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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 ecommerce, CPG and retail.
This week, companies are raising funds to build an Amazon ecosystem, inclusive beauty brands and pizza robots (with support from Jay-Z). Plus, Walmart is acquiring a fulfillment robotics company.
Here’s a look at the latest deals:
Walmart acquires fulfillment robotics partner
Alert Innovation, an egrocery fulfillment automation company, is set to be acquired by Walmart.
Alert Innovation makes a system called Alphabot, which includes “patented omnidirectional robots in a temperature-controlled system for fresh, efficient, and high-quality grocery fulfillment,” the company said. It has worked with Walmart to develop technology for the retailer's market fulfillment centers since 2016. They piloted the retailer’s first MFC in Salem, New Hampshire, in 2019.
“Bringing the best of Alert’s technology and capabilities in-house will enable us to reach more customers quicker by deploying MFCs with greater speed, providing both an unmatched shopping experience and a competitive advantage in omnichannel fulfillment,” said David Guggina, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Automation at Walmart U.S., in a statement.
Alert Innovation will continue to operate under its own brand, with a team based in the Boston area. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Carbon6 raises $66M, acquires 16 companies
Carbon6, a software suite for the Amazon marketplace, raised $66 million in a funding round that was a mixture of equity and venture debt.
The equity round, which is a Series A, was led by White Star Capital, with participation from Kale Investment Fund, Benevolent Capital and MidCap Financial. MidCap Financial, which is managed by Apollo Capital Management, L.P., also provided the venture debt financing.
The company is building a set of tools for ecommerce business management, including business intelligence, inventory management, and advertising solutions.
As it builds, the company has acquired 16 software companies in the 16 months ending September 2022.
With the funding, Carbon6 plans to expand marketplaces beyond Amazon, and open offices in Europe and Asia. The company plans to have more than 20 products by the first quarter of 2023.
“The Carbon6 experience goes beyond software,” said Justin Cobb, CEO of Carbon6, in a statement. “We’re developing the connective tissue that millions of sellers need to automate and accelerate their businesses, with the support of a broader network of entrepreneurs.”
Del Monte invests in blockchain startup
Fresh Del Monte Produce acquired a 39% stake in Decapolis, a Jordanian and UK-based startup that provides blockchain-driven food safety and quality traceability for the food industry.
Along with the investment, the two companies plan to roll out Decapolis Food Guard, which is a blockchain-based traceability solution, across all Fresh Del Monte business units. It will begin with pineapple operations in Costa Rica. The technology harnesses QR codes to provide assessments at each stage of a product's journey, from planting to distribution. It is designed to offer trusted record keeping in the supply chain, which can have an impact on consumer knowledge, food safety or quality analysis.
“Now more than ever, consumers are very cognizant of what goes into their food. With this blockchain technology, they’ll know exactly what has gone into the product, and where it has traveled until the moment it was purchased for consumption," said Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, Fresh Del Monte CEO, in a statement.
Terms of the investment were not disclosed.
The Rounds raises $38M
The Rounds, a refill and delivery service, raised $38 million in a Series A round, Techcrunch reported.
The financing was led by Redpoint Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Construct Capital and First Round Capital.
The Rounds keeps household, pantry and personal care essentials in stock for customers by delivering fresh goods, and picking up empty containers. Customers can adjust times based on their schedule, and text back and forth with the company’s system. Customers can also access The Rounds website to shop SKUs from various brands, as well as local businesses.
Deliveries are made by a “Rounder” that rides an ebike with a trailer affixed to it, carrying multiple orders.
"We’re building what we believe to be the future of last-mile logistics,” CEO Alex Torrey told Techcrunch.
Jay-Z leads funding round for pizza robot trucks
The financing was led by Marcy Venture Partners, the venture firm of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
Founded in 2019 by former SpaceX engineers, Stellar is developing a system that allows a customer to order a pizza via app, and have the pizza baked by a robot. The pizza is then delivered by a driver. Bloomberg reports that it will take less than five minutes to make a pizza when the company's system is complete.
TLB raises $6.7M
TLB, an inclusive beauty company, raised $6.7 million in an oversubscribed investment round.
The round was led by Pendulum, an investing and advisory platform for founders and leaders of color. The Fearless Fund and Endeavor also participated.
Launched in 2012 by CEO Melissa Butler as a result of frustrations with the beauty industry’s lack of diversity, TLB operates two brands: The Lip Bar, a 10-year–old vegan, cruelty free and non-toxic beauty brand, and thread beauty, a gender-neutral, Gen Z-focused, BIPOC beauty brand that launched recently. The brands are sold in 1,000 stores, including Target and Walmart.
“We plan on growing our team and improving our ability to better service the needs of our consumers across different divisions, because we understand how experience and expertise can spur growth quickly. We also plan to continue to drive our innovation forward to create beauty solutions that allow everyone to experience easy, effortless, essentials that empower confidence.” said Butler, in a statement.
Kahani raises $3.5M for shoppable stories
Nextview Ventures and Sugar Capital, led the round, with participation from a group of angel investors.
The company was founded by Jesse Pujji, an entrepreneur who also founded Gateway X, Ampush and GrowthAssistant, and is a noted voice on Twitter for honest looks at building startups, among other topics.
