and has already gained partnerships with Unilever and Coty. Agha expects to hit 500 brands by this year’s holiday season. In addition, the company has 1 million downloads and in the last quarter shopped out 30,000 orders, which Agha predicts will double in coming months.

“We were hiding on purpose so we could build out everything and be done when we launched,” he added. “We focused on onboarding brands instead of pushing for growth, but now we expect to have a grand launch at the end of September where we start aggressively pushing growth.”

Ullas Naik, founder and general partner of Streamlined Ventures, said his firm does a lot of investment in e-commerce and marketplaces and was one of the first investors in DoorDash and also backed Rappi.

Commerce has evolved over the past 20 years in a meaningful way, he said. During that time, spend shifted from retail and online, while the quality of the experience has also evolved. He has seen evidence of similar models in other geographies, particularly in China when they have “had massive success.”

“We are most intrigued with how live commerce intersects with social networking to create enhanced shopping experiences,” Naik said. “When I met with Noor and he told me he was going to start with beauty and cosmetics, I thought he was building a unique experience and wanted him to be in a broad range of categories, not just beauty. With what he is building on the back end, with the logistics piece, he is creating a super experience and I’m intrigued by what can be built.”

#advertising-tech, #apps, #bdmi, #ecommerce, #flip, #funding, #mubadala-capital-ventures, #nooruldeen-noor-agha, #recent-funding, #retailers, #social-commerce, #social-media, #social-networking, #startups, #streamlined-ventures, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #ullas-naik, #video

Accounting platform Synder raises $2M to automate e-commerce bookkeeping

As Synder’s two co-founders Michael Astreiko and Ilya Kisel wrap up their time at Y Combinator, they also announced their seed round of $2 million from TMT Investments.

Though the round was acquired before going into the accelerator program, the Belarus-based pair wanted to wait to publicly share the milestone. As they focus their sights on their next journey of growth and expansion, the new funding will go toward attracting more clients, visibility and sales.

The company bills itself as an easy accounting platform for e-commerce businesses. It was originally founded as CloudBusiness in 2016 and developed accounting automation and management of business finances for small and mid-size businesses.

Astreiko and Kisel started Synder, in 2018 and a year later focused on the company full-time to develop an easy way for commerce companies to shift to omnichannel sales, something Astreiko told TechCrunch can be “a huge pain” due to the complexity of different payment systems and high fees.

“There are a lot of solutions on the market, but you still have to have special knowledge to operate within accounting or commerce,” Kisel said. “For us, the simplicity means that it is worth it if you can have access in several clicks to consolidated inventory, profits and liabilities. Small businesses sometimes are not sharing this information due to competition, but if something is working and easy, they will definitely share it.”

Synder does the heavy lifting for companies by connecting sales channels like Amazon, Shopify, eBay and Etsy into one platform that users can manage with one-click operations. It also created a way to help the accounting stream so that all of the different payment methods can still be used, Kisel said.

The company is already working with 4,000 clients, and will now be fast-tracking their expansion, but will need the right people on board to help the company grow, Astreiko said.

Igor Shoifot, a partner at TMT Investments, said he will join Synder’s board after the company graduates from YC. He likes the simplicity of what the company is doing.

“Often the best solutions are economical, succinct and elegant — you can be onboarded in 10 minutes,” he added. “There is really nobody that really provides a similar solution that was that easy or didn’t require downloading or installing something. I also like their focus on growth, the fact they have no burn and they are making money.”

Synder’s business model is a subscription SaaS model that starts off as a free trial, and users can purchase additional services inside the platform to fit small and large companies.

Its more than 15 employees are spread around Europe, and the company just started hiring in the areas of marketing and sales in the U.S.

 

#ecommerce, #enterprise, #europe, #funding, #igor-shoifot, #ilya-kisel, #marketing, #michael-astreiko, #omnichannel, #recent-funding, #retailers, #saas, #startups, #synder, #tc, #tmt-investments, #y-combinator

Point Pickup acquires e-commerce platform GrocerKey for $42M to allow for same-day delivery

Point Pickup Technologies, a last-mile delivery service, has acquired white label e-commerce platform GrocerKey for $42 million, according to the company. With the acquisition, Point Pickup now allows retailers to offer same-day delivery, from purchase to fulfillment to delivery, under their own brand name, rather than under third parties like Instacart.

Instacart made a killing delivering groceries and goods for retailers during the coronavirus pandemic, with a generated revenue of $1.5 billion in 2020 and $35 billion worth of sales. The company has an estimated 9.6 million active users and over 500,000 “shoppers” who pick up and deliver goods. 

New entrants to the same-day delivery space are cropping up, which aligns with the expected growth of the industry to $20.36 billion by 2027, according to Allied Market Research. But companies like Amazon and Instacart that perform this service and host a delivery marketplace get far more than sales revenues – they also get all the customer data. 

Tom Fiorita, founder and CEO of Point Pickup, says retailers should have a right to own that data themselves. The acquisition of GrocerKey, which brings on board the company’s front-end consumer-facing sales engine and predictive analytics, puts the data and brand recognition back in the retailer’s hands. 

“If you are a customer of Instacart, you pay them a subscription, they own your buying habits, your credit cards, your data,” Fiorita told TechCrunch. “Instacart was a big thing during COVID because no one had delivery. So now retailers woke up and said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t just have an Instacart-like marketplace be selling my goods. I don’t know who my customers are, I don’t have their credit cards or data.’ And you know data runs the world now.”

Another recent, if not smaller, entrant to the space is Canadian startup Tyltgo, which operates under a similar model to what Point Pickup is now offering via GrocerKey’s technology. In both cases, the buyer goes directly onto the merchant’s platform and places the order through them, so it feels like they’re interacting with the brand they purchased from. And on Tuesday, Walmart also announced a new white-label delivery service that would allow other merchants to tap into its own delivery platform to get orders to their customers.

Fiorita founded Point Pickup in 2015 as a reaction to Amazon’s increased omnipotence with the noble, if not naive, mission to “save local America.” Walmart and Kroger, two of the largest grocery retailers in the U.S., are Point Pickup’s top customers, alongside other nationwide retailers like Albertsons, Giant Eagle and more. But Fiorita believes the service his company is offering will be even more impactful when it starts to work its way down to the mid-sized and small- to medium-sized businesses. 

“We built this not only to survive against Amazon or Instacart, but because these small businesses need this for their survival,” Fiorita said. “These companies will no longer survive if they continue to allow other companies to sell their merchandise and to own their customer, including the data, the advertising, the CPG dollars and everything.”

