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HomeTechnologyRohlik rolls up $170M to expand in European grocery delivery and sell...

Rohlik rolls up $170M to expand in European grocery delivery and sell its tech to others

The salad days of fresh grocery delivery startups are over, but those that have stayed the course, and have built businesses that are seeing gains, are still here and are hungry for more growth. On Friday, one of those survivors, the Czech grocery delivery company Rohlik, announced $170 million in new funding.

Rohlik – which means ‘baker’ in Czech (and also a little roll that the baker might make) – has aimed to carve out a differentiated position in the market for itself. Its focus has been around smaller warehouses and linking up ties with local producers and sellers like butchers and fishmongers, rather than reproducing what a large supermarket might sell online (which mirrors what you might find in a physical supermarket). In reference to the Rohlik of its name, it bakes bread at the distribution centers.

“To replace Rohlik you would have to do five different shops,” said Tomáš Čupr, the CEO and founder of Rohlik, in an interview. There are some 17,000 SKUs on offer, with delivery slots of 1-2 hours from ordering.

Rohlik said it served 800,000 customers in 2023. Now, the plan will be to use the funding both to expand that model in Europe — with a target of 10 more cities in the next six years.

Alongside that, it wants to the gas on its tech, which includes logistics and analytics software and robotics for sorting and picking — licensing it to other delivery players to build out their own local networks and delivery operations modelled on what Rohlik has built. Čupr said that it would launch its technology platform licensing initiative later this year.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is the lead investor in this latest round, with previous backers Sofina, Index Ventures, Quadrille, and TCF Capital also participating, as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB) under  its Scale-Up Initiative. The EIB portion is debt, said Čupr, describing it as a “minority” of the full amount.

Čupr declined to give a valuation for the round, but from what we understand it is higher than previous valuations but less than $2 billion. For some context, the last large round of funding that Rohlik raised was in 2022, and that came in at what we now know to be around the $1.3 billion mark pre-money. The amount that Rohlik has now raised in equity and debt is approaching $800 million.

This latest injection is coming at a tough time in the grocery delivery business. The peak of the Covid-19 pandemic saw a couple of years of major attention, funding, and usage of grocery delivery services – which led to hundreds of millions of dollars of funding getting funneled into different permutations of the business model, especially those that looked particularly novel such as “instant” delivery startups. 2021 alone saw nearly $19 billion in investments in grocery delivery startups according to the investment firm AgFunder. 

Perhaps inevitably, after the peak came the trough, with a number of startups disappearing, being acquired for pennies on the dollar/pound/euro, lots of layoffs, retrenchments and restructuring.

After years of aggressive funding and growth, Getir is now focusing on his home market of Turkey. GoPuff burned $400 million last year reportedly. And it’s not just the most obvious instant players that are buckling. Oda in Norway, a big grocery contender that also raised and acquired aggressively, has been laying off people in waves and also shrinking its geographic footprint.

Even Ocado, seen by many as the gold standard in this world, has been struggling on weaker earnings and partners pausing their Ocado-powered warehouse projects. 

In that turbulience, Rohlik is both feeling the pressure but also showing some signs of where it might build defenses as it watches closely what the others do. “I know Ocado well,” he said, “our CFO is ex Ocado.” 

Outside of the Czech Republic, the company, which Čupr describes as “20 years in the making” has operations also in Hungary, Austria, Germany (where it operates as Knuspr, as illustrated above) and Romania, and he said that the businesses in its home market, Hungary and Munich are all now profitable. The company said that revenues have on average been growing 40% post-covid, and it has set itself a target of €1 billion in revenues and positive cash flow by the end of 2024. It does not disclose, however, what its revenues are right now, so we can’t say if Rohlik is biting off more than it can chew. 

“We first partnered with Rohlik three years ago and have been continuously impressed by the management team’s execution and investment into proprietary technology, automation and increasing use of artificial intelligence across its operations,” said Tamas Nagy, Director, Co-head of Equity Investments at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), in a statement. “We are very proud to support Rohlik’s growth and expansion plans in the years to come.”

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