Choosing light over dark
If you’re like us and keeping up with tech news on a daily basis, then there’s no doubt the phrase: “Foodtech, again !” has been on your lips at least a dozen times as you stumbled upon the latest fundraising news over the past few months. We surely got a lot of those in our Slack channels at C4 ! However the reality is a bit more nuanced than that.
Grocery delivery definitely got rocket-boosted by the pandemic. And it’s here for the long haul. The main thesis defended by these companies is that unlike fashion shopping, grocery shopping is, for a lot of people, a time-consuming chore. Pushing a cart through the alleys, queuing up, checking out and lifting heavy grocery shopping bags from the store’s register all the way up to your apartment can take lots of energy and up to 3 hours every week (!). Time is becoming the most coveted resource, and so it’s clear to see why plenty of people would prefer to avoid it and turn to e-grocery if they can.
Shining a light upon Dark Stores
Over the last few months, a host of European startups have raised mind-boggling amounts with the promise of delivering grocery and other convenience store items within 10–15 minutes of ordering.
All of them do so by opening their own hyper-local, delivery-only fulfilment centers — what the jargon calls Dark Stores — and recruiting their own delivery personnel. Essentially, they’re replicating the capital-intensive, asset-heavy model invented by GoPuff in the USA. Dija, Getir, Cajoo, Gorillas… the list is long (and growing pretty much every single day). All of them initially shared the market by launching in different cities, but in light of the capital deployed and the companies job boards, it’s just a matter of time until they start competing for the same markets. It’s already happening in London and very (very) soon in Paris, and it’s a winner-takes-all play.
The benefit of this vertical approach creates supply chain and logistics efficiencies for a better control and a better margin on products. It also ensures a more direct customer relationship. And to be clear, from a customer standpoint, getting your order in under 15 minutes has its share of magic !
Of course, there are some question marks and downsides:
1. Do we really need instant-delivery for groceries? The tech enthusiast in me wants to say yes, but isn’t that tech for the sake of tech? In most cases it could be argued that same-day / 1-hour delivery is more than enough (probably more efficient and respectful of the environment too). This is what players like La Belle Vie in Paris are going after, with larger fulfillment centers, strategically located in city periphery.
2. For the smaller dark stores, product selection can only be narrow, which increases the odds of not finding the right product and in consequence, limiting basket sizes (and with it, conversion rate and post order contribution margin).
3. The model only works in high-density areas and is much harder to scale at a regional / national level. This is as much a logistics play as it is a real-estate play, something very far from what digital got us used to and more akin to proptech.
4. Last but clearly not least, it completely bypasses retail, which leads us to…
The light side of grocery delivery
Other players like Instacart in the US and Everli in Europe are opting for a model involving the store and partnering with established retailers. This asset-light model allows them not to own inventory of perishable goods and to scale much more rapidly. It has also proven invaluable to partnering supermarkets and retailers looking to adapt to consumers’ new shopping behavior and complement their offering with an online solution without the struggles that come with it.
At C4 Ventures, we are convinced that the future of retail or grocery doesn’t exist online or offline, it transcends those two worlds. Physical retail will always have a role to play, and we believe in the opportunity of providing retail with the proper tools to embrace digital. This is what Trouva is doing for independent boutiques on the homeware and lifestyle market. And this is what Everli does with grocery retail.
In this regard, we are thrilled to be joining Everli’s $100 million Series C round led by tier 1 investor Verlinvest, together with Luxor, DN Capital, FITEC, 360 Capital Partners, Innogest and DIP.
Everli is a three-sided marketplace, matching customers with the retailer of their choice (partner or non-partner) and a dedicated shopper who will pick the order in-store and deliver it to them.
Through its tech and data excellence, Everli offers features that enhance the service currently provided by retailers:
1. Speed of delivery: it’s the first player to offer a same-day grocery delivery service in small/medium density areas, previously and typically underserved by online grocery players.
2. Low delivery fees compared with grocery retail existing offer and non-existent for ‘Plus’ subscribers.
3. Retail-level inventory: because it partners with tier 1 retailers, Everli carries the widest selection of products, which makes it best-suited for high-basket, weekly grocery shopping.
4. Shopper service, who can call customers to replace missing products and keep them informed of their order status through a live feed.
More than a marketplace, a platform
As it scales, Everli’s platform also gathers an increasing amount of data on product and shopping behaviour, enabling it to support retailers in their digital transformation processes. In the US, this is now a core part of Instacart’s value proposition.
To top it all off, Everli attracts an increasingly high share of CPG brands’ advertising & promotions spend, providing them with consumer behavior data they could never have access to previously.
This strategy (with a boost from Covid) has been rewarded with great financial success: over the last year, Everli’s sales almost quadrupled to US$130m.
On paper, this all looks good, but it does require excellence in execution.
This is where the team comes in.
Before joining Everli as CEO, Federico Sargenti was already an Italian leader in grocery delivery. He spent several years as logistics and supply chain manager in leading European companies. He then spent four years at Amazon and worked closely with Amazon Prime Now to launch the Italian dry goods grocery section. From Amazon, he brought process and analytical approach to turn Everli into a highly rigorous company with international presence within less than 3 years.
We’ve been highly impressed with his meticulous attention to detail in execution, his acute vision for the future of retail and most importantly, his ability to attract and retain high-quality talent, like Chief International Business officer Anna Podkowinska, COO Alessandro Angelini, CTO Marco Risi, Head of Analytics Carmelo Vecchio or Head of business development Marco Pierazzoli.
Everli has signed partnerships with some of Europe’s largest grocery brands, including Lidl, Kaufland, and Carrefour, offering access to over 300,000 products across 70 cities in Italy, Poland, and, more recently, Czech Republic and France. 20% of orders are already international.
We can’t wait to help them accelerate their growth plans and expand further in Europe, starting with France.
Our investment in Everli also marks our first investment in an Italian startup. We believe that Italy’s entrepreneurial spirit, its direct and open culture, and the maturity of its tech ecosystem will drive many more successful companies out of the country. Today, Venture Capital investment per capita in Italy stands at $14, a clearly low figure compared to what it should be and to France’s $82, the UK’s $225 and Israel’s $1,097 !
We are hopeful that this will be only the first of many more investments in Italy and we are looking forward to backing more entrepreneurs of the same quality as Federico !