Point Pickup offers deliveries of everything from grocery to general merchandise, pharmacy and oversized delivery. It has a network of 350,000 gig economy drivers across 25,000 ZIP codes in all 50 states. 

Since the company’s network of drivers, who often pick and pack the products for the customer as well as deliver the goods, comprises all gig workers with their own vehicles, Point Pickup doesn’t have a clear picture of the percentage of its fleet that’s electric or hybrid. Fiorita speculates it’s probably on par with nationwide rates, if not higher. A recent Pew Research report found that 7% of Americans say they own an EV or hybrid. 

Fiorita said that the type of car drivers own is taken into account during recruitment and that the company is looking for ways to incentivize drivers to buy less polluting vehicles. He also said Point Pickup is a vehicle-agnostic platform, meaning it’s piloting other delivery vessels like drones and autonomous robots.

To compete with the big dogs in the space like Amazon and Walmart, both of which are either testing or already have in place electric delivery vans, Point Pickup will have to also make efforts to beef up its strategy in the carbon emissions space.

#albertsons, #amazon, #delivery, #ecommerce, #instacart, #online-shopping, #point-pickup, #retailers, #same-day-delivery, #transportation, #tyltgo, #united-states, #walmart

Shipt’s new feature pairs members with their favorite, 5-star shoppers

Target’s same-day delivery service Shipt is launching a new feature that will pair customers with their favorite shoppers on future orders. This “Preferred Shoppers” feature will be available as a membership-only perk at no extra charge, offering customers a more reliable shopping experience, where more of their orders are directed towards people they already known and trust to do a good job.

The feature arrives at a time when the online grocery delivery market is booming due to the pandemic. But this market shift has also led to a number of newer shoppers joining the gig economy who don’t have the same level of experience as others. Today, you’ll come across some shoppers who excel at picking quality items, making great substitutions, and staying in close communication with their customers. Others, meanwhile, are checking out before you even have time to respond to their text about the product replacements they’ve made or the refunds they’ve put through. That can leave consumers feeling like online grocery shopping is an unreliable experience.

The Preferred Shoppers feature aims to change that.

As Shipt explains, customers who rate their shopper with five stars after their order is complete will be presented with the option to add the shopper to their Preferred Shoppers list. If the shopper accepts this request, they’ll be prioritized to shop for those customers in the future. (If the shopper declines, however, that won’t be shown the customer.) This list can be edited at any time, and if a customer downrates a shopper on a future order, they’ll be removed.

Image Credits: Shipt

The feature was developed in response to feedback from both shoppers and Shipt regulars, the company says. Consumers, in particular, had been asking for a way to be paired with their favorite shoppers who they already trusted to handle their orders correctly. But until now, whether or not that shopper would be available to grab the customer’s order was left mostly up to chance. The shopper would have had to see the order come in as it arrived, then grab it before someone else did.

During early tests, which included the Detroit metro, Shipt found the feature impacted its own bottom line and increased shoppers’ tips. Without providing specific metrics, the company said that customers using the feature would order more often and would rate their experience highly. Shoppers also benefitted because they were now serving customers who valued their work and who were expressing their appreciation with a larger tip.

“The more often a shopper shops for a customer, the more they learn about that customer’s wants and needs and are able to deliver a tailored shopping experience,” said Karl Varsanyi, Chief Experience & Product Officer at Shipt, in a statement. “Preferred Shoppers helps customers get the exceptional service they enjoy again and again,” he added.

The feature could also motivate shoppers to focus on building up a quality clientele, so they had a better shot at being assigned orders from customers they enjoyed working with and where they could expect to see higher tips. Over time, as customers add more shoppers to their Preferred Shopper list, the likelihood of being paired with a highly-rated shopper would improve, too. This could perhaps help to address some gig workers complaints over their work being undervalued, where bonuses are placed out of reach and customers are stingy with tips.

The idea for personal shoppers is not new. A startup called Dumpling has been developing a platform that allows gig economy workers to transition their clients off apps like Shipt and Instacart to a service where shoppers set their own rates and get to keep all their tips. But many consumers aren’t aware of Dumpling unless a shopper they know markets the service to them directly and usage of Dumpling isn’t free. In addition, while Shipt offers delivery from a number of top retailers, being owned by Target has other advantages. The service is now integrated into Target’s own website and mobile app, and Target products aren’t marked up on an individual basis, like you’d see on other services.

Currently, Shipt’s membership is $99 per year, offering free delivery on all orders over $35. The Preferred Shoppers feature will be made available to all U.S. members, starting today.

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #instacart, #marketing, #merchandising, #online-shopping, #personal-shopper, #retail, #retailers, #shipt, #shopping, #target, #united-states

Virtual dressing room startup Revery.ai applying computer vision to the fashion industry

Figuring out size and cut of clothes through a website can suck the fun out of shopping online, but Revery.ai is developing a tool that leverages computer vision and artificial intelligence to create a better online dressing room experience.

Under the tutelage of University of Illinois Center for Computer Science advisrr David Forsyth, a team consisting of Ph.D. students Kedan Li, Jeffrey Zhang and Min Jin Chong, is creating what they consider to be the first tool using existing catalog images to process at a scale of over a million garments weekly, something previous versions of virtual dressing rooms had difficulty doing, Li told TechCrunch.

Revery.ai co-founders Jeffrey Zhang, Min Jin Chong and Kedan Li. Image Credits: Revery.ai

California-based Revery is part of Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort gearing up to complete the program later this month. YC has backed the company with $125,000. Li said the company already has a two-year runway, but wants to raise a $1.5 million seed round to help it grow faster and appear more mature to large retailers.

Before Revery, Li was working on another startup in the personalized email space, but was challenged in making it work due to free versions of already large legacy players. While looking around for areas where there would be less monopoly and more ability to monetize technology, he became interested in fashion. He worked with a different adviser to get a wardrobe collection going, but that idea fizzled out.

The team found its stride working with Forsyth and making several iterations on the technology in order to target business-to-business customers, who already had the images on their websites and the users, but wanted the computer vision aspect.

Unlike its competitors that use 3D modeling or take an image and manually clean it up to superimpose on a model, Revery is using deep learning and computer vision so that the clothing drapes better and users can also customize their clothing model to look more like them using skin tone, hair styles and poses. It is also fully automated, can work with millions of SKUs and be up and running with a customer in a matter of weeks.

Its virtual dressing room product is now live on many fashion e-commerce platforms, including Zalora-Global Fashion Group, one of the largest fashion companies in Southeast Asia, Li said.