Kahani aims to bring more dynamic shoppable content to ecommerce websites. Here's how Techcrunch described the product:
Kahani’s first product is a “Stories-like” feature, for example, which shows clothes being worn and the model turning around and showing how it fits “live” versus static images of the front and back views.
Merchants can begin using the product with a two-line code snippet and Kahani’s self-serve content management system that enables merchants to change around photos and videos or set up the system to automatically pull top sellers into a “story” on the website.
Clients include Tovala, SimpleModern and Hayden Girls. The company will use the funding to invest in engineering, marketing and R&D.
Trending in Shopper Experience
On the Move has the latest from Amazon, Lovesac and more.
This week, leadership is changing at GameStop, Sorel and Beautycounter. Meanwhile, key executives are departing at Amazon, Wayfair and Lovesac.
Here’s a look at the latest shuffles:
GameStop CEO fired
GameStop announced the termination of Matthew Furlong as CEO on Wednesday. A brief statement did not provide a reason for the firing.
With the move, Chewy founder and activist investor Ryan Cohen was named executive chairman of the video game retailer. Cohen will be responsible for capital allocation and overseeing management.
It came as the company reported a 10% year-over-year decline in net sales for the first quarter. Meanwhile, the company’s net loss improved by 62%.
In an SEC filing, GameStop further added this “We believe the combination of these efforts to stabilize and optimize our core business and achieve sustained profitability while also focusing on capital allocation under Mr. Cohen’s leadership will further unlock long-term value creation for our stockholders.”
Cohen was revealed as GameStop's largest shareholder when he disclosed a 10% stake in the retailer in 2020. GameStop went on to become a leading name in the meme stock rise of 2021.
Sorel president steps down
Mark Nenow is stepping down as president of the Sorel brand in order to focus on his health.
After rising to the role in 2015, Nenow spearheaded a transformation of Columbia Sportswear-owned Sorel from a men’s workwear brand to a fashion-focused brand that led with a women’s offering of boots, sandals and sneakers.
“Mark led the brand to sales of $347 million in net sales in 2022,” said Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, in a statement. “His leadership has been invaluable to this company, and we wish him the very best.”
Columbia will conduct a search for Nenow’s replacement. Craig Zanon, the company’s SVP of emerging brands, will lead Sorel in the interim.
Beautycounter appoints interim CEO
Beautycounter appointed board member Mindy Mackenzie as interim CEO, succeeding Marc Rey. According to the brand, Rey and the board “mutually decided to transition to a new phase of leadership for Beautycounter.”
McKenzie, a former executive at Carlyle, McKinsey and Jim Beam, will lead the company as it conducts a search for a permanent CEO. Additionally, former Natura & Co CEO Roberto Marques will join Beautycounter’s board as chair.
As part of the transition, Nicole Malozi is also joining the company as chief financial officer. She brings experience from Tatcha, Nike, and DFS Group Limited.
Amazon’s North America fulfillment chief departs
Melissa Nick, a VP of customer fulfillment for North America at Amazon, will leave the company, effective June 16, CNBC reported. Nick joined the company in 2014, and oversaw a region that included nearly 300 fulfillment centers. After doubling its supply chain footprint during the pandemic, Amazon recently reorganized its fulfillment operations to take a regional approach, as opposed to a national model that often resulted in items shipping across the country.
Wayfair’s chief commercial officer to retire
Jon Blotner (Courtesy photo)
Steve Oblak will retire from the role of chief commercial officer at home goods marketplace Wayfair. With the move, Jon Blotner will be promoted to chief commercial officer.
"Steve has served as a critical part of our leadership team and played a pivotal role in Wayfair's growth, helping us grow from a $250 million business when he joined to $12 billion in net revenue today,” said Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah, in a statement. “He oversaw countless milestones, from helping to launch the Wayfair brand as we brought together hundreds of sites into a single platform, to launching new categories, business lines, and geographies while overseeing our North American and European businesses, to leading our debut into physical retail.”
Blotner previously oversaw exclusive and specialty retail brands, as well as digital media at Wayfair. Before joining the company, he served as president of Gemvara.com prior to its 2016 acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway.
Lovesac announces CFO transition
Furniture retailer Lovesac said Donna Dellomo will retire as EVP and CFO, and move to an advisory role, effective June 30. Dellomo was with Lovesac for six years.
Keith Siegner was appointed as the next EVP and CFO. He brings experience as CFO of esports company Vindex, as well as executive roles at Yum! Brands, UBS Securities and Credit Suisse.
Additionally, Jack Krause will retire from the role of chief strategy officer, effective June 30. His responsibilities will be divided between CEO Shawn Nelson and president Mary Fox.
“Since joining Lovesac, Jack has played an instrumental role in transforming the Company into a true omni channel retailer by helping expand our physical touchpoints and digital platform as we continue to disrupt the industry,” said Nelson, in a statement.
NRF adds board members
The National Retail Federation announced the addition of five new board members. They include:
- Marguerite Adzick, founder and CEO, Addison Bay
- Harley Finkelstein, president, Shopify
- Ian Kahn, partner, PwC
- Sharon Leite, CEO, Ideal Image
- Carrie Tharp, VP, strategic industries, Google Cloud