I was planning a (short) update about Philly unicorns, and was wondering where goPuff stood. Last summer the tech biz website The Information reported that Softbank was considering a large investment in the Philly-based snacks & convenience home delivery startup, which was already labeled a unicorn having reached a billion dollar valuation.
The wire had since gone dead on that subject, and with the fallout from the WeWork debacle and stories about Softbank backing away from some investment opportunities at the last minute, I assumed it had walked away from goPuff. But not so fast; today The Information‘s Cory Weinberg and Amir Efrati reported that Softbank had indeed agreed to lead a $750 million investment in goPuff last August, with an option to invest $250 million more this year.
goPuff, founded by former Drexel students Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, has a strategy of building and stocking its own local distribution hubs rather than piggybacking off of other outlets, which is probably a more expensive route to achieve market coverage. It also needs to enhance its marketing to reach beyond college campuses, where word of mouth is strong.
The article didn’t address valuation, as I recall, only getting a peek before it disappeared behind the paywall. But the amount of the latest investment, which is larger than one might have thought, certainly makes goPuff a player among a small circle of major competitors.
Accel, named in the article, must be the major VC partner. GoPuff authorized a Series D round in November of last year totaling at least $108.5 million, according to a state filing.
“The latest financing last November valued the company at about $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.”
The share price of its November round was more than 90 times what some of the earliest outside investors paid in 2015.
GoPuff has attracted veterans of Uber and Lyft to run marketing and growth out of a San Francisco satellite office.
A key to goPuff’s strategy is keeping its own inventory in its own local warehouses. The co-founders earn praise as operating managers.
Juul pods are said to be among goPuff’s highest grossing products.
BTW, Juul announced yesterday that it will soon require all retailers to use an updated point-of-sale (POS) system. When Juul products are scanned, the POS will prompt the retailer to scan the customer’s ID. Which may create hurdles in making those systems work remotely.
Also, my impression is that Juul may face further restrictions in the not-so-distant future. goPuff must also navigate a myriad of Alcohol restrictions. And some investors can’t invest in tobacco related ventures.
Josh Kopelman, though not an investor, took time to praise goPuff last November:
This twitter thread started in May by Cory Weinberg of The Information appears to confirm two things:
- That Philly-based goPuff is a Unicorn, with a valuation in excess of $1 billion
- That it has raised over $150mm, which is at least $140 million more than previously reported
Where the additional investment came from is not known, though one investor, 3L Capital, has been identified. But 3L couldn’t have supplied the entire amount goPuff is said to have received. The investment hasn’t shown up in the usual places on the web.
There have been suggestions that goPuff is trying to act in stealth mode, trying to build a national footprint before anyone notices.
Some other comments on the thread are enlightening.
SoftBank is considering making a large investment in home delivery service goPuff, the website The Infomation reported.
The investment could be for several hundred million dollars, according to the article.
Philly-based goPuff has already reached Unicorn status, The Information says, but its been very quiet when it comes to announcing investment events.
SoftBank might have some channel conflicts with other startups its invested in, including Uber and DoorDash, and that has been an issue of debate within SoftBank.
Founded in 2013 by Drexel students Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, goPuff grew like a weed and now serves 90 markets.
Speculation about SoftBank’s planned $108 billion Vision Fund ll (which isn’t certain to be the funding source for any investment in goPuff) has often involved questions as to how far SoftBank will have to search for investment opportunities, since it already reached many obvious ones through the first Vision Fund.
To date, goPuff funding per CrunchBase is $8.3 million from two rounds, the latest a 2016 Series A round led by Anthos. But goPuff must have gone beyond that amount already judging from its rapid expansion to 30 states, going down to Florida and to Arizona and Colorado to the west. So my guess is it already has more funding from somewhere.
But there are risks, as well as opportunities, in moving so quickly to establish a national footprint.
Update: Verified recent investor in goPuff:
Dan Primack’s Pro Rata reported in early July that “3L Capital tells Axios that it’s raised $217 million for its debut fund, which will make growth equity investments in consumer and enterprise tech companies.””
“It launched around 18 months ago, and used a warehousing facility to already invest around $100 million into companies like TheRealReal, Smile Direct Club, goPuff, SnackNation and ChowNow. “
Don’t know what kind of round was involved.
But The information piece said goPuff was already a Unicorn.