Convenience stores are usually places that people bump into while gasping or needing a quick snack, but when the global pandemic hit and no one wanted to go in with anyone else, some couldn’t survive.
Such was the case with Adit Gupta’s parents, who ran a convenience store in New Jersey that was struggling for lack of business. Gupta and Tom Falzani, whom he met at Drexel University, spent weeks trying to help the store survive by getting it through a number of delivery apps, but eventually Gupta’s parents had to close its doors in mid-2020.
“People weren’t coming to the store, but I couldn’t order from their store, so we put them on a delivery app or thought about making one for them,” Gupta said. “It was a harrowing experience to get 3,000 or 4,000 items online. After they closed, we saw an opportunity with the 150,000+ convenience stores, which are really small fulfillment centers run by incredible entrepreneurs, but don’t have the technology to enable them to make deliveries.”
Not wanting other companies to suffer the same fate, they launched Lula in Philadelphia in late 2020 and have already helped hundreds of convenience stores, pharmacies, and consumer packaged goods brands use their commission-free tools to establish a second sales channel and establish themselves. crochet. with external delivery companies.
Knowing that stores like this often only have one or two employees, Lula works with customers to get thousands of their products into its database and then distribute them to all the major delivery companies, Falzani said. On the delivery side, it collects the data so that when orders come in through one of the companies, it comes through one synchronous tool that delivers Lula to the stores.
Gupta touts the tool as the “first multi-vendor 30-minute delivery platform” targeting stores that previously lacked the resources to deliver online using third-party platforms.
“We wanted to build a business model that wasn’t predatory to convenience stores and merchants, so that’s why we only charge a monthly subscription, where most stores break even in the first few days of the month,” he added.
Other companies, from Amazon (physical stores) to Tortoise and Cartken (delivery robots), are turning their attention to this retail sector, especially as convenience store delivery grows with demand for food and grocery deliveries. According to a report by Edison Trends, a consumer insights analytics firm, supermarket online spending grew 346% between the first and last weeks of 2020.
Lula closed $1 million pre-seed financing in 2021 to get the first 12 customers up and running and is now announcing $5.5 million in seed financing to acquire the next 2,000 customers as it expands this year to all 50 states.
The final round was co-led by Ripple Ventures, Outlander VC and Up Partners. Among those in the round were SOSV, Simple Capital, NZVC, Stonks.com, EasyPost, Park City Angels, Alumni Ventures, Broad Street Angels, Ben Franklin Technology Partners and a group of angel investors.
The company is growing more than 30% monthly, is already in talks with major supermarket chains in both Europe and Mexico, and is receiving organic inbound traffic from independent stores across the US, Gupta said. As such, the funding will also be used for product development and to expand Lula’s workforce with sales and customer success teams.
Lula currently has 35 employees and Gupta expects to expand its customer success team to more than 50 people, eventually ending up with a team of 100 people by the end of the year.
“I’m excited to see Lula continue to deliver more to make delivery services accessible to local businesses,” Ripple Ventures managing partner Matt Cohen said in a written statement. “The pandemic has hit Main Street hard and Lula is a great way for local merchants to access the burgeoning delivery space. Adit and Tom have identified a huge opportunity and I am extremely proud of Adit’s journey through Ripple X.”