Shopper Experience

Investors back livestreaming, chatbots and sizing tech

Dealboard has acquisition news from Byredo, Nutrafol and more.

three people shaking hands

(Illustration by The Current)

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 pair of live shopping platforms are attracting funding, companies that develop flavors and scents behind consumer products are merging and Byredo’s buyer is revealed. Read on for the latest.


FUNDING

Shoppable video platform Firework raises $150 million

2 screenshots of live shopping

(Image via Firework)

Live commerce got a big funding boost, as shoppable video platform Firework raised $150 million.The Series B funding round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, and Linda Yu, a partner at the firm, will join Firework’s board of directors.

Mumbai, India-based Firework’s technology allows short-form videos to be embedded within a company’s website. These videos can feature livestreams, as well as features that drive engagement. Over the last year, it partnered with firms including Albertsons, TC Foods, Sugar Cosmetics, Big Bazaar, Boat, Fab India, The Man Company and Omnicom Media Group.

Following the funding round, the company is planning to hire in engineering, product and marketing, as well as make upgrades to its platform.

"Short videos and livestreaming are now the default language for the digital era, which is reshaping how consumers engage with brands and products online," said Yu, in a statement. "We believe Firework empowers businesses to use video to transform their websites into social and storytelling hubs so they can build deeper, long-term relationships with customers."

Livestream platform buywith raises $9.5 million seed round

Screenshots of buyiwth

(Photo via buywith)

buywith, a livestream shopping platform used by Walmart, raised $9.5 million in a seed round.

The round was led by igniteXL Ventures, with participation from Fab Co-Creation Studio Ventures, which was founded by former Lancome CEO Odile Roujol, former Alibaba president of North America and Europe John Caplan, Alibaba GM of North America Kevin Ambrosini, Regah Ventures, Irani CVC, True., Sarona Ventures, Andav Capital, and NEOME – Women Investing Club. The company said it is backed by 18 women investors from Israel, the US and Europe.

The company is working with Walmart to offer a program where social media influencers can tap a community of live shopping hosts, who make a commission selling Walmart products, Business Insider reported. The videos are available on Walmart Shop Live.

buywith also has partnerships with brands including The Estée Lauder Companies, Steve Madden and Charlotte Tilbury.

Founded in 2018 by Adi Ronen Almagor and Eyal Sinai, the company will grow its sales, marketing, and R&D teams across the globe, with a focus on North America. It has offices in Tel Aviv. It recently registered an entity in the US, and is opening offices in the UK to expand its European market presence.

Sugar Cosmetics raises $50 million

Digital-first beauty company Sugar Cosmetics raised $50 million in a Series D funding round.

The financing was led by the Asia fund of prominent consumer goods investor L Catterton, and included participation from existing investor A91 Partners, Elevation Capital and India Quotient.

Mumbai, India-based Sugar quadrupled sales over the last three years through a combination of ecommerce, partnerships and in-store sales. With the funding, it is looking to continue expansion in the Indian beauty and personal care market, which is expected to reach a value of about $21 billion by 2025.

"We have been impressed with how Sugar has sustained its momentum of rapid growth across online and offline channels while maintaining healthy operating metrics," said Anjana Sasidharan, L Catterton Asia Managing Director, who will be joining the company's board, in a statement. "With a product-first mindset and deep understanding of their target consumers, SUGAR's leadership team has established a strong position in India's cosmetics market, which is at an exciting inflection point of expansion."

Rael raises $35 million Series B

Rael products

(Image via Rael)

Feminine care brand Rael raised $35 milllion in a Series B round.

The funding was led by Colopl Next and Signite Partners, the venture capital arm of Korean conglomerate Shinsegae Group. Also participating were Aarden Partners, ST Capital, and existing investors including Mirae Asset and Unilever Ventures.

The company said this is the largest round raised by a brand in the feminine care category to date.

Founded in 2017, Rael found success in the US and Korea. It is planning to continue international expansion, with plans to add a dozen more markets. The company makes products for period care, acne treatment, skincare and more.

"We started Rael with a mission to improve women's wellness by leveraging novel technology from Korea, bringing organic, high-performing, comfortable products to the marketplace," said Yanghee Paik, CEO and cofounder of Rael, in a statement. Now, five years later, the company has evolved greatly, but our commitment to bringing women cleaner and more effective personal care solutions throughout their hormonal cycle has stayed the same."

With the funding, former Unilever and L'Oreal marketing executive Lauren Consiglio is joining as president.

