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UK’s Bloom & Wild raises $102M to seed its flower delivery service across Europe

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Bloom & Wild, a London-based startup that takes an updated and online approach to the very traditional business of ordering and delivering flowers, has seen business blossom in the last year. And today, it is announcing a big round of funding to help it double down on the opportunity ahead.

The company has raised £75 million ($102 million), a Series D that it plans to use to continue expanding across Europe (in addition to the UK, it operates today in Ireland, France, Germany and Austria) as it also continues to build out the business through technology, hiring new talent, thinking up more ideas and new partnerships, such as a new deal with supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to spearhead a new brick-and-mortar push.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate to have been able to continue trading when we know how tough the past nine months or so has been for many,” said Aron Gelbard, Bloom & Wild’s co-founder & CEO, in an emailed interview. “It’s been a real joy & privilege to help keep our customers connected with their loved ones when we’ve all been missing being able to see our friends & family. We’ve certainly seen strong sales during periods of national restrictions across our markets, but sales have held strong during periods of relatively limited restrictions as we’ve retained new customers and converted many of our new recipients too.”

The funding is being led by General Catalyst, with Index Ventures, Novator, Latitude Ventures, D4 Ventures (established by Hanzade Dogan), and existing investors such as Burda Principal Investments also participating.

Bloom & Wild is not disclosing its valuation, but it comes on the heels of some very strong growth. Revenues for the company were up 160% in 2020, with some 4 million deliveries of flowers in that period — more than had ever been made in the lifetime of the company previously, it said. That helped push the company into the black, its first profitable year.

Founded in 2014, Bloom & Wild had only raised around $35 million before this, according to PitchBook, which estimates its pre-money valuation at $88 million.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “How can people think about flowers at a time like this? We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, for crying out loud.”

And indeed, that is so. But it seems that there is a special place for flower-based gifts, whether for other people or just for ourselves, that are appreciated especially when times are hard.

And while we’ve also seen people move quickly past that extra toilet paper, face masks and other practical purchases to click buy on many not-totally-essential indulgences — from fancy food and drinks through to nicer furniture since they’re spending so much time at home — I’d argue flowers have a unique position in the indulgence/gifting pantheon.

In the midst of a health pandemic that has severely curtailed how people can interact with each other in person, getting flowers from a person can take on a new and sometimes deeper meaning. The physical presence — the colors, the smells, the rustle of life — they convey can be a proxy for the human interaction that we’re missing.

“We’re privileged to have played our part in keeping people connected in this difficult period, and I’m proud of our growing team for scaling our operations whilst maintaining the signature thought and care we put into every order,” said Gelbard in a statement. “With this new backing from General Catalyst and Index we start 2021 with renewed energy to pursue our vision of becoming the world’s leading and most loved flower company.”

If you’ve ever ordered flowers for someone or for yourself, you know there is no shortage of options for doing so. In the UK alone there are some 7,500 florists according to the British Florist Association, and that’s not counting thousands more online-only retailers (like Bloom & Wild) or the many services that knit these together into wider delivery networks such as Interflora or FTD. FTD has been something of a consolidator here: in 2018 it acquired a US flower delivery startup called BloomThat (which likened itself to an Uber for flowers).

While some people still prefer to shop for tangible things like flowers in person, a lot of that has moved into the virtual world over the years — especially for those ordering flowers to be delivered to someone — making it in some ways much easier to launch and grow online-only flower businesses.

Bloom & Wild’s product approach is to sell flowers as bouquets, and to give people the option of making the smaller of those bouquets extremely easy to deliver, by designing a box that fits through the typical UK mail slot (either in your front door or elsewhere).

The bouquets it sells, meanwhile, are Instagrammably eye-catching, created for the kind of person who might discover them on that social network (where it has around 250,000 followers), and targeted at our modern predicament. (For example, the bouquet pictured above is called “The Ezra”. Its description: “This cocktail of vibrant oranges and soft lilacs reminds us of holidays in the sun. And the people we’d spend them with. Missing your travel buddy? Send them this instant day-brightener.”)

There are options for ordering flowers for offices — although these are almost certainly not getting ordered as much days — and to build subscriptions, as you might with any other D2C product you order online. And once Bloom & Wild gets to know you and what you like, that will inform how and which flowers on the service are presented to you. Over time it’s moved into more than flowers — it sold Christmas trees this season, and offers a few gifts alongside its bouquets — and it is gradually building out a brick-and-mortar presence, too.

But most of all, it seems the company has seen a surge of interest not just because of the efficiency and targeting of its service, but because it has gotten the product right — specifically delivering flowers that people like.

Gelbard points out that the company has “the most direct supply chain in the flower industry, sourcing directly from growers. This means our customers get excellent value and their flowers last longer, arriving in bud and regularly blooming for up to ten days or more.”

He also notes that the company has built a “bespoke technology and data science platform” focused on a quick and easy ordering experience on app or web. Lastly, “in a traditionally commoditised industry reliant on paid search, we’ve taken an innovative approach to product and brand development,” he notes, pointing to the “letterbox flower” invention.

