Daily Consumer #14 - Italic is Pioneering C2M Commerce

Plus Squid Game's popularity drives demand to Walmart, Etsy, and Vans.

My Work

Italic is Pioneering C2M Commerce

I’ve known Jeremy Cai, the co-founder and CEO of Italic, since the early days of the business. For those unfamiliar, Italic is one of the early pioneers of C2M commerce. Their model is to aggregate demand and to partner closely with manufacturers to make high quality products across categories like fashion, accessories, home, fitness, and more. The more demand they aggregate, the more accessible they can make the price points for these products. This is a model that has become popular abroad and is just making its way to the US.

Jeremy recently refreshed the Italic storefront and raised a $37M Series B. I had a chance to talk to Jeremy about this model a few months ago prior to these updates and recorded the conversation. You can listen to it here:

Community

  • My colleagues at Index are hosting our inaugural Index Creator Summit. Speakers include the CEOs of Patreon, Discord, Linktree, OpenSea, Rec Room, and Figma as well as Alex Pall from The Chainsmokers and other notable creators. You can register for the free event here.

  • Shippo has a program for $25K of free shipping for venture-backed DTC startups. If you run a DTC business and are interested, please reply to this email.

  • Klaviyo is hosting a product launch event on October 27, 2021 at 9AM Pst.

News

  • Advertising.

    • TikTok published 2020 financials for its European operations. Generated $170M revenue and -$644M net income, with $350M of marketing spend. Willing to spend massive amounts ahead of revenue to build a network.

    • Amazon’s ad business is growing quickly, representing 4% of total company revenue today. A profile of the man behind it. “In the mid-2000s, Amazon developed an internal ‘Google reliance’ metric, which focused on how much Amazon itself was paying Google to bring shoppers to the retailer’s site through search ads. If that metric remained high, executives worried, Amazon could be in jeopardy if Google itself ever decided to make a more serious foray into online commerce. Amazon’s solution was to convince shoppers to start their product searches on Amazon rather than on Google, by investing in the retailer’s own search experience, people familiar with the matter said.”

    • Explainer on diseconomies of scale in mobile advertising. The more you spend, the less efficiently the marketing performs. This is why VCs like myself don’t like to invest in companies that are heavily reliant on performance marketing to grow.

    • Twitter revamps its advertising algorithm ahead of a push to win ecommerce business. “Algorithm improvements mean that ads will be shown to a larger pool of consumers at the beginning of a campaign to better determine user interest; those improvements are leading to a 36% gain in campaigns that achieve at least five downloads.”

    • Google is getting rid of “pages” for mobile search results. Will be replaced with endless scrolling of results.

  • Agriculture. Yes! Apples launches a DTC store where consumers can buy apples. “The online Yes! Apples shop allows us to reach customers in regions where retailers don’t sell our apples.”

  • B2B Commerce. Faire, a wholesale marketplace allowing small retailers to discover and buy from a large network of brands, expands to 15 European countries.

  • Beauty. Ilia Beauty, a clean beauty brand, approaches $100M annualized revenue and has doubled revenue every year since 2017. “Brand sales are just under 50% DTC ecommerce. Ilia is now building out brand awareness via out-of-home and connected TV ads in September.”

  • BNPL.

    • PayPal is the leading BNPL service used by teens per Piper Sandlers’ survey of 10K teens in 44 US states.

    • Klarna partners with Simon, the largest mall operator in the US. “Klarna’s flexible payment options will be made available to shoppers at participating merchants across the entire Simon portfolio. Klarna will bring a suite of digital marketing capabilities to physical retailers in Simon centers and collaborate with Simon on marketing campaigns, in-mall activations and communication programs to raise awareness with shoppers over time.”

    • Klarna partners with The Vitamin Shoppe for BNPL payments in stores.

  • China. D2C brands are emerging quickly in China. Lilian Li profiles the 250 most prominent. Note - article is paywalled.

  • Content + Commerce.

    • Netflix is partnering with Walmart to sell merchandise from hit shows like Squid Game and Stranger Things. Will likely be presented as a section of Walmart’s online store called Netflix Hub.