Revery.ai landing page. Image Credits: Revery.ai

“It’s amazing how good of results we are getting,” he added. “Customers are reporting strong conversion rates, something like three to five times, which they had never seen before. We released an A/B test for Zalora and saw a 380% increase. We are super excited to move forward and deploy our technology on all of their platforms.”

This technology comes at a time when online shopping jumped last year as a result of the pandemic. Just in the U.S., the e-commerce fashion industry made up 29.5% of fashion retail sales in 2020, and the market’s value is expected to reach $100 billion this year.

Revery is already in talks with over 40 retailers that are “putting this on their roadmap to win in the online race,” Li said.

Over the next year, the company is focusing on getting more adoption and going live with more clients. To differentiate itself from competitors continuing to come online, Li wants to invest body type capabilities, something retailers are asking for. This type of technology is challenging, he said, due to there not being much in the way of diversified body shape models available.

He expects the company will have to collect proprietary data itself so that Revery can offer the ability for users to create their own avatar so that they can see how the clothes look.

“We might actually be seeing the beginning of the tide and have the right product to serve the need,” he added.

#artificial-intelligence, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #fashion, #funding, #kedan-li, #online-shopping, #recent-funding, #retailers, #revery-ai, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Wonder Brands picks up $20M, aims to build marketplace of Latin American e-commerce brands

E-commerce roll-up companies are big in the United States, and Wonder Brands wants to be that for Latin America.

The Mexico-based company closed on $20 million in seed funding, co-led by ALLVP and Mountain Nazca, with participation from CoVenture, Victory Park Capital, GFC, QED (Fontes), Korify Capital and Endeavor Catalyst.

Wonder Brands co-founders Nicolás Gonzalez Luna and Federico Malek came together to start the company in January 2021 to acquire digital brands in the MercadoLibre and Amazon ecosystem. It then leverages its technology to scale their operations and grow sales by taking care of the marketing, analytics, supply chain management and working capital needs of the companies. It focuses on companies in the areas of home and garden, sports and fitness, beauty and personal care.

“MercadoLibre has a larger share, but Amazon is entering the region quickly, so there is not one dominating marketplace. MercadoLibre may have half the market, but then it is more balanced between a number of different platforms,” Gonzalez Luna told TechCrunch. “That diversification means operations here are more complex than the classic Amazon seller. Negotiations take longer and require more discussion about who you are to get the trust in you. That’s why we will be doing fewer, but larger deals than our U.S. counterparts.”

Malek’s background is on the commerce side, having worked at Argentinian insurtech company iunigo.com before founding e-commerce fulfillment company Avenida.com, which was acquired by Groupon in 2010. He then worked as Groupon’s managing director in the region. He knew Gonzalez Luna, whose background includes Goldman Sachs where he focused on M&A.

Michael Breitstein, principal at CoVenture, said his firm has made a variety of investments on the debt and equity sides of e-commerce and believes Malek and Gonzalez Luna provide a “great one-two punch” with their backgrounds, as well as the ability to raise capital and build out a platform.

Though there is a lot of competition to acquire digitally native companies in the $1 million revenue range, Malek said Wonder Brands will focus on larger sellers and operators, with a deal target of at least $5 million in revenue. They are also taking a “buy and build” approach rather than the “buy and consolidate” business model many of the other roll-up companies have, he added.

With its approach, the company’s goal is to enable its acquired companies to sell on multiple channels. It provides support in four areas: category management and brand development, marketing and performance, technology to automate processes like inventory and logistics and operations to manage all of the channels needed. For example, in Latin America, inventory has to be consolidated into one warehouse, but then separated depending on the sales channel, Malek.

Acquiring and scaling companies is big business. London-based Hahnbeck Business Systems, an e-commerce M&A firm that tracks funding to FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) acquirers all over the world, reports that e-commerce roll-up companies raised $7.24 billion in disclosed funding to date.

According to the different sources, reports say Latin American e-commerce company MercadoLibre has a market cap of between $70 billion and $94.billion. Meanwhile, marketplace merchants accounted for 55% of units sold on Amazon.com, according to the retailer. In 2020, that accounted for $300 billion in sales, according to Marketplace Pulse estimates based on Amazon disclosures.

The seed financing enables Wonder Brands to invest in building a team to focus on the four support areas and marketing. The company has 20 employees currently and plans to triple that in the next month. The funding is also complementing larger debt facilities that the company has available to acquire brands. Its target is to make six or seven acquisitions this year.

The company is on target to achieve $55 million in revenue by the end of the year and will then move toward $100 million in revenue in the next 12 months, Malek said. It currently operates in Mexico and plans to begin operations in Brazil by the end of 2021.

 

#allvp, #amazon-com, #coventure, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #federico-malek, #funding, #groupon, #latin-america, #mercadolibre, #michael-breitstein, #mountain-nazca, #nicolas-gonzalez-luna, #paypal, #recent-funding, #retailers, #startups, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #victory-park-capital, #wonder-brands

Jumia’s Q2 results show moderate growth, rising spend, and continued losses

African e-commerce giant Jumia today reported its second-quarter financial performance. In the wake of its earnings reports, Jumia’s shares climbed 3.38% to $21.99 per share with a market cap of $2.168 billion.

Before we get into the company’s results, Jumia historically reported in its financial data in Euros. This was the case until April 1, when the company swapped for the American dollar.  Jumia cites increases in cash balances from equity fundraising as the main reason backing this outcome. The company adds that although the Dollar will be used going forward, starting from Q2 2021, comparative numbers from previous quarters “have been modified to reflect the change in presentation currency.” That will help us keep all the math straight.

Now, back to business. In the second quarter of 2021, Jumia reported revenues of $40.2 million, up 4.6% on a year-over-year basis.

Wall Street was optimistic that Jumia would report revenue of $43.34 million, up from the $38.5 million recorded in Q2 2020. Although the company did not meet revenue expectations, it did surpass investor expectations of a loss worth $0.43 a share by reporting a more modest $0.41 per-share loss in the second quarter. For reference, Jumia lost $0.61 per share in the year-ago period.

While the African e-commerce company has shifted from first-party sales to a marketplace for third parties, its first-party revenue increased 7% year-over-year in the second quarter. Jumia’s marketplace revenue, on the other hand, grew a smaller 0.6% to $26.2 million.

The revenue mix-shift helped Jumia’s gross profit grow 4% to $26.8 million in the most recent quarter compared to its year-ago comparable. Gross profit after fulfillment expense also expanded 16.3% to $7.7 million.

