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Welcome to Dealboard. In this weekly feature, The Current is providing a look at the mergers, acquisitions and venture capital deals making waves in the ecommerce and consumer goods landscape.
This week, a ghost kitchen startup raises $100 million, while a startup named Ghost comes out of stealth. Plus, Amazon makes its third-largest acquisition, social commerce companies raise big funding and Shopify makes a tokengated commerce investment.
Check out the latest:
Kitchen United raises $100 million
A Kitchen United location. (Courtesy photo)
Ghost kitchen and restaurant tech company Kitchen United announced on Monday that it raised $100 million in new capital.
Participants in the Series C round included convenience chain Alimentation Couche-Tard/Circle K, grocer Kroger, Canadian fast food holding company Restaurant Brands International, B. Riley Venture Capital, mall owner Simon, real estate company Phillips Edison & Co and the HAVI Group.
Existing investors participating in the round included: Fidelity Investments Canada ULC, RXR, DivcoWest, Cali Group, GoldenArc Capital, General Global Capital and Rich Product Corporation.
Kitchen United founders Harry Tsao and John Miller, Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano and NFL legend Peyton Manning also participated.
Kitchen United provides “off-premises” restaurants, where operators can tap into its technology and provide grab-and-go service for consumers, or delivery. It currently has 200 kitchens operating across 20 regions.
Going forward, the company plans to continue to focus on Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Texas as key markets, while also expanding to additional geographic areas. It also plans to further evolve a multi concept ordering platform that is currently being used by Burger King, Popeyes, Panera Bread and Chick-Fil-A, among others.
Live shopping platform raises $260 million
Whatnot, a live shopping platform for collectors, raised $260 million in a Series D financing. The round brings the company's valuation to $3.7 billion, growing 2.5x from a $1.5 billion valuation in September 2021.
The funding round was co-led by DST Global and returning investor CapitalG, which is the independent growth fund of Google parent Alphabet. Other participants included BOND, and returning investors Andreessen Horowitz and YC Continuity.
Whatnot provides live shopping experiences for collectors in categories such as sneakers, trading cards, sports cards and memorabilia, rare toys and more. Going forward, it is planning to expand into additional categories, including diecast cars, stamps and action figures.
After growing sales 20x year-over-year in 2021, the company recently added former Citadel Securities executive Xinan Wu as head of infrastructure and former Lyft executive Agnieszka Podsiadło as head of core product engineering. Following the funding round, it will continue to hire in sales, marketing and engineering.
Flip raises $60 million to combine discovery, ecommerce
Flip brings content and commerce together. (Courtesy photo)
Social commerce platform Flip said it raised $60 million in a Series B funding round. The financing brings its valuation to $500 million.
The round was led by WestCap, and included participation from existing investors Mubadala Capital and Streamlined Ventures. The company has now raised a total of $90 million.
Flip said it combines “TikTok-like discovery” with the tools of an ecommerce platform. Users learn about products through 60-second, user-generated videos. These videos are shoppable, and provide access to one-click checkout and same-day shipping. When shoppers share their own video reviews, they can then monetize and in turn become creators on the platform.
Following the funding round, the company plans to expand the team, deepen its brand partnerships, and launch a third-party social commerce marketplace this summer.
“No one sells a product better than the customer that has purchased that product multiple times, and we see that every day on Flip,” said Noor Agha, founder and CEO of Flip, in a statement. ”Through our patented technology that dynamically connects digital content to physical products, we’ve developed a seamless discovery-to-purchase cycle where users can shop instantly through content, share their own video reviews of products they’ve purchased, while monetizing their content over time. It’s the beginning of the next era in ecommerce.”
Tokengated commerce company Single receives investment from Shopify
Single offers an app for merchants on the Shopify store that allows creatives to mint a file as an NFT on the Solana blockchain. Then, they can push the NFT directly to a Shopify storefront, and sell it alongside other merchandise. In turn, the fans who purchase the NFT can use it as a digital key to unlock exclusive offerings including merch, audio or video content or livestreams. This process of using NFTs to offer perks is known as tokengated commerce. It not only creates fan club-style exclusive access for creators, but also provides “tangible value” for NFTs beyond ownership in and of itself, said Tommy Stalknecht, founder and CEO of Single, in a news release.
For Shopify, it’s an early sign of an app that uses new tokengated commerce capabilities. The company just launched these web3-forward features as part of its recent product update, known as Shopify Editions.
“Shopify sees NFTs as tools for community building and engagement,” said Chevy Walcott, Corporate Development Manager at Shopify, in a statement. “Our investment in Single and our growing blockchain ecosystem demonstrates our commitment to further grow participation in Web 3.0 and expand commerce possibilities for creatives, artists and musicians.”
Rush Recommerce raises Series A
The funding round was led by Beringea, with participation from Advantage Capital and existing shareholders.
The Omaha, Nebraska-based company created a marketplace for previously-opened home goods that helps to reduce the likelihood of disposal. Home goods can include larger items, so Rush developed specialized software and built a network to handle these items. The company currently works with 150 manufacturers and brands to handle their online return volume.
Following the funding round, the company will invest in enhancing its technology and growing its network.
Here are a few more funding rounds we spotted in the news this week:
- Ghostcame out of stealth with a marketplace for brands and retailers to move excess inventory. According to Techcrunch, the company raised $13 million in a Series A round, as well as $7 million in debt. The investment was led by Union Square Ventures, and included participation from Eniac Ventures, Human Capital and Flexport.