    • White slip-on Vans have seen a 7,800% spike in sales ever since Squid Game premiered on Netflix in September according to Sole Supplier.

    • Etsy sellers are trying to profit from the sudden popularity of Squid Game.

  • Creator Economy. Stitch Fix launches Elevate, a program to fund diverse entrepreneurs who aspire to build their own fashion lines.

  • Design Software. Canva launches a video editing suite which makes it simple to create video marketing assets.

  • ERP Software. Shopify partners with Microsoft and Oracle to give Shopify business owners more tools to track finances and manage inventory on Shopify. “Joining forces with Shopify to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central will help more merchants deliver great experiences to their customers by seamlessly linking commerce and ERP.”

  • Fashion. Glossy reports on the themes that emerged from their Future of Fashion Summit. TLDR = sustainability, community, personalization.

  • Food and Beverage.

    • McDonalds will serve Beyond Meat burgers in select US locations. Will be called “McPlant.”

    • Nestle is releasing plant-based eggs and shrimp products, initially to be sold in Switzerland.

  • Gaming Commerce.

    • Roblox is pushing towards more realistic avatars in an effort to make the game attractive to older demographics. May make virtual commerce around avatar items even more enticing.

    • Adidas is partnering with Xbox to make limited-edition Xbox-themed sneakers.

  • Grocery Delivery.

    • United Natural Foods signs a reseller agreement with Doordash to push Doordash to independent grocery stores. “The DoorDash solution will be provided through UNFI Professional Services, the distributor’s roster of services for independent grocers.”

    • Stop & Shop partners with Instacart to enable 30-minute grocery delivery from its 400 stores.

  • Handmade Goods. Michael’s, the leading crafts supplies retailer, is launching two marketplace businesses. 1) A marketplace to allow 3P sellers to sell their components, tools, and craft materials. 2) A marketplace for creators to sell finished handmade goods, similar to Etsy.

  • Influencer-Driven Commerce.

    • Dave Portnoy from Barstool Sports, who founded One Bite, joins Slice as a strategic advisor. “Portnoy, who has personally taste-tested and unapologetically reviewed pizzas from over 1K independent pizzerias across the U.S., is teaming up with Slice as an equity partner to empower independent pizzerias in every community.”

    • Lebron James is joining Tonal as a brand partner and investor. “The efficiency of Tonal is second to none when it comes to strength training.”

  • Influencer Marketing. A look into the growing influencer economy. “86% of people aged 13 to 38 wanted to be an influencer. But it’s not enough just to create content and share it. You need to learn the algorithms behind every platform, SEO strategy, the basics of marketing to understand why brands want to work with you. A lot of people don’t want to hear that.”

  • Live Shopping.

    • Facebook will begin hosting daily live shopping events on Facebook and Instagram starting Nov 1st. Will showcase exclusive deals from Facebook Shops merchants. Brands participating include Benefit Cosmetics, Cocokind, Macy’s, Paintbox Nails, Tanya Taylor, Ulta Beauty, Vuori and Walmart.

    • Instagram adds scheduling and “practice" mode” for live streamers.

  • NFTs.

    • Viacom is partnering with Recur to bring its iconic IP and franchises, like Spongebob, to the world of digital collectibles. IP owners are partnering with startups en masse to break into the digital collectibles space. “Will involve creating a place where its fans can buy, collect and trade NFTs across its portfolio.”

    • Coinbase announces plans to launch its own NFT marketplace.

    • Dolce & Gabbana released a NFT collection called The Collezione Genesi which fetched $5.65M at an online auction hosted by UNXD.

  • Omni-Channel Commerce. Walmart wants to build a “super app” that spans ecommerce, in-store shopping, health and wellness services, financial services, auto care, etc.

  • Payments.

    • Bloomberg profiles Pix, the digital payment network launched 11 months ago by Brazil’s central bank. Resembles Zelle in the US, but is also being used by businesses to collect payments from consumers. “It’s already been used at least once by 110M Brazilians and about $89B has moved through the network.”

    • Stripe is entering the crypto space to “build out the future of Web3 payments.”