Supergoop earns celebrity backing

SPF-focused skincare brand Supergoop received new investment from business, media and entertainment luminaries. The investors include:

  • Actor Hugh Jackman, golfer Michelle Wie and fashion designer Jenna Lyons
  • Entrepreneurs including Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd
  • Main Street Advisors and the I Promise School, as well as G9 Ventures and SC Holdings

Founded in 2005 by Holly Thaggard, Supergoop received a majority investment from prominent investment firm The Blackstone Group in December 2021. Led by CEO Amanda Baldwin, the brand is seeking to build daily-use SPF as a category with products including SPF primer and sunscreen. With the new backing, the brand will be focused on rolling out new products, as well as educating more people about SPF and protection against skin cancer.

Zowie raises $14 million for chatbots

Zowie, the maker of an AI-based chatbot for ecommerce teams, raised $14 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from Google’s AI-focused fund Gradient Ventures, 10xFounders, Inovo and strategic investor Jack Altman.

New York-based Zowie’s chatbots are designed for customer service, answering questions such as, "Where's my package?" or, "How can I change my shipping address?" In all, the company said the bot can respond to 70% of the requests received from shoppers.

"Customer service is the new marketing," said Zowie CEO Maja Schaefer. "Every interaction with customers is an opportunity to sell. Zowie enables brands to improve their customer relationships and start generating revenue from customer service. Our latest funding is an exciting moment for us and will unlock even better solutions for our customers."

Following the funding round, the company will be focusing on international expansion, and it will be hiring sales professionals to bolster its go-to-market team in the United States.

Nomagic raises $22M for ecommerce warehouse robotics

Poland-based startup Nomagic, which makes a robotic arm to pick an item from unordered selection, raised $22 million in Series A funding, Techcrunch reported.

The financing was led by Khosla Ventures, Almaz Capita and the European Investment Bank. Existing investors Hoxton Ventures, Capnamic Ventures, DN Capital and Manta Ray, also participated.

The company’s technology is deployed for electronics, and has customers that include Switzerland-based marketplace Brack.ch. Following the funding round, it is planning to expand into more consumer goods categories, such as groceries.

Bold Metrics raises $8 million Series A

(Photo via Bold Metrics)

AI body modeling company Bold Metrics raised $8 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Lytical Ventures, ValueStream Ventures and Nanban Ventures.

Working in apparel, San Francisco-based Bold Metrics provides technology that is designed to help shoppers select clothing that fits according to their body measurements, shape and personal preference data. The company said this can help reduce returns, which are often the result of sizing issues.

The company works with brands including Canada Goose, Tailored Brands, SuitShop, Blue Delta Denim and UpWest.

"To state the obvious, when you're selling clothes online, the way they fit really matters to the customer and the business." said Kent Bennett, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, in a statement. "Bold Metrics hides sophisticated AI models in an elegant user-friendly wrapper that helps customers choose clothes that fit every time.”

French luxury skiwear brand Fusalp gets new investors

Luxury skiwear brand Fusalp is eying growth after receiving new investment from Swiss funds Mirabaud Patrimoine Vivant and Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact & Innovation. Additional participating investors included Experienced Capital cofounders Frédéric Biousse and Elie Kouby and Galeries Lafayette managing director Nicolas Houzé, WWD reported.

The skiwear brand was purchased and relaunched in 2014 by Sophie and Philippe Lacoste, grandchildren of Lacoste founder Rene Lacoste.

Shellworks raises $6.2 million to end single-use plastic packaging in beauty

Shellworks, a London-based biotech startup that developed vegan beauty packaging, raised $6.2 million in a seed round, Sustainable Packaging News reported.

The financing was led by LocalGlobe, with participation from Founder Collective, True Global, BoxGroup, Divergent Capital. Angels including Alma Angels Founder Deepali Nangia, Made Cofounder Julien Callede, former Blue Bottle Coffee CEO Bryan Meehan and FabricNano CEO Grant Aarons also participated.

Founded in 2019 by Insiya Jafferjee and Amir Afshar, the company uses vegan microbially-derived material to create packaging that is free of petroleum.

The company is looking to provide a sustainable alternative to plastic for single-use packaging in the beauty industry, which creates about 120 billion units of plastic every year. Only 14% of that packaging makes it to a recycling center, according to figures cited by the company. The packaging developed by Shellworks is compostable.

With the funding in hand, Shellworks is planning to scale its technology and invest in commercial growth.

“We’ve spent the last two years really refining our processes and material formulations to ensure that our products are not only sustainable but scalable,” Afshar said in a news release. “By working collaboratively with nature we want to show how promising the future of materials can be and are looking forward to launching our new range of products that both look and feel great later this year.”

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS

Puig acquires Byredo

Swedish luxury fragrance brand Byredo is set to be acquired by Puig, the Business of Fashion reported.

Byredo’s primary products include fragrance and candles. Founded by Ben Gorham in 2006, the brand was acquired by investment firm Manzanita Capital in 2013. Gorham will remain chief creative officer following the deal.