Continued losses

While Jumia’s operating losses and adjusted EBITDA declined in Q1 2021, they increased this past quarter. Operating losses were $51.6 million in Q2 2021, up 24.7%, while adjusted EBITDA came in at -$41.6 million, worsening 15.1% compared to Q2 2020.

The sharp losses were driven in part by how the African e-commerce juggernaut spent in the quarter. Jumia’s sales and advertising expenses rose 115% to $17.1 million. In the year-ago quarter, the number was a far-smaller $7.9 million. The huge gain in sales and advertising spending may indicate that the company is back to its old method of executing aggressive advertising, which initially slowed during the pandemic. 

The company’s rising costs and declining profitability are not encouraging regarding its chances for near-term profitability. However, the company stressed long-term investments in its business in its earnings report that Jumia expects to leverage in the coming quarters and years. Given that Jumia’s shares rose following its earnings report, it appears that investors are at least amenable to the argument. Still, the company’s metrics paint a mixed picture of its efforts.

For instance, Jumia’s active customers only grew by 3.3% to 7 million in the second quarter, while orders grew by a stronger 12.8% to 7.6 million. In contrast, gross merchandise volume (GMV) fell 11% to $223.5 million in the second quarter.

Jumia’s falling GMV impacted the total payment volume (TPV) of its payment arm, JumiaPay, in the quarter. That figure fell 4% to $56.6 million, compared to the year-ago quarter.

That said, on other fronts, JumiaPay’s recent results are impressive. The payment service’s “on-platform penetration” as a portion of GMV grew to 23.5% in the second quarter. And transactions made on the platform grew 12.1% to 2.7 million — the fastest transaction growth rate Jumia has witnessed in the past four quarters, mostly supported by the company’s food delivery category.

In the space of five months, from October 2020 to February 2021, Jumia’s share price spiked over 700% to $65, mostly due to the pandemic increasing appetite for e-commerce stocks globally. But the company’s share price has dropped by more than 60% from those highs to a close at $21.27 last Friday.

Jumia closed its most recent quarter with $637.7 million in cash, which means that it has a good amount of runway ahead of itself to sort out growth and profitability.

#africa, #e-commerce, #earnings, #ecommerce, #finance, #food, #jumia, #retailers, #rocket-internet

Amazon expands same-day Prime delivery to 6 more U.S. cities

Amazon announced this morning it’s expanding its faster, same-day delivery service to half a dozen more U.S. cities. The service, which the retailer has been working to make same-day delivery even faster over the past year, now offers consumers in a number of markets the ability to shop up to 3 million items on Amazon.com, then receive their orders in only a few hours.

To do so, Amazon invested in what it called “mini-fulfillment centers” closer to where customers lived in select U.S. markets, initially in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, and Dallas. Those customers could then shop across a dozen merchandise categories, including Baby, Beauty & Health, Kitchen & Dining, Electronics, Pet Supplies, and more. As the pandemic continued to impact Amazon’s business, in November 2020, Amazon expanded its faster same-day service to more cities, to include Nashville and Washington, D.C.

With today’s expansion, Amazon is rolling out same-day delivery to Prime members in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Charlotte, and Houston, bringing the total markets served to 12. In these markets, shoppers will be able to place orders online throughout the day then have items on their doorstep in as fast as 5 hours, Amazon says. Customers can also place orders by midnight to have their orders arrive the following morning.

The service continues to be free with no additional charges on orders over $35 that qualify for same-day delivery. Orders under $35 have a $2.99 fee for Prime customers, and a $12.99 fee for non-members. Prime membership, meanwhile, is $12.99 per month or $119 per year.

The time frame commitments for same-day delivery are the same as those Amazon promised last year when it first announced its plans to speed up Prime delivery. Orders placed between midnight and 8 AM will arrive today by 1 PM. Orders placed between 8 AM and 1 PM arrive by 6 PM; those placed between 1 PM and 5 PM will arrive by 10 PM; and those placed between 5 PM and midnight will arrive overnight by 8 AM. That means customers can place orders fairly late and receive their items before they head out of the house the next day.

Faster same-day delivery has been one of the most significant services Amazon has used to challenge rivals like Walmart and Target, who both benefit from having a large brick-and-mortar footprint that allows them to more quickly serve their customers through same-day order pickup, curbside pickup, and same-day delivery services. While Walmart partners with third-parties on its same-day service, Express delivery, largely focused on grocery, Target acquired delivery service Shipt in 2017 to bring its fast delivery services in-house.

In response to the growing competition, Amazon has been recently acquiring smaller warehouse space inside major urban metros, including in these six new markets where it’s now announcing same-day delivery, as well as larger markets, like New York, and even suburban neighborhoods. It also acquired Whole Foods for $137.7 billion in 2017, not only to more fully participate in the online grocery business, but also in part because of its large retail footprint.

As Amazon has sped up the pace of what’s available under “Prime” delivery, it has wound down its older “Prime Now” business, which was retired Aug. 30 and will be fully shut down by year-end. The separate app had allowed customers to shop items that were available in one or two hours for an additional fee.

The news follows Amazon’s earning miss last week, when the retailer fell short of Wall St.’s estimates for revenue, and gave a weaker than-expected outlook for the quarter ahead, which Amazon attributed to difficult comparisons with a time frame that included Covid lockdowns during height of the pandemic in 2020. The company reported $113.08 billion in revenue and earnings of $15.12, versus expectations of $115.2 billion and $12.30.

#amazon, #amazon-prime, #amazon-com, #baltimore, #charlotte, #chicago, #dallas, #delivery-services, #detroit, #ecommerce, #food-delivery, #houston, #nashville, #new-york, #online-grocery, #online-shopping, #orlando, #philadelphia, #phoenix, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #tampa, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #washington-d-c, #whole-foods

Walmart to sell its e-commerce technologies to other retailers

Walmart’s investments in software and retail technologies it used to transform its business from a brick-and-mortar to one that combines both in-person and online shopping will now be made available to other retailers for the first time, the company announced today. Through a strategic partnership with Adobe, Walmart will integrate access to Walmart’s Marketplace, as well as its various online and in-store fulfillment and pickup technologies, into the Adobe Commerce Platform.

The technologies will be made available to both Adobe Commerce and Magento Open Source customers, Adobe says.

The deal will allow Walmart to potentially reach thousands of small to mid-sized retailers, who will effectively be able to tap into the same tools that one of the largest global retailers is using to run their business.

