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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That Whole Foods is an Amazon warehouse; get used to it

Earlier this week, in Brooklyn, near the waterfront, Amazon opened what looks from the outside like a typical Whole Foods store. It isn’t open to the public, however; it’s a fulfillment center.

“Grocery delivery continues to be one of the fastest-growing businesses at Amazon,” the company said in a statement about the location, noting that it has hired hundreds of new employees to aid in its operations. “We’re thrilled to increase access to grocery delivery.”

Americans sort of knew this was coming. Still, the pace at which retail spaces of all sizes are being converted into e-commerce fulfillment centers has become a bit breathtaking. According to the commercial real estate services firm CBRE, since 2017 at least 59 projects in the U.S. have centered on converting 14 million square feet of retail space into 15.5 million square feet of industrial space, and that trend is “absolutely going to continue,” says Matthew Walaszek, an associate director of industrial and logistics research at CBRE.

It has played out fairly quietly to date, save for the occasional headline about, well, Amazon, typically. Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal reported that the ever-expanding conglomerate is in talks with the largest mall owner in the U.S., Simon Property Group, about converting both former and current JCPenney and Sears stores into distribution hubs from which it can deliver packages.

Amazon needs the space. Meanwhile, Simon needs a tenant that can pay its bills. That’s a tall order right now for many brick-and-mortar retailers that were already under pressure and watched foot traffic disappear entirely with as the country largely shut down in March in response to the pandemic threat.

In fact, despite that Simon and an apparel licensing firm, Authentic Brands, recently partnered to buy apparel retailers Brooks Brothers and Lucky Brand out of bankruptcy (Simon and fellow mall operator Brookfield Property Partners are also in advanced talks to buy J.C. Penney), some reportedly view the moves as a means to buy time as these real estate companies reconfigure their properties to accommodate one anchor tenant.

That exact scenario has already played out at Randall Park Mall in a Northeast Ohio suburb (a mall, incidentally, that this editor occasionally frequented as a teenager growing up in Cleveland).

Once filled with gaudy stores like Piercing Pagoda and Spencer’s Gifts, the mall — which featured marbled columns and was among the world’s largest enclosed shopping centers when it opened in 1976 —  is now the site of an 855,000-square-foot facility filled with mobile robotic fulfillment systems that make it easier for Amazon to more quickly deliver packages.

A local outlet reported its conveyor belts would stretch farther than 10 miles if laid in a straight line.

Yet it isn’t always Amazon that’s snapping up these properties. There are a number of other large e-commerce players that are rapidly expanding their physical footprint right now, along with opportunistic developers betting the U.S. will also focus more on domestic manufacturing facilities in a post-COVID world.

That’s saying nothing of big grocery chains that, like Amazon’s Whole Foods, are increasingly focused on developing fulfillment centers — sometimes right inside a store that sees foot traffic. At an Albertson’s in South San Francisco, for example, customers blithely shop around an automated rack-and-tote system at the store’s center that preps orders for pickup and delivery.

To a certain extent, this ongoing shift in use was inevitable. The U.S. has the strange distinction of featuring 24 square feet of retail space per capita. By comparison, Canada and Australia have 16.8 square feet and 11.2 square feet per capita, respectively.

“We just have a lot of retail — we are over-retailed — so it’s not surprising that properties are struggling,” Walaszek says.

The pandemic has only poured figurative fuel on fire.

Forbes estimates that upwards of 14,000 real-world retail stores will close in the U.S. this year. Meanwhile, during the first six months of the year, consumers spent $347.26 billion online with U.S. retailers, up 30.1% from $266.84 billion for the same period in 2019, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data parsed by the news and research outfit Digital Commerce. That’s up from the 12.7% upswing seen during the first half of 2019.

Retail properties converted to industrial use remains a niche trend when considering there is 14.5 billion square feet of industrial real estate in the U.S. and it won’t transform life as we know it overnight.

For one thing, retail-to-industrial conversions involve buy-in from local zoning officials whose constituents are often concerned about congestion, noise and pollution, among other things.

Retail rents are also significantly higher than industrial rents — more than double in some markets — so it’s “a hard sell to a retail landlord to convert to industrial where revenues aren’t going to be as high,” notes Walaszek.

Still, thanks to a confluence of events — including the runaway growth of Amazon specifically —  both big and small fulfillment centers are beginning to spring up fast.

As Amazon’s first “permanent online-only” Whole Foods in Brooklyn underscores, they may wind up in what seem like the unlikeliest of places, too

#amazon, #cbre, #ecommerce, #fulfillment, #real-estate, #tc, #warehouses, #whole-foods

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Employees at nine Amazon warehouses have contracted the coronavirus

Employees at nine Amazon warehouses have contracted the coronavirus

Enlarge (credit: Lawrence Glass / Getty)

A week after the first Amazon warehouse worker tested positive for COVID-19 at a facility in Queens, New York, a total of nine Amazon warehouses have seen employees contract the virus, according to local news reports.

Workers have tested positive for the virus at Amazon distribution facilities near Oklahoma City, Louisville, Houston, Jacksonville, and Detroit. There have also been coronavirus cases at Amazon facilities on Staten Island, New York; Wallingford, Connecticut, and most recently Moreno Valley, California, east of Los Angeles.

“We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites,” an Amazon spokesman told Ars.

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#amazon, #coronavirus, #policy, #warehouses

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