14 November 2022
Skincare brand Topicals raises $10M; ZitSticka acquired
On this week's Dealboard: New funding for subscriptions, social commerce for travel and non-alcoholic craft beer.
On this week's Dealboard: New funding for subscriptions, social commerce for travel and non-alcoholic craft beer.
Welcome to Dealboard. In this weekly feature, The Current is providing a look at the mergers, acquisitions and venture capital deals making waves in ecommerce, CPG and retail.
This week, a big raise and noteworthy acquisition in the skincare space, a non-alcoholic beverage company gets an investment from Keurig Dr. Pepper and Klaviyo makes its first acquisition.
Here’s a look at the dealflow this week:
Topicals CEO Olamide Olowe. (Courtesy photo)
Topicals, a brand that makes skincare products to treat flare-ups and advocates for mental health, raised $10 million in a Series A round led by CAVU Consumer Partners.
Founded in 2020 by Olamide Olowe, the brand recorded 3x revenue in 2021 through channels including Sephora and direct-to-consumer. Connecting mind and body wellness, it has also donated $50,000 to support nonprofits providing mental health resources for marginalized communities. The funding will be put toward omnichannel growth, new hires, channel expansion and brand marketing awareness. Jenna Jackson, principal of growth at CAVU Consumer Partners, will also join Topicals' Board of Directors.
"Through Topicals, we believe Olamide has set a new standard in beauty - not only by formulating and marketing effective over-the-counter replacement products for skincare - but also by destigmatizing the way consumers speak about their skin conditions," said Jackson, in a statement.
Sustainability-focused consumer products company Grove Collaborative entered a strategic partnership with HumanCo Investments, a health and wellness holding company. The goal is to identify and complete mergers and acquisitions for Grove Collaborative. Through the partnership, HumanCo will do the following:
Grove offers a marketplace that sells household and beauty products under its own brand, as well as those of others. The company went public in June.
“There are many companies that will need to be part of a larger platform that brings them scale and efficiency. We are confident that with HumanCo’s assistance, Grove will be able to identify and execute on these compelling M&A opportunities,” stated Ross Berman, cofounder of HumanCo.
Ordergroove, which provides software allowing brands and retailers to run their own subscription programs, raised $100 million in a new round of equity financing led by Primus Capital Partners.
WIth a focus on growing recurring revenue and customer lifetime value, Ordergroove powers subscriptions for L’Oréal, Bonafide, The Honest Company, La Colombe, and PetSmart. The company’s platform is platform agnostic, so it is desiged to integrate with other ecommerce platforms.
“This partnership with Primus will allow us to fuel our rapid growth and continue to scale our investments in product and innovation,” said Ordergroove CEO Greg Alvo, in a statement.
Travel app Hopper raised $96 million from Capital One in a follow-on investment to the company’s 2021 Series F that will help to accelerate its foray into social commerce. With the deal, Hopper and Capital One are planning to extend a partnership that is aimed at growing Capital One Travel.
Among a series of initiatives, Hopper is aiming to build its own travel super app, which will include social commerce features that will roll out over the next year. It has already launched features including referrals, share-to-earn, team buying and daily gifts, which allow users to redeem rewards.
Beverage giant Keurig Dr. Pepper invested $50 million for a minority stake in non-alcoholic craft beer maker Athletic Brewing Company.
Founded in 2017 by Bill Shufelt and John Walker, ABC has grown to become a top-20 craft beer maker, per Nielsen, and holds 55% market share in the non-alcoholic craft beer category.
"Athletic Brewing is a winning brand in a rapidly growing beverage segment. Our investment reflects our interest and ability to move into exciting white spaces, including in the blurring of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories," said Keurig Dr. Pepper Executive Chairman Bob Gamgort, in a statement.
Collars & Co., a Washington, DC-based menswear brand, secured a $1 million investment on ABC’s Shark Tank.
Founder Justin Baer closed a deal with Mark Cuban and British billionaire Peter Jones in exchange for 10% equity in the company.
Launched during the pandemic, the brand makes a product called Dress Collar Polo that is designed to be formal–looking, athletic and easy to clean. It also expanded into outerwear. So far, the brand generated $5.4 million in sales so far and worked with notable athletes like Tiki Barber and Sir Nick Faldo on photoshoots.
HeyDay, a digital-first consumer products company, acquired acne treatment and prevention brand Zitsticka.
HeyDay acquires and incubates digital brands, providing tools to help with omnichannel expansion, product development and building brand equity. The acquisition marks a deeper investment into personal care, in particular the growing pimple patch category.
Zitsticka launched with the popular Killa patch, which contains microdarts to prevent early-stage zits. It has since expanded to a product line that includes supplements, body washes and topicals, and has also launched in-store channels including Target and Ulta Beauty. This foundation offers “significant runway for future growth,” according to HeyDay.
Marketing automation platform Klaviyo acquired Napkin.io, a tool to help software developers build and deploy APIs. It’s the first acquisition for Klaviyo, which has grown from a prominent base working with brands in the Shopify ecosystem. Terms were not disclosed.