Through the partnership, Adobe retail customers will be able to do things like show store pickup eligibility and available pickup times online; offer multiple pickup options like curbside and in-store pickup; provide their store associates with mobile tools to pick for orders, validate item selections and handle substitutions; and use tools to communicate with customers about their pickup orders, like those where customers can alert store associates of their ETA or arrival for curbside pickup.

Another aspect of the partnership will allow retailers to syndicate and sell their products across Walmart’s Marketplace.

The arrangement not only aims to benefit Walmart’s bottom line as it offers new revenue streams related to retail technologies, it could also serve as another tool in Walmart’s battle with Amazon for online retail dominance.

Retail businesses will use the Adobe Commerce platform to reach an expanded set of customers by listing products on Walmart’s Marketplace and then leverage Walmart’s Fulfillment Services to offer two-day shopping across the U.S.

And this, in turn, could boost the number of available products sold on Walmart’s Marketplace, which is still largely dwarfed by Amazon.

Walmart’s Marketplace had grown to an estimated 70,000 sellers in 2020, fueled by a surge in online shopping triggered by the pandemic, according to third-party estimates. This was a more than doubling over 2019. Today, the marketplace is topping 100,000 sellers, per Marketplace Pulse data. Amazon’s Marketplace, on the other hand, counts an estimated 6.3 million total sellers worldwide, 1.5 million of which are currently active, per estimates.

Part of Walmart’s problem in scaling its marketplace business could be related to its ease-of-use on the seller side. Many smaller sellers have reported that Walmart’s Marketplace is far more difficult to use than Amazon’s, and they’ve complained about waiting months to hear back from Walmart about whether they were approved to sell on the platform.

Adobe’s partnership could help to address some of those challenges.

Adobe also notes it’s working to consolidate its other channel solutions into a single, unified extension that would allow its retail customers to sell across multiple sales channels — including Amazon’s — using one, integrated tool for easy account setup and catalog syndication.

This is the first time Walmart has made its retail technologies available to other businesses, the company said. And it has yet to forecast what sort of revenue the new partnership could bring in. But it’s a path that Amazon has also been pursuing in recent years to maximize the return on investment from its novel, retail innovations, like its A.I. and computer vision-powered Just Walk Out system that lets customers skip the checkout line.

“The core mission of helping people save money and live better is at the heart of every idea including Scan & Go and checkout technologies, AI-powered smart substitutions and pickup and delivery,” said Suresh Kumar, chief technology officer and chief development officer of Walmart Inc., in a statement. “Combining Adobe’s strength in powering commerce experiences with our unmatched omni-customer expertise, we can accelerate other companies’ digital transformations,” he said.

Adobe’s retail customers in the U.S. will be able to integrate Walmart’s technologies in their own storefronts starting in early 2022, the companies said. Pricing and other details will be provided closer to launch.

While today’s announcement concerns channel partner Adobe, who will help to resell the technologies, Walmart also has a GoToMarket team that will target retailers directly.

#adobe, #amazon, #checkout-technologies, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #magento, #online-shopping, #retailers, #suresh-kumar, #united-states, #walmart

Pinterest rolls out new features that let creators make money from Pins

Pinterest today is increasing its investment in the creator community by introducing new tools that will allow creators to make money from their content. Now, creators will be able to tag products in their Idea Pins — a video-first feature the company first launched this spring — to make their content “shoppable.” They’ll also now be able to earn commissions through affiliate links and partner with brands on sponsored content, much like on other social platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Despite its general focus on turning product inspiration into clicks and purchases, Pinterest has been slower to embrace the creator community which today is responsible for driving a significant amount of interest in new products among online shoppers. Over the past several years, brands have increased their influencer marketing budgets from $1.7 billion in 2016 to now $13.8 billion in 2021. However, Pinterest offered few tools for creators to tap into that market on its own site, until its more recent debut of Idea Pins in May.

These Pins are somewhat like Pinterest’s take on TikTok, mixed with Stories, as they offer a way for creators to produce content that combines music, video, and other interactive elements. The videos in Idea Pins can be up to 60 seconds per page, with up to 20 total pages per Pin. Creators can also add other features to their Pins, like stickers or music, and tag other creators with their @username.

Image Credits: Pinterest

While similar in some ways to TikTok, the videos can include “detail pages” where viewers can find associated content, like the ingredient list and instructions for a recipe, or a list of how-to instructions for a craft project.

Now, explains Pinterest, creators will be able to tag products in their Pins, as well. That means fans viewing the Pin content can now go from inspiration to purchase from the Pinterest app. However, the path isn’t as straightforward as it is on Instagram, where a tap on a tag leads you to a page where you can then add an item to a shopping cart. Instead, Pinterest’s product tags tend to take you to another Pinterest page for the product in question, and from there you have to click again to visit the retailer’s website to complete your order.

The company has been testing the feature before today with creators including Olive + Brown, Fall for DIY and UnconventionalSouthernBelle who have already made some of their content shoppable.

The new Idea Pins product tagging tool will roll out to all business accounts in the U.S. and U.K. and will then continue to roll out access over the coming months to international creators.

Image Credits: Pinterest

Other new monetization features rolling out now include support for affiliate programs and brand sponsorships.

Creators will now be able to integrate their affiliate programs for Rakuten and ShopStyle to generate additional revenue from their recommendations. Meanwhile, creators who come to the platform with brand partnerships will be able to use a new tool, still in beta, that will let them disclose those partnerships to their followers.

When they then produce branded content on Pinterest and add the brands to their Idea Pins, the brand will then be able to approve the tag, and the Idea Pin will feature a label that reads “Paid Partnership.”

This paid partnerships tool is now live for select Creators in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Image Credits: Pinterest

Most of Pinterest’s new monetization tools are not necessarily all that innovative or unique.

Instead, they represent a company that’s playing catch up to larger social platforms — like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, an d YouTube — which have been better catering to creators in recent years by allowing them to build their own businesses on their respective platforms and expand their reach. Instagram, in particular, has moved in on Pinterest’s territory to such an extent that many users today start their shopping inspiration searches on its app first.

And Instagram has catered to this growing group of online shoppers by turning its platform into an online shop of sorts, compete with a dedicated Shop button, built-in checkout features, alerts about product drops, and numerous ways for creators to generate profits from their work.

Now that influencer shopping is the norm, the race is on among large platforms and startups alike to bring a similar set of shopping tools to live streamed video.

Given the significant competition, Pinterest’s pitch to the creator community is that its user base is already primed to shop.

