Kim Kardashian, Cap Hill Brands, PowerPlant Partners have fresh capital to invest in consumer brands
In this week's Dealboard, grocery ecommerce sees consolidation, and investment for a new DTC women's running shoe brand.
In this week's Dealboard, grocery ecommerce sees consolidation, and investment for a new DTC women's running shoe brand.
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, retail and consumer goods landscape.
This week, Kim Kardashian launches a consumer-focused private equity fund, and Amazon is bringing a 138-year-old warehouse robotics company in house. Plus, check out the details on new investment for pet food proteins, women’s running shoes, food product drops and textured haircare.
Check out the latest deal news:
Kim Kardashian and Jay Sammons are launching SKYY Ventures. (Courtesy photo)
Kim Kardashian has a new venture in consumer goods. The celebrity and businesswoman is teaming with investment veteran Jay Sammons to launch SKYY Partners, a new private equity firm that will back consumer and media companies. The firm is set to make controlling and minority investments in companies operating in sectors including consumer products, digital and ecommerce, consumer media and entertainment, hospitality and luxury. Kardashian brings a massive social following and experience founding the consumer brand SKIMS. Sammons, who will lead day-to-day operations, worked for 16 years at the private equity firm Carlyle, where he was the global head of consumer, media and retail. Kardashian’s mother and manager Kris Jenner will also join as a partner.
Cap Hill Brands, a consumer products company that acquires and operates DTC and ecommerce brands, raised $100 million, Geekwire reported. The Series B round was led by investment giant BlackRock. Along with the funding round, the two-year-old company recently brought on former Best Buy CMO Greg Revelle as chief commercial officer, former Holland America Group chief people officer Susan Coskey as chief people officer and general counsel and former Carvana VP of financial planning John McKeon as chief financial officer. Cap Hill Brands has acquired 35 brands since launch, and seeks to grow them by providing core operations, technology and management.
Bond Pet Foods, which employs biotech to make meat proteins for pets, raised $17.5 million in a Series A funding round. Investors included ADM Ventures, the venture arm of Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cavallo Ventures, Genoa Ventures, Lever VC, Thia Ventures, iSelect Fund, Stage 1 Fund, Lifely VC and Satori Capital. Musicians Joan Jett and Sia Isabelle Furler were investors, as well. Bond Pet Foods said it uses precision fermentation to make “nutritionally comparable” chicken, beef, fish and other meat proteins that are used in pet food. Following the funding round, the company is aiming to triple the size of its team and scale up production at a forthcoming, 15,000-square-foot facility in Boulder, Colorado.
Delli, a food marketplace venture created by Depop founder Simon Beckerman, raised $7.2 million. The round was co-led by Balderton and HV Capital, who were both early investors in Depop, the fashion resale marketplace that was acquired by Etsy for $1.6 billion in 2021. Seeking to support emerging brands, Delli applies the “drop” model of launching products that was popularized in fashion to food.
adwoa beauty, a textured haircare brand, raised $4 million in growth capital from Pendulum, an investment platform supporting founders of color. Founded in 2017 by entrepreneur Julian Addo, adwoa beauty makes 12 haircare products that come in clean formulas and gender-neutral packaging. With the new funding, the brand will seek to develop new products, increase staffing and invest in brand awareness and retail support. Pendulum Managing Director Ron Mackey said adwoa has “showcased robust growth as an initially self-funded, innovative brand that has now turned consumers into loyal devotees across the country.”
Hilma, a DTC running shoe brand focused on women, raised $3 million in a seed investment round, Footwear News reported. The funding round was led by Brand Foundry Ventures, former Nike president and Banana Republic CEO Jeanne Jackson, Rothy’s cofounder Roth Martin, Tecovas founder Paul Hedrick, Ceremonia founder Babba Rivera and former RunKeeper CEO Jason Jacobs. Founded by Brooke Torres, Hilma is employing fit technology and personalized buying that is created for women. The shoe is slated for launch in October.
OOFOS, an active recovery footwear brand, received investment from Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr as part of a multi-year partnership. OOFOS slides and slippers contain an impact-absorbing foam technology which cradle the heel and arches. Carr said he has used the product for several years after he was given a pair by an athletic trainer following an injury. Along with the investment deal, Carr will serve as a brand ambassador to highlight “the importance of recovery in Derek's success on the field.” Terms were not disclosed.
