Luxury handbag marketplace Rebag raises $25M to expand to 30 more stores

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Rebag, an online resale marketplace for luxury handbags, is getting another infusion of capital as it prepares to expand its offline retail operations. The company this week announced $25 million in Series C funding, in a round led by private equity firm Novator, with participation from existing investors, General Catalyst and FJ Labs.

The round brings Rebag’s total raise to date to $52 million.

Rebag competes with other luxury goods resellers, like TheRealReal, and to some extent with broader resale marketplaces like thredUP or Poshmark, which also attract shoppers looking to buy quality pre-owned items. And it exists in alongside large marketplaces like eBay as well as rental shops like Rent the Runway, which offers an alternative to a site focused only on handbags.

In fact, Rebag founder and CEO Charles Gorra spent a brief period at Rent the Runway, before leaving to start Rebag in 2014. At the time, he said he saw an immediate opportunity to not just rent the items out, but to actually resell them on a secondary market.

Today, Rebag’s shop sells bags from over 50 designer brands, including all the majors like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, and others.

However, in the years following Rebag’s launch, the company has expand its offerings beyond just online resale to include brick-and-mortar retail and, more recently, a service called Rebag Infinity, which allows shoppers to turn in any Rebag handbag purchase within 6 months in exchange to receive a credit of at least 70 percent of the purchase price.

Last year, Rebag made headlines in the fashion world for selling the rare Hermès White Crocodile Himalayan Birkin collectible – typically an over $100,000 bag – for “just” $70,000, to celebrate the opening of its 57th Street and Madison Avenue store, its second Manhattan flagship location.

With the new funding, Rebag will expand its offline footprint, it says. The company currently operates five stores in New York and L.A. but plans to launch 30 more locations in the “medium term.” This will include both standalone storefronts, as well as presences within luxury malls.

It’s common these days for resale marketplaces these days to take their wares to offline shoppers. TheRealReal, Rent the Runway, ThredUP, and others all today offer real world locations, where shoppers can browse in person instead of just online.

Rebag says since it opened its retail stores las year, it moved from being a 100 percent digital operation to 80 percent digital, and 20 percent offline. Its sourcing network also grew to include over 20,000 stylists, partners, shoppers and sales associates.

With the funding, Rebag adds it will also refine its pricing and handbag evaluation tools aimed at standardizing the resale process, something that could represent another business for the brand (or make it attractive to an acquirer.)

“We are a technology company first,” noted founder and CEO Charles Gorra, in a statement. “Our goal is to become the standard for the luxury resale industry, just like Kelley Blue Book is the main resource for the auto industry.”

The company plans also to triple its team of 100, which today includes newer hires CTO Jay Winters (Delivery.com, Goldman Sachs) and CMO Elizabeth Layne (Bonobos, Appear Here).

Rebag doesn’t share its hard numbers about sales, revenues, valuation, customer base or others, but told us it has tripled revenues since its Series B.

 


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Knotch raises $25M to help marketers collect data about their content

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Knotch announced yesterday that it has raised $25 million in Series B funding.

The round was led by New Enterprise Associates, with NEA’s Hilarie Koplow-McAdams joining the Knotch board of directors. Rob Norman, the former chief digital officer of ad giant GroupM, is also joining the board.

“Brands have a desire to understand the effectiveness of their digital content across all channels, a gap that hadn’t been filled before Knotch,” Koplow-McAdams said in a statement. “Our conviction around the Knotch platform and team is driven by their impressive traction and comprehensive product offerings. We’re thrilled to partner with Knotch as they continue their growth trajectory, providing transformative marketing intelligence at scale.”

When we first wrote about Knotch back in 2012, it was a consumer product where people could share their opinions using a color scale. It might seem like a stretch go from that to marketing and data company, but in fact Knotch still collects data using its color-based feedback system — now, it’s using that system to ask consumers about their response to sponsored content.

In addition, Knotch offers a competitive intelligence product, as well as Blueprint, which helps marketers find the best publishers for their sponsored content.

Knotch screen shot

“As [brands are building] their own content hubs and recognizing content as a really key piece of their marketing stack, as they’re turning to this space, there’s not a lot of great options for them to turn to and say, ‘Here’s a way to know in advance which creative themes and topics and formats [are going to resonate]. Here’s how we optimize this content, here’s a way to benchmark what you’re doing,” founder and CEO Anda Gansca told me.

And it sounds like Gansca’s vision goes beyond sponsored content.

“In this convoluted landscape, you need a partner that is going to be your Switzerland of data, who’s aligned with you, collecting transparent digital performance data across paid and own channels,” she said.

Knotch has now raised a total of $34 million. Customers include JP Morgan Chase, AT&T, Ally Bank, Ford, Calvin Klein and Salesforce.