By the end of 2020, the company says it saw a 20x increase in product searches on its platform. It also notes that Pinterest users are 89% more likely to exhibit shopping intent on products tagged in creators’ Idea Pins than on its standalone Pins. Plus, the company says that its focus will be more on inspirational content, rather than “influence and entertainment” — a seeming knock at social media and its influencer stars.

“Pinterest is the place where creators with inspiring and actionable ideas get discovered. With this latest update, we’re empowering Creators to reach millions of shoppers on the platform and monetize their work,” said Pinterest Head of Content and Creator Partnerships, Aya Kanai. “Creators deserve to be rewarded for the inspiration they deliver to their followers, and the sales they drive for brands. Creators are central to our mission to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love, and we’ll continue working with them to build their businesses and find success on Pinterest,” she added.

#apps, #creative-content, #creators, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #media, #pinterest, #retailers, #shopping, #social, #social-media, #social-networks, #tiktok, #video

Brokrete wants to be the “Shopify of construction”, raises $3M Seed led by Xploration Capital

With the pandemic affecting every aspect of life and industry, it’s no surprise that digitization is coming to construction fast. Construction suppliers are increasingly under the same pressure as other sectors to perform at a higher level. We’ve seen the rise of companies like Dozer, Reno Run, and Toolbox try to address this, but often the model is closer to a vertical integration one rather than something more open. Even with that, it’s still the case that to order concrete or bricks, construction companies have to negotiate each time, while simultaneously record keeping.

This is the argument of Brokrete, which bills itself as the “Shopify of construction.”

The startup has now raised a $3M seed financing round led by Xploration Capital, which was joined by unnamed new strategic investors and existing investors. The startup graduated from Y Combinator’s winter cohort last year. Other strategic investors include Ronald Richardson, Avlok Kohli (CEO of AngeLlist Ventures) and the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF). The funding will be used to expand in North American and European markets. Brokrete also launched an e-commerce platform for suppliers in the construction industry it calls Storefront.

Jordan Latourelle, the company’s founder and CEO said: “Construction today is a largely offline, $1.2 trillion market where legacy commerce is the norm. Brokrete’s Storefront product equips suppliers with the tools required to enhance their operations by orders of magnitude. I founded Brokrete after seeing an industry left behind by e-commerce giants. Now we are becoming the operating system for e-commerce in the construction industry, while staying easy and affordable at the same time.”

Brokrete says its platform is code-free, white-labeled, multi-channel, and industry-specific to sell and manage orders online. Suppliers get an iOS and Android app for e-commerce to receive offline orders from more ‘traditional’ customers. It then provides order management, payouts, dispatching, logistics, and real-time delivery. There are also financial and operational ERP integrations. Brokrete claims to works with 1000+ contractors and to have a 250+ supplier network. 

Latourelle told me: “We’re giving the construction industry an opportunity to use it on a Shopify way, and create their own store. It’s like a branded storefront for suppliers.”

Eugene Timko, Managing Partner at Xploration Capital said: “Construction is one of the few remaining large industries with mostly undigitized supply chains. Historically the key problem was the lack of real-time access to actual stocks which prevented producers and distributors from going online. Now with Brokrete’s end-to-end solution, these businesses can not only sell through Brokrete’s marketplace but can also enable their own direct online channels. Similar to Shopify, this has allowed many thousands of previously offline businesses to start accepting orders online.”

#android, #angellist, #avlok-kohli, #ceo, #e-commerce, #europe, #managing-partner, #operating-system, #retailers, #shopify, #storefront, #tc, #toolbox, #y-combinator

Powered by local stores, JOKR joins the 15 min grocery race with a $170M Series A

“We are true believers in the fact that the world needs a new Amazon, a better one, a more sustainable one, one that appreciates local areas and products.” It’s quite one thing to claim you are out to replace Amazon (just as its founder goes into space), but Ralf Wenzel, Founder and CEO of JOKR, certainly believes his company might have a shot. And he’s raising plenty of money to aim at that goal.

Today the fast-growing grocery and retail delivery platform has closed a whopping $170 million Series A funding round. The round comes three months after the company started operations in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. JOKR’s team consists of people who created both foodpanda and Delivery Hero, so from the outside at least, they have the chops to build a big business.

The round was led by Led by GGV Capital, Balderton Capital, and Tiger Global Management. It was joined by Activant Capital, Greycroft, Fabrice Grinda’s FJ Labs, as well as Latin America’s tech-specialized VC firms Kaszek and Monashees, as did HV Capital, the first institutional investor.

Based out of New York, where it launched last month JOKR plans to roll out across cities in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Right now it’s live in nine cities, across Latin American countries, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, as well as Poland and Austria in Europe.

Wenzel said: “The investment we announced today will empower us to continue our expansion at an unprecedented rate as we continue to build JOKR into the premier platform for a new generation of online shopping, with instant delivery, a focus on local product offerings and more sustainable delivery and supply chains. We are proud to be able to partner with such a distinguished group of international tech investors to help us seize the enormous opportunity in front of us.”

JOKR’s pitch is that it enables small local businesses to sell their goods, sourced from other local businesses, via the platform, thus expanding their reach without the need for complex logistics and delivery networks on their own. But that local aspect also builds sustainability into the model.

Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, and newly appointed member of JOKR’s board said: “Ralf has put together an all-star team for food delivery that will transform the retail supply chain. The combination of food delivery experience and the sophisticated data capabilities that optimizes inventory allocation and dispatch, set JOKR apart. We look forward to working with the team on their mission to make retail more instant, more democratic, and more sustainable.”

JOKR is joining other fast-delivery grocery providers like Gorillas and Getir in providing a 15 minute delivery time for supermarket and convenience products, pharmaceuticals, but also ‘exclusive’ local products that are not available in regular supermarkets. Although, so far, it only has an app on Google Play.

Speaking at an interview with me Wenzel said: “We are close to the equivalent of Instacart, strongly grocery focused. Our offering is significantly broader than the ones of Gorillas because we’re not only focusing on convenience and all kinds of different grocery categories, we’re getting closer to a supermarket offering, so the biggest competing element would be the traditional supermarkets, the offline supermarkets, as well as online grocery propositions. We are vertically integrating and hence procuring directly, cutting out middlemen and building our own distribution warehouses.”

#activant-capital, #amazon, #austria, #balderton-capital, #brazil, #ceo, #colombia, #delivery-hero, #distribution, #europe, #food-delivery, #foodpanda, #getir, #ggv-capital, #gorillas, #grocery-store, #hans-tung, #hv-capital, #instacart, #jokr, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mexico, #new-york, #online-food-ordering, #online-shopping, #peru, #pharmaceuticals, #poland, #premier, #ralf-wenzel, #retailers, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #united-states

How we got 75% more e-commerce orders in a single A/B test for this major brand

The Conversion Wizards, a conversion rate optimization (CRO) consultancy, was entrusted with boosting the conversion rates of a multibillion dollar company.