ZineOne, an in-session marketing platform that helps brands and retailers engage anonymous traffic on a web property, raised $28 million in a Series C funding round. SignalFire led the funding, with participation from Norwest and other existing investors. Built for digital marketing in a “privacy-forward world,” ZineOne uses machine learning to analyze behavior patterns within the first few clicks to deliver product recommendations and promotional offers. “Currently, 80-90% of site visitors are anonymous, and ZineOne is able to intelligently segment visitors within five clicks to optimize conversions,” said Chris Scoggins, a partner at SignalFire that is joining ZineOne’s board with the investment. ZineOne’s clients include Men’s Wearhouse, Wynn Resorts, KEEN, Advance Auto Parts and Kohl’s.
PowerPlant Partners, an investment firm that backs plant-based consumer food and beverage brands, closed its third fund with $330 million in capital. With PPV Fund III, the firm is expanding its focus to include consumer technology, service and enablement companies. It will invest between $15 million and $40 million in growth-stage companies. The fund has already invested in Miyoko’s Creamery, Liquid Death, Partake Brewing and SYSTM Foods, which was the result of the acquisition and combination of Chameleon Cold-Brew and REBBL.
Misfits Market. (Courtesy photo)
Grocery platforms that built their businesses by rescuing produce that would’ve otherwise gone to waste are coming together. Misfits Market announced a deal to acquire Imperfect Foods. With the deal, the companies will combine under the leadership of Misfits Market CEO Abhi Ramesh and executives from both teams. Misfits Market was founded in 2018, delivers to 48 states and became a unicorn last year after surpassing a $1 billion valuation. Imperfect Foods was founded in 2015, and brings an in-house delivery fleet and private label program. “Scale matters in grocery, and this combination makes us a truly meaningful disruptor in the space,” stated Imperfect Foods CEO Dan Park. Terms were not disclosed.
Instacart acquired Rosie, an ecommerce platform for local and independent grocers. Founded in 2013, Rosie has helped local grocers introduce online ordering capabilities by providing branded websites and apps for grocers that power order flow, fulfillment and customer insights. The company’s capabilities will be added to Instacart Platform, which is the grocery technology company’s suite of offerings for grocers. In turn, Rosie’s existing clients will gain access to Instacart’s in-store technology, retail media and smart carts that it added last year through the acquisition of Caper. Terms of the Rosie deal were not disclosed.
Amazon acquired Cloostermans, a warehouse robotics company based in Belgium. The two companies have worked together since 2019, as Amazon uses Cloostermans’ mechatronics solutions to help move and stack pallets, or package products together. Cloostermans, which was founded in 1884 as a textile-focused repair shop, has more than 200 employees that will join Amazon Global Robotics in Europe. Amazon VP of Global Robotics Ian Simpson wrote that he is “excited to see what we can build together.” Terms were not disclosed.
Musical instrument manufacturer Roland is acquiring Drum Workshop. The deal brings together electronic music-focused Roland with a maker of acoustic instruments in Drum Workshop, which owns drum brands including DW, Gretsch and Pacific. The companies said that joining forces would push product development for both electronic and acoustic drums forward. "Roland's philosophy in driving innovation across all forms of expression is complimentary with ours, and we are excited to join forces in this relationship that will benefit artists and musicians everywhere," said Chris Lombardi, CEO of Drum Workshop, Inc., in a statement.
Following the rise of NFTs, Walmart, eBay and Meta are launching new tools to facilitate the exchange of digital goods.
Ecommerce has put the tools of the internet to powerful use, but it has long been centered on the movement of physical goods.
Over the last several years, a new wave of technologists and entrepreneurs have begun to explore the introduction of digital goods to ecommerce, where the value exchange lives entirely in the world of bits, without atoms.
After a period of study and testing, large platforms and retailers are beginning to move ahead with putting new tools to facilitate these transactions into wide release.
The area of digital collectibles is emerging as one of particular interest. Limited edition, collectors’ items have long commanded their own markets. Think of trading cards, action figures, limited-run pressings or the art market as a whole. Now, these are taking digital form. The emergence of tools such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs), which store harness blockchain technology to allow individual versions of digital creations to be available for buying and trading via cryptocurrency, are enabling the beginnings of a new kind of market.
Of the large platforms where ecommerce takes place, eBay has been among the earliest movers in this area. Given that the marketplace is already a place where physical collectibles are exchanged, the extension into digital collectibles makes sense in theory.
eBay has taken steps to put it into practice. The marketplace began allowing buying and selling of NFTs on its platform in 2021. The stated ideas behind the launch made it clear that it saw digital collectibles fitting into the platform.