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K Health raises $25m for its AI-powered primary care platform

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K Health, the startup providing consumers with an AI-powered primary care platform, has raised $25 million in series B funding. The round was led by 14W, Comcast Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners, with participation from Lerer Hippeau, Primary Ventures, BoxGroup, Bessemer Venture Partners and Max Ventures – all previous investors from the company’s seed or Series A rounds.

Co-founded and led by former Vroom CEO and Wix co-CEO, Allon Bloch, K Health (previously Kang Health) looks to equip consumers with a free and easy-to-use application that can provide accurate, personalized, data-driven information about their symptoms and health.

“When your child says their head hurts, you can play doctor for the first two questions or so – where does it hurt? How does it hurt?” Bloch explained in a conversation with TechCrunch. “Then it gets complex really quickly. Are they nauseous or vomiting? Did anything unusual happen? Did you come back from a trip somewhere? Doctors then use differential diagnosis to prove that it’s a tension headache vs other things by ruling out a whole list of chronic or unusual conditions based on their deep knowledge sets.”

K Health’s platform, which currently focuses on primary care, effectively looks to perform a simulation and data-driven version of the differential diagnosis process. On the company’s free mobile app, users spend three-to-four minutes answering an average of 21 questions about their background and the symptoms they’re experiencing.

Using a data set of two billion historical health events over the past 20 years – compiled from doctors notes, lab results, hospitalizations, drug statistics and outcome data – K Health is able to compare users to those with similar symptoms and medical histories before zeroing in on a diagnosis. 

With its expansive comparative approach, the platform hopes to offer vastly more thorough, precise and user-specific diagnostic information relative to existing consumer alternatives, like WebMD or – what Bloch calls – “Dr. Google”, which often produce broad, downright frightening, and inaccurate diagnoses. 

Ease and efficiency for both consumers and physicians

Users are able to see cases and diagnoses that had symptoms similar to their own, with K Health notifying users with serious conditions when to consider seeking immediate care. (K Health Press Image / K Health / https://www.khealth.ai)

In addition to pure peace of mind, the utility provided to consumers is clear. With more accurate at-home diagnostic information, users are able to make better preventative health decisions, avoid costly and unnecessary trips to in-person care centers or appointments with telehealth providers, and engage in constructive conversations with physicians when they do opt for in-person consultations.

K Health isn’t looking to replace doctors, and in fact, believes its platform can unlock tremendous value for physicians and the broader healthcare system by enabling better resource allocation. 

Without access to quality, personalized medical information at home, many defer to in-person doctor visits even when it may not be necessary. And with around one primary care physician per 1000 in the US, primary care practitioners are subsequently faced with an overwhelming number of patients and are unable to focus on more complex cases that may require more time and resources. The high volume of patients also forces physicians to allocate budgets for support staff to help interact with patients, collect initial background information and perform less-demanding tasks.

K Health believes that by providing an accurate alternative for those with lighter or more trivial symptoms, it can help lower unnecessary in-person visits, reduce costs for practices and allow physicians to focus on complicated, rare or resource-intensive cases where their expertise can be most useful and where brute machine processing power is less valuable.

The startup is looking to enhance the platform’s symbiotic patient-doctor benefits further in early-2019, when it plans to launch in-app capabilities that allow users to share their AI-driven health conversations directly with physicians, hopefully reducing time spent on information gathering and enabling more-informed treatment.

With K Health’s AI and machine learning capabilities, the platform also gets smarter with every conversation as it captures more outcomes, hopefully enriching the system and becoming more valuable to all parties over time. Initial results seem promising with K Health currently boasting around 500,000 users, most having joined since this past July.

Using access and affordability to improve global health outcomes

With the latest round, the company has raised a total of $37.5 million since its late-2016 founding. K Health plans to use the capital to ramp up marketing efforts, further refine its product and technology, and perform additional research to identify methods for earlier detection and areas outside of primary care where the platform may be valuable.

Longer term, the platform has much broader aspirations of driving better health outcomes, normalizing better preventative health behavior, and creating more efficient and affordable global healthcare systems.

The high costs of the American healthcare system and the impacts they have on health behavior has been well-documented. With heavy copays, premiums and treatment cost, many avoid primary care altogether or opt for more reactionary treatment, leading to worse health outcomes overall.

Issues seen in the American healthcare system are also observable in many emerging market countries with less medical infrastructure. According to the World Health Organization, the international standard for the number of citizens per primary care physician is one for every 1,500 to 2,000 people, with some countries facing much steeper gaps – such as China, where there is only one primary care doctor for every 6,666.

The startup hopes it can help limit the immense costs associated with emerging countries educating millions of doctors for eight-to-ten years and help provide more efficient and accessible healthcare systems much more quickly.

