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Flink, the Berlin-based instant grocery startup, is now valued at $2.85B after raising $750M in a round led by DoorDash

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Flink, the Berlin-based instant grocery startup, is now valued at $2.85B after raising $750M in a round led by DoorDash

Instant grocery delivery continues to be a very frothy market, but today comes news of a major funding round for one player in it that investors believe will still be standing after the hype has died down.

Flink, the Berlin-based startup that sells food and other essentials at supermarket prices and aims to deliver them in under 10 minutes, has confirmed that it has raised $750 million, a Series B round of funding led by a strategic backer, DoorDash, made at a pre-money valuation of $2.1 billion ($2.85 billion post-money). Flink is already present in some 60 cities across four countries, where it covers 10 million customers; the plan will be to use the funding to continue growing that footprint, both organically and potentially by snapping up rivals (we have confirmed that most of the round is in equity with a small portion in debt for acquisitions).

The involvement of DoorDash — which went public in December 2020, has a market cap currently of just under $57 billion, and is making its first foray into Europe with this investment — was a badly-kept secret in this fundraise, with reports of the investment emerging several months ago. We can confirm that DoorDash’s investment officially closed in September, with the rest of the round completed in the months following.

Others in the round included previous backer Mubadala Capital (which backed Flink in a $240 million round made as recently as June) and other unnamed new and past investors. (Previous backers also include German supermarket giant REWE, Prosus, Bond, Target Global, Northzone, Cherry Ventures and TriplePoint Capital.)

What’s remarkable when you consider the size of the funding is that Flink has only been around for a year, and commercially active for just seven months. In a rare interview — the company has been media-shy up to now — CEO and co-founder Oliver Merkel said he believes that part of the reason Flink has attracted attention among what is a crowded field of instant delivery startups is because of the founders’ track records. Merkel spent years as a management consultant at Bain working in grocery and retail; co-founders Julian Dames and Christoph Cordes are Rocket Internet alums who respectively founded the Foodora food delivery startup and furniture e-commerce business Fashion for Home (acquired by Home24, where Cordes became CEO).

“I think what we bring and why could we win market leadership in such a short amount of time is because we are obsessed about how we do things… and we bring some experience to the table. We made so many mistakes elsewhere, and we hope we’ve learned from those,” Merkel said. (Another reason for wooing investors could be that he’s quite personable for a media-shy person; that last comment was delivered tongue-in-cheek, as were many of the other quips he made off the record.)

This round has been in the works for some months now and the story behind that speaks to volatility and hype in the market at the moment, and where Flink believes it stands out.

DoorDash had originally come to Berlin last summer looking at investing in Gorillas, one of Flink’s big rivals, but that deal fell through over differences between the two companies’ management styles and longer-term growth plans. So, DoorDash began talking with Flink, where it turned out executives were more aligned in their strategies and approaches to growth. (Gorillas instead raised money from another strategic, Delivery Hero, as part of a whopping $1 billion round.)

Flink, meanwhile, fresh off its own funding round, was fending with M&A. Specifically, the startup had been tapped by both e-commerce and delivery behemoth Amazon, as well as by another U.S. instant grocery delivery player GoPuff, as an acquisition target.

Both approaches didn’t go anywhere — depending on who you ask, because Flink’s valuation was too high; or because Flink wasn’t interested in selling. At the same, Flink was also looking at a potential merger with Gorillas — a massive consolidation play that also didn’t happen at the time.

Whether Gorillas and Flink do ultimately join up, consolidation will likely come one way or the other as the many companies in instant delivery that have popped up in the last couple of years — spurred by the pandemic and changes in how people shopped and moved around — struggle to get profitable, reach positive unit economics, find new customers, and raise more money. GoPuff has been buying up smaller instant delivery startups in Europe to expand and scale, as has Getir.

And we found out too that Flink itself came close to buying another instant delivery company, Cajoo in France, apparently for the grand sum of €1, before Cajoo instead opted to raise $40 million.

(TechCrunch has confirmed the above details with executives across the companies.)

Putting all that M&A intrigue to one side, though, Flink has been quietly building out a strategy for how it plans to tackle the market, and it starts with how it sources groceries.

E-commerce is a business of economies of scale — it’s one reason why it’s so hard ultimately to compete against the behemoth that is Amazon — and the same goes for groceries, which need to be procured by the retailers that sell them.

Rather than try to get to a big enough scale to have the best negotiating power for buying in goods, Flink’s approach has been instead to partner with huge retailers and lean on them for those deals. In Germany, that has been its strategic backer REWE, and it has followed the same route with its launches in France and the Netherlands, although Flink has declined to disclose so far who those partners are.

“Flink is on a dynamic growth track, which REWE Group is supporting with its long-term commitment,” said Lionel Souque, CEO of REWE Group, in a statement on the relationship. “This also includes the operational cooperation between Flink and Rewe in the area of purchasing, which continues to develop very positively. Our decision to partner with Flink in April of this year has proven to be successful; Flink is now the number one in Quick Commerce in Germany and is ideally placed to further expand their market leadership.” (As for why a supermarket giant would be interested in a company that is essentially a rival, the logic was explained to me like this: those big supermarkets missed the boat on hard discount rivals like Aldi and Lidl, where they didn’t anticipate just how competitive the latter would ultimately become, taking away chunks of market share and customers. Now, the idea is to avoid making the same mistake and instead collaborate earlier and more closely with the next big thing to stay abreast of whatever growth might come.)

In the process of growing, the aim for Flink has been to keep the concept of instant grocery delivery as normal as possible and delivered to as wide a range of consumers as possible, not just young urbanites with disposable cash.

“People in big cities are spoiled,” Merkel said. “They get all the new innovations and services, but when we opened in Regensburg” — a significantly smaller town in the south of the country where Flink is now also operating — “it was crazy, the amount of business we got from day one. It’s an indication that our model works everywhere. We want to be the supermarket for everyone. Our pricing is supermarket pricing, and our products appeal not just to hipsters but the fireman, the teacher. Normal people.” It currently offers some 2,500 items in its biggest markets, and following its wide-appeal approach, that selection likely will grow over time.

What will be worth watching also is how Flink grows its talent. At a moment when there are remains a lot of scrutiny — and potentially some big changes ahead — over the rights that gig workers have at the companies where they operate, Flink says that its focus is “fully employed riders with unlimited contracts at a massive scale to cope with customer demand.” 

The company says that on average, its customers are taking multiple orders each week, an engagement metric that caught the eye of DoorDash and will be something to watch as part of how the two companies potentially collaborate together in the future.

“We’ve been impressed by Flink’s growth and customer retention,” said Prabir Adarkar, CFO of DoorDash, in a statement. “Oliver, Julian, Christoph, and their team share our operator mindset and bring a wealth of industry experience. It’s not surprising that in less than a year of operating they have established themselves as the leader in key European markets.”

“This funding round is a watershed moment for Flink as it continues on its hyper growth trajectory,” added Amer Alaily of Mubadala. “We are excited to watch them disrupt the instant grocery delivery space amidst an enormous market opportunity in Germany, France, the Netherlands and beyond – and we look forward to remaining a trusted partner to Oliver, Julian, Christoph and their team.” 

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform

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Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs

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A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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