  • Petcare. The story of how an entrepreneur bootstrapped a dog ramp business to $35M of cumulative sales.

  • Resale.

    • Farfetch launches a handbag resale service in the Middle East called ‘Second Life’, which allows users to sell their designer handbags in exchange to Farfetch credit.

    • URBN, the parent company of Urban Outfitters, launches Nuuly, a combined fashion resale and rental marketplace. See it here.

    • Glossy predicts that brands will increasingly participate in resale and that the trend will pick up momentum due to inventory constraints over the coming quarters.

  • Restaurants. A profile of Chipotle’s drive-thru focused locations, which are growing in count quickly. “Chipotlanes drove about a 15% higher overall digital sales mix.”

  • Retail Media. Lowe’s is the latest retailer to launch advertising. Will allow for ad placement on Lowes.com and Lowe’s mobile app. “There's been a real shift in consumer behavior and sentiment toward home, and we know our partners are continually looking for new ways to command attention, drive relevance and overall sales.”

  • Same-Day Delivery.

    • McKinsey profiles the fast growing food delivery space. Highlights open questions around geographic competition, commission rates, and driver compensation. “Moving forward, consumers will likely see the cost of their restaurant meals increase in order to cover restaurants’ commission costs and driver pay.”

    • Turner Novak profiles Jokr, a 15-minute delivery marketplace that has surpassed $100M revenue run-rate in 6 months. “Consumers gravitate towards on-demand products because, if done correctly, they get what they need faster than it would take them to travel to it themselves.”

    • The Information profiles the instant delivery space including Jokr, Fridge No More, and others. Growth before profitability is the short summary.

    • Doordash launches search page ads for restaurants. Will appear at the top of search results in its app.

    • 99 Cents Only Stores partners with Instacart to enable two-hour delivery at 300 stores. “With this new collaboration, we’re offering a seamless way for customers to access our wide assortment of quality products at extreme values, including fresh produce, household staples and more, delivered right to their doorsteps.”

    • Sephora is expanding same-day delivery of makeup, hair, skincare and other wellness and beauty products for a flat $6.95 fee for orders placed on its app or website.

  • Shopify Apps. Co-op Commerce becomes the youngest company to become Shopify Plus certified, joining 74 other apps like Klaviyo, Attentive, Yotpo, and others.

  • SMS Marketing. Postscript hosts is BFCM product launch event. Launched checkout collection for Shopify stores, a campaign flow builder, help desk integrations, and browse / add to cart abandonment capabilities.

  • Subscription Commerce. PYMNTS profiles the growth of subscription commerce. “Today, 205M Americans have at least one subscription service, up 13% from the 182M counted in the first quarter of 2020.”

  • Sustainability.

    • Revolve is partnering with Recover to produce a sustainable denim collection.

    • Coach stops destroying returned merchandise.

  • Trust and Safety. Researchers find that Amazon supposedly favors its own products in search results.

  • TV Marketing. MX Player, a popular on-demand video streaming service, has passed 1B downloads. India is its most popular market and it has expanded to Bangladesh, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the US, and the UK.

  • Visual Search. Levi’s will implement visual search technology on its storefront. Will allow shoppers to search the site by uploading photos.

Funding and Exits

Brands

  • Activewear. Vuori raises $400M from Softbank at a $4B valuation for its modern activewear brand. “Vuori will use the funding to open 100 stores in the US over the next five years. It will also expand into Europe and Asia in 2022.”

  • Electronics.

    • Nothing raises $50M for its headphones product. “Nothing recently announced that its earbuds shipped more than 100K units in their first 2 months.”

    • Plume raises $300M from Softbank at a $2.6B valuation for its IoT devices that improve WiFi in homes and enable device access control and device security. “Business ballooned in the last two quarters, adding 13M new households to total 35M.”

  • Fashion. Lulu’s files to go public. Generated $173M revenue in the six months ended July 4 and has 2.5M active customers. “Our product creation and curation model leverage a ‘test, learn, and reorder’ strategy to bring hundreds of new products to market every week.”

  • Food and Beverage. Smallhold raises $25M from Astanor Ventures for its specialty, indoor-grown mushroom products. “In less than a year, Smallhold has increased production by more than 500%.”