“Since 2006 I have been fortunate to work with people who believed in a brand that could redefine a luxury and beauty culture, one that was aspirational yet inclusive. The brand has experienced steady and significant growth over the last 15 years and each phase has presented new challenges and opportunities,” Gorham said in a statement. “I really believe that Puig’s experience with founder-led brands in beauty and fashion will help us realize our full potential in multiple categories. Puig has demonstrated a competitive and disruptive approach to building business – something that truly resonates with the culture that is Byredo.”

Byredo was the subject of speculation about an acquisition for weeks, with L’Oréal and Estée Lauder named as potential buyers. But the company ultimately will join Puig, the Spanish fragrance company which also houses brands including L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s.

DSM merges with flavor and fragrance company Firmenich

Two leaders in providing ingredients to the food and beauty industry are merging.

Amsterdam-based DSM and Switzerland-based Firmenich are set to combine in a deal that will create a dual-headquartered company focusing on “fragrance, taste, texture and nutrition,” according to a news release. This means it will be in four categories: beauty and perfurmes, health and nutrition, food and beverage and animal health and nutrition.

With the deal, the company is valued at 21.6 billion euros. DSM shareholders will own 65.5% of the company, while Firmenich shareholders will own 34.5% of the company. Employing 28,000 people, it will be led by current DSM co-CEOs Geraldine Matchett and Dimitri de Vreeze.

Along with the merger, DSM also announced a deal on Tuesday to sell its engineering materials business. The move is a signal that it is putting more focus on consumer goods.

Unilever acquires majority stake in Nutrafol

Nutrafol bottles

(Photo via Unilever/Nutrafol)

Consumer goods company Unilever acquired a majority stake in hair growth supplement brand Nutrafol.

Founded in 2016, Nutrafol makes products that are designed to address thinning and compromised hair for men and women. The brand is backed by private equity firm.

With the acquisition, Unilever said Nutrafol is set to build on success in ecommerce, alongside a network of more than 3,000 physicians that sell the company’s products. The brand will continue to be based in New York, and led by CEO Giorgos Tsetis.

“Joining forces with a leading global organization like Unilever, and all the resources and scale that comes with that, is the natural evolution in our mission to help people grow into their best selves through wholebody health,” Tsetis said in a statement.

The Athlete’s Foot parent company acquires Shoe City

Arklyz, the parent of The Athlete’s Foot, acquired Shoe City and the digital platform YCMC.

Based in Baltimore, Shoe City is a 70-year-old sneaker and streetwear retailer with more than 40 store locations in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.

"From starting with our first retail location in Baltimore, then expanding to 40 more stores over the last 70 years across the DMV with deep local ties in the community, I am glad that Arklyz and The Athlete's Foot, with a very similar approach, are taking over our family business," said Shoe City President Greg Greenburg, in a statement. " I believe that Arklyz and TAF will help Shoe City and ycmc.com grow further and make them even more community and culture relevant to our local consumers."

Arklyz said the acquisition will add to the store presence of The Athlete’s Foot, while the ecommerce platform will bolster its omnichannel strategy.

The companies are expecting to complete the integration by July 2022.

Bolthouse Farms acquires Evolution Fresh from Starbucks

Cold–pressed juice brand Evolution Fresh is set to be acquired by Bolthouse Farms from Starbucks.

Following the deal, Starbucks stores will continue to sell Evolution Fresh products. The deal means that Bolthouse is joining the portfolio of private equity firm Butterfly, alongside Chosen Foods, MaryRuth Organics, Orgain and Pete and Gerry’s Organics.

“Evolution Fresh has grown steadily over the last several years as a result of our partners’ hard work and commitment to the brand. We feel there is a great runway and opportunity to take Evolution Fresh to the next level, and Bolthouse Farms’ considerable experience and success in the premium beverage category will allow the brand to continue growing,” said Hans Melotte, Starbucks executive vice president for global channel development, in a statement.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close later this year, were not disclosed.

General Mills sells 2 brands

General Mills is set to sell the brands Helper and Suddenly Salad to Eagle Family Foods Group in a deal valued at $610 million.

Eagle Family Foods Group is a portfolio company of private equity firm Kelso & Company. General Mills said the brands had revenue of $235 million in fiscal year 2021.

“This transaction improves our North America Retail segment’s growth profile and allows us to increase our focus on brands and categories where we have the best opportunities to drive profitable growth,” said Jon Nudi, General Mills’ group president for North America retail, in a statement.

The deal is set to close in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023.

In a separate deal announced last week, Kelso and Company made a majority investment in Inovar Packaging Group, a Dallas-based label printing and packaging company.

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