“Bloom & Wild has infused the traditional flower giving experience with predictive analytics and technology to deliver a fresher, less-travelled bouquet to the people you care most about,” said Adam Valkin, MD, General Catalyst, in a statement. “What’s most impressive about Aron and his team has been their duality of focus since launch. They’re bringing industry-leading efficiency to the intricate supply chain challenges of flower delivery while simultaneously building a beloved experience that connects with consumers in a remarkably authentic way.”

Martin Mignot, Partner at Index Ventures added: “Bloom & Wild team have reinvented every aspect of flower delivery and gifting, challenging the status quo at every stage. Through relentless execution, Aron and his team have created a delightful experience for customers, becoming the fastest growing flower business in Europe. We’re thrilled to partner with them as they scale internationally.”

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Indonesian logistics startup SiCepat raises $170 million Series B

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SiCepat, an end-to-end logistics startup in Indonesia, announced today it has raised a $170 million Series B funding round. Founded in 2014 to provide last-mile deliveries for small merchants, the company has since expanded to serve large e-commerce platforms, too. Its services now also cover warehousing and fulfillment, middle-mile logistics and online distribution.

Investors in SiCepat’s Series B include Falcon House Partners; Kejora Capital; DEG (the German Development Finance Institution); Telkom Indonesia’s investment arm MDI Ventures; Indies Capital; Temasek Holdings subsidiary Pavilion Capital; Tri Hill; and Daiwa Securities. The company’s last funding announcement was a $50 million Series A in April 2019.

In a press statement, The Kim Hai, founder and chief executive officer of SiCepat’s parent company Onstar Express, said the funding will be used to “further fortify SiCepat’s position as the leading end-to-end logistics service provider in the Indonesian market and potentially to explore expansion to other markets in Southeast Asia.” SiCepat claims to be profitable already and that it was able to fulfill more than 1.4 million packages per day in 2020.

The logistics industry in Indonesia is highly fragmented, which means higher costs for businesses. At the same time, demand for deliveries is increasing thanks to the growth of e-commerce, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SiCepat is one of several Indonesian startups that have raised funding recently to make the supply chain and logistics infrastructure more efficient. For example, earlier this week, supply chain SaaS provider Advotics announced a $2.75 million round. Other notable startups in the space include Kargo, founded by a former Uber Asia executive, and Waresix.

SiCepat focuses in particular on e-commerce and social commerce, or people who sell goods through their social media networks. In statement, Kejora Capital managing partner Sebastian Togelang, said the Indonesian e-commerce market is expected to grow at five-year compounded annual growth rate of 21%, reaching $82 billion by 2025.

“We believe SiCepat is ideally positioned to serve customers from e-commerce giants to uprising social commerce players which contribute an estimated 25% to the total digital commerce economy,” he added.

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InsurGrid raises pre-seed financing to help modernize legacy insurance agents

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Insurance agents spend hours handling paperwork and grabbing client information over the phone. A new seed-stage startup, InsurGrid, has developed a software solution to help ease the process, and make it easier for agents to serve existing clients — and secure new ones.

InsurGrid gives agents a personalized platform to collect information from clients, such as date of birth, driver’s license information and policy declaration. This platform helps agents avoid sitting on long calls or managing back-to-back emails, and instead gives them one spot to understand how all their different clients function. It is starting with property and casualty management.

The startup integrates with 85 insurance carriers, serving as the software layer instead of the provider. Using the InsurGrid platform, insurers can ask clients to upload information and within seconds be registered as a policyholder. This essentially turns into a living Rolodex that insurers can use to access information on the account, and offer quotes on a faster rate.

Image Credits: InsurGrid

There’s a monetary benefit in providing better service. Eden Insurance, a customer of InsurGrid, said that people who submit information through the platform converted at an 82% higher rate than those who don’t. Jeremy Eden, the agency owner of Eden Insurance, said they were able to show consumers that its plan was $300 cheaper than its existing rate.

At the heart of InsurGrid is a bet from the founding team that legacy insurance agents aren’t going anywhere. Co-founder/CEO Chase Beach pointed out that the majority of the $684 billion of annual property and casualty insurance premiums in the United States is distributed by approximately 800,000 agents working in 16,000 brokerages. So far, InsurGrid works with more than 150 of those agencies.

When asked if InsurGrid ever had plans to offer its own insurance, similar to insurtech giants Hippo, Lemonade and Root, Beach said that it is solely working on innovating around the sales process for now. He said that these big companies, which have either recently gone public or are planning to, still rely on agents to be successful.

“Instead of us replacing the insurance agent, what if we gave them that same level of technology of a Hippo or large carrier,” Beach said. “And provide them with the digital experiences so they can compete in 2021.”

As time goes on, he sees insurance agents taking the same role that financial advisors or real estate agents take: “very much involved in the process because they are that expert.”

Other startups that have popped up in this space include Gabi, Trellis and Canopy Connect. The differentiator, the team sees, is that Beach comes from a 144-year-old insurance legacy, giving him key insights on how to sell to agents in a successful and effective way. It is starting with sales, but expect InsurGrid to expand to other parts of the insurance process as well.