Founded in 2021 by Nick Sypteras, who will join Klaviyo, Napkin.io is designed to allow developers to easily write and deploy code from a browser. Once live, the code can be set to run on a schedule, or deployed as an API endpoint.
“Klaviyo is focused on providing the best possible experience for our customers – and that means opening up our platform to allow developers to build on top of our existing offerings,” said Ed Hallen, co-founder and chief product officer of Klaviyo. “Last year a few members of our team discovered Napkin.io and were immediately impressed with the power of the software, clear user interface, and unique feature set which are all Klaviyo-level quality.”
Additional tools that Klaviyo has made available to build on top of its platform include new SDKs, a sample data tool for Klaviyo onboarding, and a portal where developers can find API documentation, guides, and developer-specific content.
Gap Inc. announced that its has agreements in place to sell the Gap brand's Greater China business to ecommerce provider Baozun Inc. The company will operate the Gap's stores and ecommerce sites in that market on a franchise model.
The deal was the result of a review of Gap China that began in 2020. It allow Gap to operate in a more “asset-light, cost-effective model” in the market.
“With its local expertise and best-in-class omni-channel technology and deep expertise in data management and digital business, Baozun will enable Gap brand to better connect with Chinese consumers across all channels,” CEO Mark Breitbard wrote to employees.
UK retailer Next acquired furniture and home goods retailer Made.com for £3.4M. The Nov. 8 deal followed the Oct. 31 collapse of 12-year-old Made.com into administration.
The company had stopped taking orders in October as it struggled to find a buyer. But Made.com swooped in to buy the company's assets after administrators were appointed, which is the British equivalent of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
New tools from Adobe and Levi's generate product images in multiple variations.
AI is at the top of the conversation across technology in 2023, as new models such as ChatGPT and GPT4 show how ingesting and training large amounts of data can not only help businesses find insights in what already exists, but create something new.
While there is plenty of off-hours time being devoted to experimentation with these new models, the uses of tools that bring together automation and creativity in a way that is valuable for businesses and embraced by their customers are still coming into view.
In ecommerce, the promise of AI appears to be massive. Across marketplaces, advertising and customer service, brands and retailers have seen demands for content and customer touchpoints grow exponentially. With executives constantly in search of efficiency, AI tools stand to help generate voluminous content at scale.
To be sure, it remains early days. AI has not yet arrived permanently in ecommerce workflows, and some of the tools that lead to it arriving may not use the same models that are gaining so much press today. But the teams inside brands and retailers are interested in experimenting with this technology, and pilots can offer hints at where it might be heading.
This week delivered a pair of new launches from Levi’s and Adobe that showed how new tools can help to change how product images are generated. Let's take a look:
Photoshoots featuring models wearing products in real-world settings have long been a staple of the marketing playbook in fashion. Levi’s is piloting a new approach that could bring AI into the equation.
Through a partnership with Amsterdam-based Lalaland.ai, Levi Strauss is planning to test the use of customized, AI-generated models. Designed to supplement human models, Lalaland.ai’s technology is built to help show products for a diverse range of body types, ages, size and skin tones.
Levi’s positioned this as a move to supplement human models. Typically, a product page on the Levi’s app or website only has one model. Using this technology to create multiple images can help create a way for customers to see themselves represented in the products that are shown. It can also help to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within Levi's ecommerce stores, the company said.
“While AI will likely never fully replace human models for us, we are excited for the potential capabilities this may afford us for the consumer experience,” said Dr. Amy Gershkoff Bolles, global head of digital and emerging technology strategy at Levi Strauss & Co., in a statement. “We see fashion and technology as both an art and a science, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with Lalaland.ai, a company with such high-quality technology that can help us continue on our journey for a more diverse and inclusive customer experience.”
A new tool from Adobe is also aiming to automate the work of showing images in multiple variations on ecommerce stores, but this goes beyond fashion.
According to Reuters, the new tool is designed to allow ecommerce brands and retailers to create 3D images that show products from a range of categories in a variety of formats and configurations, as well as settings. It can be used for home goods, toys, furniture, apparel and more. Product images are used across a range of content, from product pages to emails to social campaigns. So the content needs for brands and retailers are voluminous. From Reuters:
But even keeping up with making renderings has created a tremendous amount of work for e-commerce companies as marketing campaigns have become more tightly targeted, said Francois Cottin, senior director of marketing for Adobe's Substance 3D business.
For example, Cottin said, a company selling a coffee machine might want to show the gadget against a different background in different countries, because German kitchens might look different from California kitchens. Most companies have to tap 3D artists to create each image.
This advance is as much about transforming the work of teams as it is about creating the variations of product images themselves. 3D models are currently used by many of the large ecommerce players, but creating them remains the work of large teams with specialty skills in visual effects. The images then head to the hands of marketers and merchandisers who find a home for them on product pages within the customer experience.
Automation can help make all of this work more efficient. Such a tool could also have a huge impact on smaller brands and retailers. If these capabilities move into wider release, a pool of content that would’ve only been available to the most-resourced companies now could be opened up for everyone to use.
While Adobe typically works with enterprises and this product is likely designed for that market segment, its release presents a question worth asking for the future: Will AI be the next ecommerce advance that further levels the playing field between storied brands and fast-rising startups?