“eBay has always been the world’s destination for buying and selling the most unique and hard-to-find items - and we’ll continue to be the destination for collectors of all kinds, physical or digital,” said Jordan Sweetnam, SVP and general manager of the Americas for eBay, wrote in an announcement at the time of the NFT expansion in 2021. “This opportunity unlocks new assets for collecting, new ways for people to fuel their passion, and expands eBay’s appeal to a new generation of collectors.”
The marketplace has picked up activity in this area this year. In May 2022, it launched an initial collection of NFTs on the web3 platform OneOf, which were new interpretations of iconic athletes featured on Sports Illustrated covers. In June, the marketplace took another step toward facilitating transactions when it acquired NFT marketplace KnownOrigin, which allows artists and creators to showcase and exchange digital works for collectors.
The eBay vault. (Courtesy photo)
For eBay, this is part of a wider strategy to provide space for the digital exchange of collectibles as a whole. It is also making big investments in physical collectibles, including a new vault for trading cards that provides storage and a digital marketplace, and the $295 million acquisition of TCGPlayer, a marketplace for collectible trading cards like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon. Those goods will require specific tools to solve their own set of challenges, including authentication to ensure items are what they say they are, and ensure they are truly limited in quantity. Yet it is emerging alongside the digital collectibles, and it’s clear that eBay sees the two sides fitting under its tent.
“One reason that we're excited to launch the Vault is because it can enable real-time transactions for physical or digital goods,” eBay CEO Jamie Ianone said on the company’s recent second quarter earnings call. “This intersection is nascent, the one that collectible enthusiasts are increasingly exploring. This is part of the rationale behind our second quarter acquisition of KnownOrigin.”
A potential connecting point was made more clear on Monday, when Walmart entered the fray. The retailer announced a new partnership with the National Entertainment Collectibles Association that will result in a new platform, called AutoT, that enables digital collectibles.
AutoT will have a series of rare variants of collectibles and figures that are signed by stars and creators.
Here's how it works: To access the platform, customers will be able to purchase a box from Walmart that is tied to a specific pop culture property. Upon purchase, they enter the digital code found on their Walmart receipt into a personal account at AutoTVault.com. This reveals which collectible item they’ve received. Collectors will be able to store a digital collectible for up to two years free of charge in the NECA’s Vault, or have a physical item shipped to them.
Launching on Oct. 6 at Walmart’s website, the platform will debut with collectible figures from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, featuring Shredder, Renet and Foot Soldier, with potential for fans to receive versions of the digital figures signed by co-creator Kevin Eastman. Exclusive lithographs from the TV icon and artist Bob Ross will also be available at launch. New products are set to drop at regular intervals, Walmart said.
A Shredder action figure. (Courtesy photo)
For Walmart, this is an extension into a new form of commerce as it looks toward the future of retail, which has long been built around physical goods. Coupled with last week’s announcement that it is building a large experience in Roblox, it’s clear the world’s largest retailer wants to have a presence wherever goods are being bought and sold. The throughline here is that digital collectibles can usher in an evolution of shopping.
“At Walmart, we are always finding new ways to bring innovation and one-of-a-kind offerings to our customers,” said Laura Rush, SVP of electronics, toys and seasonal at Walmart US, in a statement. “NECA’s unique collectibles and inventive AutoT platform offer a new type of shopping experience to shoppers, ensuring that Walmart is bringing the best in tech and entertainment to customers nationwide.”
This may be a test not only of the tools and shopping functions, but also where value is shown. Will a person find value in a digital work that can be linked to its creator in the same they would a physical work that has touched the artist's hands? In other words, can Bob Ross' resurgence courtesy of memes and YouTube translate to people wanting to own a piece of his work?
NFTs on Instagram. (Photo via Meta)
Given that art is involved, it's also worth considering what will happen when the gallery wall is removed. The ability to display and share collectibles in common spaces may also be valuable. One avenue arrived last week. Meta opened up the capability for users to share digital collectibles that they have purchased or bought on Facebook and Instagram to everyone. These collectibles can also be shared between the two platforms. Making good on an announcement it made in May, Meta said users can now connect a digital wallet and display NFTs from those wallets on the platform, The NFTs will have a shimmer effect, and public information like a description of the NFT can be displayed. The work can be attributed to both the creator and collector.
As Ianone referenced, these are nascent launches. They may not be the versions that last, but they are important steps toward pushing this form of collectibles into wide release. Provide the tools, figure out what people find valuable and new markets can take root.