  • Micromobility. Pon Holdings acquires Dorel Industries, which owns a portfolio of bike brands including Cannondale, Schwinn and Mongoose, for $810M. The combined entity will do $2.5B in estimated annual bike sales.

Marketplaces

  • B2B Commerce. Neta raises $4.9M from Kaszek for its B2B marketplace that allows small offline stores in Mexico to offer a virtual catalog of items to their clients with Neta handling the logistics.

  • C2M Commerce. Italic raises $37M from Canaan for its marketplace for manufacturer-made quality goods at accessible prices.

  • Collectibles. Rally raises $15M from Wheelhouse for its marketplace for fractional ownership in collectibles. “The rise in fractional investing reflects the explosion of interest in collectibles as a dynamic asset class, which we refer to as ‘Investibles’ – merging investors and collectors – which are attracting high-end investors and democratizing investing for passion players.”

  • Flowers. Callia raises $5.1M from Brightspark Ventures for its D2C flower delivery marketplace. “Callia has 4xed its sales growth and recorded strong customer retention numbers, nabbing a 91 NPS and expanding to offer flower delivery in 63 Canadian cities.”

  • Grocery. Jow raises $20M from Eurazeo for its platform that personalizes meal preparation recommendations and manages online orders of groceries. “The startup has partnered with the 6 largest grocery brands in France. Jow users have ordered 20M meals through the app. Nearly 70% of products in a customer’s basket come from the company’s recipes.”

  • Latinx Goods. Shop Latinx raises $1M from Precursor Ventures, Backstage Capital, and others for its ecommerce marketplace offering goods created by Latinx founders and creators across beauty, fashion and home. “Chavez created Shop Latinx as an Instagram account before launching at shoplatinx.com. The site now has 100K engaged users, showcasing more than 600 products from 30 brands.”

  • Logistics.

    • Lasership acquires OnTrac Logistics for $1.3B to form a competitor to UPS and Fedex. “Combined, the companies will be the country's largest regional parcel carrier, stretching from the Atlantic to Arkansas and from the Pacific to Colorado.”

    • Ohi raises $19M from Palm Drive Capital for its same-day delivery logistics network that enables brands to meet their customers’ expectations of rapid delivery. “Brands pay a flat fee on a monthly basis and a fee per order, which covers warehousing and delivery. Ohi has a network of microwarehouses and partners with 3P delivery companies to perform the last-mile delivery.”

    • ANS Commerce raises $2.2M from Gokul Rajaram and Venture Catalysts for its India-based warehouse network that enables fast delivery for ecommerce brands.

  • Universal Cart. Karma raises $25M from Target Global for its AI shopping assistant that allows consumers to build a wishlist across stores with the assistant then automatically searching for coupons for the list. “Includes over 30K retail partners. Has around 3M customers and around 650K MAU.”

  • Used Cars. CarDekho raises $250M in equity and debt from LeapFrog Investments at a $1.2B valuation for its India-focused ecommerce platform for new and user cars. “The startup, which buys cars from customers and then sells them, offers a catalogue of more than 3K certified pre-owned cars for online purchase. Exceeded $100M revenue run-rate in the last month.”

Software

  • Cannabis.

    • Dutchie raises $350M from D1 Capital at a $3.75B valuation for its cannabis ecommerce platform. “The cannabis space is the fastest growing industry, up 35% YoY. Dutchie is working with over 5K dispensaries in North America and processed $14B n in annualized sales for those dispensaries. We’ve seen 100% YoY growth with dispensaries.”

    • Flowhub raises $19M from Headline and Poseidon for its cannabis-specific point of sale platform that processes more than $3B in cannabis sales annually and is trusted by over 1K dispensaries.

  • Customer Support. Genesys is rumored to be going public. Provides customer support software that handles phone and online inquiries, including AI chatbots.

  • Fraud Protection. FrankieOne raises $16M from AirTree Ventures and Greycroft for its automated fraud prevention platform that connects to 350 data sources to verify identity and is used by 80 customers including Afterpay and Westpac.