We used research to optimize the page and ran an A/B test. The winning version, labeled “radical,” resulted in a 75% increase in sales.

The original and double-control pages are actually identical. And to ensure that our judgment is sound, we always include a double-control.

Screenshot from the winning, optimized treatment (above the fold, desktop)

Screenshot from the winning, optimized treatment (above the fold, desktop). Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

Here’s a screenshot of the original page (above the fold, desktop). Image credits: Conversion Wizards

Here’s a screenshot of the original page (above the fold, desktop). Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

We took the average of those two identical pages as the baseline to determine the lift, and it revealed a 75% increase at 99% statistical significance.

Here are the Google optimize screenshots:

Google optimize

Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

Google Optimize

Image Credits: Conversion Wizards

Here’s a link to the full image of the original page.

Here’s a link to the full image of the winning page.

A look under the hood

Before I discuss the changes that produced the lift, it is important that I quickly go over the research that informed those changes. Why? Because it is a critical aspect of the process and too many CRO practitioners do not devote enough attention to figuring out why more site visitors aren’t converting.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

We surveyed both bouncing visitors and subscribers to the Subscribe & Save program. One of the important questions we asked the bouncing visitors was: “If you did not purchase today, what was your reason?”

#advertising-tech, #amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ecommerce, #facebook, #growth-marketing, #machine-learning, #retailers, #shopify, #walmart

MaxAB, the Egyptian B2B food and grocery delivery startup, raises $40M for expansion

Globally, food and grocery delivery startups have been raising mega-rounds of late, especially those in Europe as the pandemic has given rise to more people ordering online more than ever. This growth has translated to an increase in volume across e-commerce platforms all over the world.

While there has relatively been no action in Africa in terms of raising investments, startups in MENA continue to garner interest, mainly in B2B e-commerce. Today, the latest of these is coming out of Egypt.

MaxAB, a startup based out of Cairo that serves a network of traditional food and grocery retailers across Egypt, has raised $40 million in Series A financing.

The company, which claims to have launched in a new city every month this year, will be expanding its physical footprint across the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, MaxAB plans on hiring more talent and scaling its recently launched business verticals, including new supply chains and embedded finance solutions.

Founded in November 2018 by Belal El-Megharbel and Mohamed Ben Halim, MaxAB’s platform manages procurement and grocery delivery to shops in Egypt. Store owners can use the platform to purchase goods, request delivery or logistics to move the goods, and access a customer support team.

“It’s not just the technology platform; we operate our own warehouses, we operate our own fleet. And the idea was quite simple.”  CEO El-Megharbel said to TechCrunch. According to him, small merchants in Egypt, representing a large chunk of the nation’s GDP, find it hard to procure their inventory. On the other hand, manufacturers also have to suffer immensely and incur so many costs to serve a market like Egypt, where over 400,000 small mom-and-pop shops sell 90% of groceries in the country.

“We saw that there is a massive role in optimizing this supply chain using technology so that we can have the right amount of products at the right place at the right time,” explained El-Megharbel, the chief executive who left Careem in 2018 to start MaxAB.

He calls MaxAB the Amazon for retail in the Middle East. There’s a slight comparison. In emerging markets, it can be challenging to find third-party e-commerce delivery companies to work with. Those available are either expensive or inefficient. This is why MaxAB has its own infrastructure. The company doesn’t build warehouses from scratch. Instead, it buys them outrightly and revamps them to fit its needs. After that, MaxAB uses internal technology tools to better manage inventory flow in, within, and out of the warehouse.

El-Megharbel noted that up until last year, MaxAB was focused on offering a single type of supply chain in one city. That was before and after completing its $6.2 million seed round with 9,000 merchants on its app. But with this new round, MaxAB solidifies both infrastructure and technology into a multi-supply chain and multi-city business.

The new development is accompanying a period of growth the company experienced in the last two years where it now services more than 55,000 merchants and delivers over 2,000 unique products. In terms of staff size, the company has grown more than 5x to 1,600 people and is looking to add to that number.

Image Credits: MaxAB

Talking about the embedded finance solutions, the plan for MaxAB is to offer financial services to its merchants. First of all, given the company’s database of merchants, MaxAB can predict their financial status. Then orking with banking and non-banking partners, MaxAB will offer credit facilities and capital financing to these merchants. 

MaxAB’s Series A investment is one of the largest in this financing round across the MENA region. Impact investor RMBV led the round with participation from the IFC, Flourish Ventures, Crystal Stream Capital, Rise Capital, and Endeavour Catalyst. Exiting investors, Beco Capital and 4DX Ventures also took part. This round brings the company’s total investment to date to $46.2 million.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the unique structure of Egypt’s economy, with hundreds of thousands of shopkeepers and small businesses becoming the lifeline of our country at the time of crisis,” said managing partner at RMBV Ahmed Badreldin in a statement. “We are delighted to be backing visionary entrepreneurs that have created a transformative business with impressive growth that is a catalyst for financial inclusion and job creation. We look forward to supporting MaxAB in its next phase of development as they continue delivering on growth and innovation.”

The pandemic has significantly increased technology adoption and enhanced the company’s unit economics. As a market leader, MaxAB has taken advantage to consolidate its position and scale sustainably amidst competition.

“There is competitiveness in the Middle East. Most of them are marketplace models but do not manage their supply chain per se. And this is what makes our model more unique is that we own the end-to-end cycle. It’s painful, but we believe that this is what this industry, the food and groceries B2B e-commerce space, needs,” the CEO said.

After expanding across MENA, does the company see any opportunity southward into sub-Saharan Africa where it might face competition from the likes of Sokowatch? “Not in the near future,” answered El-Megharbel. “I think this market [the Middle East and North Africa] is almost $200 billion per year. So we have a long way to go there before we go to sub-Saharan Africa.”

#africa, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #egypt, #embedded-finance, #food, #funding, #logistics, #maxab, #north-africa, #retailers, #tc

Lollipop AI launches online grocery marketplace where you can build your own recipes

As I’ve taken to online grocery shopping over the pandemic, I’ve always wondered why supermarkets didn’t offer simple ‘recipe’ features that would have automatically collected items for a homemade meal. It seemed an opportunity missed. But it is missed no more.

Lollipop AI, the new British online grocery marketplace, is launching its public beta today to do that, and it’s been created by a serial UK entrepreneur who was there at the start of successful UK startups Osper, Monzo and Curve.