To help them compete with new and old startups, InsurGrid recently raised $1.3 million in pre-seed financing to help it fulfill its goal to be the “underdog for the underdogs,” Beach said. Investors include Engineering Capital, Hustle Fund, Vess Capital, Sahil Lavingia and Trevor Kienzle.

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Backed by Blossom, Creandum and Index, grocery delivery and dark store startup Dija launches in London

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Dija, the London-based grocery delivery startup, is officially launching today and confirming that it raised £20 million in seed funding in December — a round that we first reported was partially closed the previous month.

Backing the company is Blossom Capital, Creandum and Index Ventures, with Dija seemingly able to raise pre-launch. In fact, there are already rumours swirling around London’s venture capital community that the upstart may be out raising again already — a figure up to £100 million was mooted by one source — as the race to become the early European leader in the burgeoning “dark” grocery store space heats up.

Image Credits: Dija

Over the last few months, a host of European startups have launched with the promise of delivering grocery and other convenience store items within 10-15 minutes of ordering. They do this by building out their own hyper-local, delivery-only fulfilment centres — so-called “dark stores” — and recruiting their own delivery personnel. This full-stack or vertical approach and the visibility it provides is then supposed to produce enough supply chain and logistics efficiency to make the unit economics work, although that part is far from proven.

Earlier this week, Berlin-based Flink announced that it had raised $52 million in seed financing in a mixture of equity and debt. The company didn’t break out the equity-debt split, though one source told me the equity component was roughly half and half.

Others in the space include Berlin’s Gorillas, London’s Jiffy and Weezy, and France’s Cajoo, all of which also claim to focus on fresh food and groceries. There’s also the likes of Zapp, which is still in stealth and more focused on a potentially higher-margin convenience store offering similar to U.S. unicorn goPuff. Related: goPuff itself is also looking to expand into Europe and is currently in talks to acquire or invest in the U.K.’s Fancy, which some have dubbed a mini goPuff.

However, let’s get back to Dija. Founded by Alberto Menolascina and Yusuf Saban, who both spent a number of years at Deliveroo in senior positions, the company has opened up shop in central London and promises to let you order groceries and other convenience products within 10 minutes. It has hubs in South Kensington, Fulham and Hackney, and says it plans to open 20 further hubs, covering central London and Zone 2, by the summer. Each hub carries around 2,000 products, claiming to be sold at “recommended retail prices”. A flat delivery fee of £1.99 is charged per order.

“The only competitors that we are focused on are the large supermarket chains who dominate a global $12 trillion industry,” Dija’s Menolascina tells me when I ask about competitors. “What really sets us apart from them, besides our speed and technology, is our team, who all have a background in growing and disrupting this industry, including myself and Yusuf, who built and scaled Deliveroo from the ground up”.

Menolascina was previously director of Corporate Strategy and Development at the takeout delivery behemoth and held several positions before that. He also co-founded Everli (formerly Supermercato24), the Instacart-styled grocery delivery company in Italy, and also worked at Just Eat. Saban is the former chief of staff to CEO at Deliveroo and also worked at investment bank Morgan Stanley.

During Dija’s soft-launch, Menolascina says that typical customers have been doing their weekly food shop using the app, and also fulfilling other needs, such as last minute emergencies or late night cravings. “The pain points Dija is helping to solve are universal and we built Dija to be accessible to everyone,” he says. “It’s why we offer products at retail prices, available in 10 minutes – combining value and convenience. Already, Dija is becoming a key service for parents who are pressed for time working from home and homeschooling, as one example”.

Despite the millions of dollars being pumped into the space, a number of VCs I’ve spoken to privately are sceptical that fresh groceries with near instant delivery can be made to work. The thinking is that fresh food perishes, margins are lower, and basket sizes won’t be large enough to cover the costs of delivery.

“This might be the case for other companies, but almost everyone at Dija comes from this industry and knows exactly what they are doing, from buying and merchandising to data and marketing,” Menolascina says, pushing back. “It’s also worth pointing out that we are a full-stack model, so we’re not sharing our margin with other parties. In terms of the average basket size, it varies depending on the customer’s need. On one hand, we have customers who do their entire grocery shop through Dija, while on the other hand, our customers depend on us for emergency purchases e.g. nappies, batteries etc.”

On pricing, he says that, like any retail business, Dija buys products at wholesale prices and sells them at recommended retail prices. “Going forward, we have a clear roadmap on how we generate additional revenue, including strategic partnerships, supply chain optimisation and technology enhancements,” adds Menolascina.

Dija testing on Deliveroo

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Meanwhile, TechCrunch has learned that prior to launching its own app, Dija ran a number of experiments on takeout marketplace Deliveroo, including selling various convenience store items, such as potato chips and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. If you’ve ever ordered toiletry products from “Baby & Me Pharmacy” or purchased chocolate sweets from “Valentine’s Vows,” you have likely and unknowingly shopped at Dija. Those brands, and a number of others, all delivered from the same address in South Kensington.

“Going direct to consumer without properly testing pick & pack is a big risk,” Menolascina told me in a WhatsApp message a few weeks ago, confirming the Deliveroo tests. “We created disposable virtual brands purely to learn what to sell and how to replenish, pick & pack, and deliver”.

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