- Perelel, a brand offering pre- and post-natal vitamins, raised $4.7 million in seed funding, led by Unilever Ventures. According to Beauty Independent, the round included participation from Willow Growth Partners, M13 cofounder Courtney Reum, Revolve chief brand officer Raissa Gerona Bumo cofounder and CEO Joan Nyugen, Glossier CMO Ali Weiss, Jenni Kayne CEO Julia Hunter, What’s Gaby Cooking founder Gaby Dalkin, Olivetta, Issima and The Draycott owner Marissa Hermer, model Rocky Barnes, influencer Aimee Song and fashion designer Whitney Port.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Amazon acquires One Medical
Ecommerce giant Amazon made a splash with the acquisition of One Medical, a tech-enabled primary care provider that works on a membership model. The deal was worth $3.9 billion, and is Amazon’s third-largest acquisition to date, after MGM Studios and Whole Foods.
The deal first and foremost has implications for the healthcare industry, as Amazon made plain in its announcement that it feels it is “high on the list of experiences that need reinvention.” However, the subscription model could mean it ends up flowing back to Amazon’s primary and commerce-powered offering for customers: Amazon Prime. With Walmart expanding its own line of health services and Walgreens getting into primary care, don’t be surprised to see this area as a growing category where retailers will seek to add value and innovate.
GSK spins out consumer health company
Biopharma company GSK completed the demerger of its consumer health business, resulting in a standalone company. The move culminated as Haleon started trading on stock exchanges in New York and London last week.
The spinout created one of the largest consumer health companies, as Haleon is now the parent company of brands including Sensodyne, Advil, Robitussin and TUMS. The company will continue to develop brands and will work to remove barriers to everyday health.
SuperOrdinary adds creator platform
Founded by Harry Gestetner, Simon Pompan and social media star Cameron Dallas, FanFix provides access to content from GenZ creators. SuperOrdinary works with lifestyle brands including Farmacy, Joanna Vargas and Olaplex to assist with international development and omnichannel distribution. It has also grown work with creators amid expansion that was catapulted in 2021.
Combining forces will allow creators on the FanFix platform to expand partnerships and monetization opportunities, while providing brands with access to audience and insights. Going forward, the two teams will also seek to build new creator-led brands.
Cincy Brands acquires VitaBox
Cincy Brands, a company founded by former P&G executives that acquires and grows brands in the “better-for-you” category, said it made its first ecommerce acquisition.
It is bringing on Vitabox, a seller that offers products including vitamins, personal care products and pet supplies. Along with continuing to grow the retailer, Cincy Brands said Vitabox’s technology and fulfillment infrastructure will serve as the foundation of an operations platform for all of its brands.
Cincinnati-based Cincy Brands is looking to make additional acquisitions this year.
CommerceIQ acquires e.fundamentals
Retail ecommerce management platform CommerceIQ announced the acquisition of e.fundamentals, a UK-based digital shelf analytics platform.
Led by CEO John Maltman, e.fundamentals brings over 450 retailers in 41 countries. In a blog post, CommerceIQ CEO Guru Hariharan said the company’s analytics and store-level availability insights will be added to CommerceIQ’s sales, supply chain, and retail media automations, which are being used by more than 2,200 brands.
“John’s customers were eager to automate the insights and strategies uncovered through their DSA platform. And our CommerceIQ customers were ready to apply the full power of algorithmic retail to all the retailers that mattered to their brand,” Hariharan wrote.
Trending in Operations
Campbell Soup Company CEO Mark Clouse offered thoughts on messaging amid inflationary shifts in consumer behavior.
After months of elevated inflation and interest rate hikes that have the potential to cool demand, consumers are showing more signs of shifting behavior.
It’s showing up in retail sales data, but there’s also evidence in the observations of the brands responsible for grocery store staples.
The latest example came this week from Campbell Soup Company. CEO Mark Clouse told analysts that the consumer continues to be “resilient” despite continued price increases on food, but found that “consumers are beginning to feel that pressure” as time goes on.
This shows up in the categories they are buying. Overall, Clouse said Campbell sees a shift toward shelf-stable items, and away from more expensive prepared foods.
There is also change in when they make purchases. People are buying more at the beginning of the month. That’s because they are stretching paychecks as long as possible.
These shifts change how the company is communicating with consumers.
Clouse said the changes in behavior are an opportunity to “focus on value within our messaging without necessarily having to chase pricing all the way down.”
“No question that it's important that we protect affordability and that we make that relevant in the categories that we're in," Clouse said. "But I also think there's a lot of ways to frame value in different ways, right?”
A meal cooked with condensed soup may be cheaper than picking up a frozen item or ordering out. Consumers just need a reminder. Even within Campbell’s own portfolio, the company can elevate brands that have more value now, even if they may not always get the limelight.
The open question is whether the shift in behavior will begin to show up in the results of the companies that have raised prices. Campbell’s overall net sales grew 5% for the quarter ended April 30, while gross profit margins held steady around 30%. But the category-level results were more uneven. U.S. soup sales declined 11%, though the company said that was owed to comparisons with the quarter when supply chains reopened a year ago and expressed confidence that the category is seeing a longer-term resurgence as more people cook at home following the pandemic. Snacks, which includes Goldfish and Pepperidge Farm, were up 12% And while net sales increased overall, the amount of products people are buying is declining. Volumes were down 7%.
These are trends happening across the grocery store. Campbell is continuing to compete. It is leading with iconic brands, and a host of different ways to consume them. It is following that up with innovation that makes the products stand out. Then, it is driving home messaging that shows consumers how to fit the products into their lives, and even their tightening spending plans.
Campbell Soup is more than 150 years old, and has seen plenty of difficult economic environments. It is also a different business today, and will continue to evolve. At the end of the day, continued execution is what’s required.
“If it's good food, people are going to buy it, especially if it's a great value,” Clouse said.