Founder and CEO Tom Foster-Carter has envisaged a platform allowing people to build meal plans from recipes, assembling the ingredients automatically into their shopping basket, and suggesting remaining household essentials. He says could well help with health goals, improve culinary skills and minimize food waste. Built as a marketplace, it will be partnering with Sainsbury’s and BBC Good Food with more partners and fulfillment will be completed by retail partners. The business model will be taking a small commission from retail partners, allowing selected advertising, e.g. from CPG brand owners, and a Paid Premium tier later this year.

The site will be free to use, while a premium tier is planned. The first ten thousand Beta testers to sign up to the waitlist will be offered access to premium features “for life”, says the startup, which will offer prices at the same rate as normal supermarkets.

Foster-Carter, who had the idea after having a baby and realizing he was spending hours trying to use a normal supermarket, says the approach will save several hours a week for the average household. (We will briefly overlook the fact that a man had to create a site like this after doing the weekly shop…). Lollipop claims 80% of households spend over an hour a week meal-planning and online grocery shopping.

Lollipop MealPlanner

Lollipop MealPlanner

The founding team includes former employees of Monzo, Farmdrop, Amazon, Sainsbury’s and HelloFresh, such as cofounders Chris Parsons and Ib Warnerbring.

Although Foster-Carter is coy about how much he has raised for this approach, he says he has raised a pre-seed round backed by JamJar Investments, Speedinvest, and a “raft of grocery/technology big hitters” including Ian Marsh (former UK GM of HelloFresh) and former leadership and founders of online grocers in the UK and abroad plus ‘super-angels’ Charles Songhurst and Ed Lando.

In particular, the site is likely to appeal to people looking to lose weight, as meal planning would be simpler, and may even have an impact on recipe-box startups.

Lollipop is not alone in its ambitions. Jupiter.co in the US bills itself as “groceries on autopilot”; Jow is recipe-led shopping, as is Side Chef; while Cooklist is a meal-planner + cooking support, also in the US.

Foster-Carter told me: “It’s a marketplace so we could partner with traditional supermarkets (Sainbury’s, Tescos, Waitrose etc) + online retailers (Ocado, Amazon), direct to farm / organic (Riverford, Farmdrop), mission-led single component (Oddbox, Milk & More, etc); recipe boxes (Gousto, Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef etc); and rapid delivery (Gorillas, Getir, Weezy, etc).”

He said: “This is just the start… The plan is to be the single place you go to for all your food needs – we’ll enable you to order your Deliveroo or restaurant kit (e.g. Dishpatch) from us. Groceries are delivered by our partners and then when it’s time to cook you’ll be able to use a cooking companion app (due out next month). In the future you’ll be able to improve your cooking skills through Lollipop.”

Few players have nailed the ability to buy a lot of items (50-100+) really fast, not even Amazon – this might be Lollipop’s USP, if it can crack it.

 

#amazon, #ceo, #curve, #deliveroo, #europe, #food, #food-waste, #grocery-store, #hello-fresh, #hellofresh, #lollipop, #monzo, #ocado, #online-food-ordering, #retailers, #rocket-internet, #tc, #tom-foster-carter, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #waitrose

Artisan home decor retailer The Citizenry raises $20M in Series B funding

The Citizenry announced today that it raised $20 million in Series B funding in partnership with NextWorld Evergreen. A direct-to-consumer home decor retailer, The Citizenry works with artisans from around the world to produce limited-edition runs of handcrafted, hand-numbered home goods. In October, The Citizenry opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City, and with this round of funding, The Citizenry hopes to accelerate its development into a whole-home brand.

Co-Founder Rachel Bentley got her start at Bain & Company, where she worked in strategy consulting in global supply chains.

“I saw a lot of the challenges that were coming as a result of that, tied to income inequality, human rights, and the environment,” Bentley told TechCrunch. “But I also saw the tremendous opportunity that connections of global supply chains can create to hopefully move communities forward.”

Bentley and fellow co-founder Carly Nance, a brand strategist, noticed that there was a gap in the market for premium, thoughtfully crafted home goods. They took the leap to leave their corporate jobs to start The Citizenry with the aim to make a positive global impact and set more socially conscious standards for the home decor industry.

These are lofty goals, but Bentley’s experience in global supply chain strategy helped her develop a business model that prioritizes the fair treatment of workers.

Image Credits: The Citizenry

“One of the biggest challenges in working with artisan communities is that companies are there for one season, they place a large order, and their goal is to get a really high volume at a very low price,” Bentley says. “We came in and took the opposite approach. We tried to identify groups we saw a long term potential with, that we could partner with for the next ten, twenty, fifty years, to really help grow their businesses. Having sustainable income day in and day out, not just seasonally, is where you really start to see change happen.”

The Citizenry is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), and for over eighteen months, they’ve been going through the process to become fully verified through the WFTO’s Guarantee System. This means that the WFTO reviews every partner and conducts several day, in-person examinations of the artisans’ working conditions. On average, The Citizenry pays its artisans double the local minimum wage.

Image Credits: The Citizenry

“Social responsibility is much more important to our generation than previous generations,” Bentley said. “We want to feel good about the way a product was made, because we know we’re going to be living with the ramifications of how it was made, whether that’s environmentally or in terms of human rights.”

Bentley says that the rise in farm-to-table food shopping is indicative of consumers’ transition in values. But spending an extra few dollars on organic produce isn’t quite the same as shelling out $695 for a Portuguese leather headboard. So, The Citizenry may not undercut retailers like IKEA, but their price points are often cheaper than luxury home competitors like Williams-Sonoma, for example. The fact that The Citizenry can even compete with larger retailers while paying livable wages to artisans is a testament to their business model.

Since closing its Series A in 2019, The Citizenry has grown sales over 200%, with repeat customers driving 45% of sales. Over the same period, the company has supported 3,000 global artisan jobs. With its Series B funding, The Citizenry hopes to expand its furniture section — the most shopped category on its website — and invest in expanding its brick-and-mortar business after its SoHo store’s successful launch.

#articles, #business-model, #environmentalism, #fair-trade, #funding, #furniture, #ikea, #new-york-city, #retailers, #supply-chains, #williams-sonoma

Sneaker marketplace GOAT hits $3.7 billion valuation in Series F raise

Sneaker and streetwear empire GOAT just doubled its valuation in a massive new raise.

The GOAT Group parent company shared today that it has raised $195 million in a Series F raise valuing the fashion giant at some $3