Shopper Experience

Jay-Z leads round for pizza robots; Del Monte invests in blockchain

In this week's Dealboard, new funding for inclusive beauty and shoppable stories.

Jay-Z leads round for pizza robots; Del Monte invests in blockchain

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

Stellar Pizza, a company developing delivery trucks equipped with pizza-making robots, raised $16.5 million in a Series A round, Bloomberg reported.

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

Kahani, a mobile-first storytelling platform, raised $3.5 million in seed funding, Techcrunch reported.

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.

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