  • Headless Commerce.

    • Vue Storefront raises $17.4M from Creandum for its ecommerce API platform. “The number of stores that used Vue Storefront has tripled to 700 stores worldwide. Among those using Vue Storefront, there are - besides such household names as Regatta, DeWalt, Converse, Peregrine, also smaller stores that chose Vue Storefront looking for the easy way to upgrade the customer experience they provided.”

    • Violet raises $10M from Klarna for its single API that allows apps to connect directly to a brand or retailer's ecommerce backend without the need for expensive and complex integrations.

  • Influencer Management. Grin raises $110M from Lone Pine and Bond at a $910M valuation. “With the creator economy currently estimated at over $100B and growing every day, both brands and creators need new ways to optimize partnerships as the pool of creators expands beyond ‘influencers.’”

  • Marketing Analytics. Funnel raises $66M from Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund and Stena Sessan for its marketing-focused no-code data platform. Allows marketers to build a unified view and reporting for the various datasets coming out of digital marketing campaigns. “Currently handles 550 different data sources from social media platforms to search engines and much more. Is used by 1.2K large customers.”

  • Product Authentication. Poshmark acquires Suede One, a ML technology to authenticate sneakers. “The technology would help authenticate items that cost less than $500.”

  • Supply Chain Traceability. TrusTrace raises $6M from Industrifonden for its supply chain transparency and product traceability software. “The company currently has a portfolio of more than 40 customers, including well-known brand and sustainability leaders like Fjällräven, Filippa K, Zalando, Decathlon and Coop. Has more than 8K suppliers, 250K products and over $12B worth of goods tracked on the platform.”

  • Warehouse Robotics. Dexterity raises $140M from Lightspeed and Kleiner Perkins for its machine learning-based robotics as a service. “The company has been working with customers for two years now, moving more than 14M items in that time, across 50K+ product SKUs. Customers in retail, consumer goods manufacturing, and parcel handling need robots to scale quickly in order to manage the ever-increasing volume and variety of packages moving through their distribution centers.”

Fintech

  • Auto Financing. Vroom, an ecommerce platform for cars, acquires United Auto Credit Corporation for $300M. “The acquisition will help Vroom drive its strategy to integrate captive financing operations to strengthen and expand sales, boost revenues, reduce costs per unit and bring continuing value to shareholders.”

  • BNPL. Nelo raises $20M from Two Sigma Ventures for its Mexico-focused debit neobank and integrated BNPL service. The BNPL offering is live with over 100 merchants, including Steve Madden and Ben & Frank. “Is currently seeing over 100K transactions per month.”

  • Business Banking. Juni raises $73M from EQT Ventures for its ecommerce-focused business banking and lending platform. Allows merchants to track their business in one place and fund operations with credit.

  • Checkout. Bolt raises $393M from undisclosed investors for its one-click checkout product. “The company has 10M shoppers signed up. And that number has the potential to hit 100M once all the deals Bolt has signed are fully activated. Bolt, which makes money by getting a 2% cut of purchases made through its one-click checkout, will use the funding to expand overseas.”

  • Embedded Finance. Alviere raises $50M from undisclosed investors for its embedded finance platform that aims to help any brand deliver financial products and services to its customers. “Fortune 500 companies are Alviere’s target, and so far, it has closed deals with two unnamed brands that each have more than 10M household subscribers or customers.”

  • Neobanks. Sparkle raises $3M from Leadway Assurance for its Nigeria-focused consumer and business neobank. “has acquired over 40K customers on the individual banking side and 2K businesses.

  • Warranties. Mulberry raises $22M from Commerce Ventures for its B2B2C product warranties service. “Mulberry has grown over 800% since the last round of fundraising in 2020. The company’s consumer-centric warranty programs have attracted top-tier retail partners, including Hayneedle, FormeLife, Houzz, Neato Robotics, and TriMark.”

Product of the Week

Followers of this newsletter will know that I’m very interested in product brands that are redefined their form factor to better suit ecommerce. Thuma is one of those brands that is building high quality bedroom furniture that is assembled with no screws or bolts. No more waiting for delivery or installation. Buy it here.