By reducing primary care costs for consumers and operating costs for medical practices, while creating a more convenient diagnostic experience, K Health believes it can improve access to information, ultimately driving earlier detection and better health outcomes for consumers everywhere.

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Workato raises $25M for its integration platform

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Workato, a startup that offers an integration and automation platform for businesses that competes with the likes of MuleSoft, SnapLogic and Microsoft’s Logic Apps, today announced that it has raised a $25 million Series B funding round from Battery Ventures, Storm Ventures, ServiceNow and Workday Ventures. Combined with its previous rounds, the company has now received investments from some of the largest SaaS players, including Salesforce, which participated in an earlier round.

At its core, Workato’s service isn’t that different from other integration services (you can think of them as IFTTT for the enterprise) in that it helps you to connect disparate systems and services, set up triggers to kick of certain actions (if somebody signs a contract on Docusign, send a message to Slack and create an invoice). Like its competitors, it connects to virtually any SaaS tool that a company would use, no matter whether that’s Marketo and Salesforce, or Slack and Twitter. And like some of its competitors, all of this can be done with a drag-and-drop interface.

What’s different, Workato founder and CEO Vijay Tella tells me, is that the service was built for business users, not IT admins. “Other enterprise integration platforms require people who are technical to build and manage them,” he said. “With the explosion in SaaS with lines of business buying them – the IT team gets backlogged with the various integration needs. Further, they are not able to handle all the workflow automation needs that businesses require to streamline and innovate on the operations.”

Battery Ventures’ general partner Neeraj Agrawal also echoed this. “As we’ve all seen, the number of SaaS applications run by companies is growing at a very rapid clip,” he said. “This has created a huge need to engage team members with less technical skill-sets in integrating all these applications. These types of users are closer to the actual business workflows that are ripe for automation, and we found Workato’s ability to empower everyday business users super compelling.”

Tella also stressed that Workato makes extensive use of AI/ML to make building integrations and automations easier. The company calls this Recipe Q. ” Leveraging the tens of billions of events processed, hundreds of millions of metadata elements inspected, and hundreds of thousands of automations that people have built on our platform – we leverage ML to guide users to build the most effective integration/automation by recommending next steps as they build these automations,” he explained. “It recommends the next set of actions to take, fields to map, auto-validates mappings, etc. The great thing with this is that as people build more automations – it learns from them and continues to make the automation smarter.”

The AI/ML system also handles errors and offers features like sentiment analysis to analyze emails and detect their intent, with the ability to route them depending on the results of that analysis.

As part of today’s announcement, the company is also launching a new AI-enabled feature: Automation Editions for sales, marketing and HR (with editions for finance and support coming in the future). The idea here is to give those departments a kit with pre-built workflows that helps them to get started with the service without having to bring in IT.

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Subterranean drone mapping startup Emesent raises $2.5M to autonomously delve the deep

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Seemingly every industry is finding ways to use drones in some way or another, but deep underground it’s a different story. In the confines of a mine or pipeline, with no GPS and little or no light, off-the-shelf drones are helpless — but an Australian startup called Emesent is giving them the spatial awareness and intelligence to navigate and map those spaces autonomously.

Drones that work underground or in areas otherwise inaccessible by GPS and other common navigation techniques are being made possible by a confluence of technology and computing power, explained Emesent CEO and co-founder Stefan Hrabar. The work they would take over from people is the epitome of “dull, dirty, and dangerous” — the trifecta for automation.

The mining industry is undoubtedly the most interested in this sort of thing; mining is necessarily a very systematic process and one that involves repeated measurements of areas being blasted, cleared, and so on. Frequently these measurements must be made manually and painstakingly in dangerous circumstances.

One mining technique has ore being blasted from the vertical space between two tunnels; the resulting cavities, called “stopes,” have to be inspected regularly to watch for problems and note progress.

“The way they scan these stopes is pretty archaic,” said Hrabar. “These voids can be huge, like 40-50 meters horizontally. They have to go to the edge of this dangerous underground cliff and sort of poke this stick out into it and try to get a scan. It’s very sparse information and from only one point of view, there’s a lot of missing data.”

Emesent’s solution, Hovermap, involves equipping a standard DJI drone with a powerful lidar sensor and a powerful onboard computing rig that performs simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) work fast enough that the craft can fly using it. You put it down near the stope and it takes off and does its thing.

“The surveyors aren’t at risk and the data is orders of magnitude better. Everything is running onboard the drone in real time for path planning — that’s our core IP,” Hrabar said. “The dev team’s background is in drone autonomy, collision avoidance, terrain following — basically the drone sensing its environment and doing the right thing.”

As you can see in the video below, the drone can pilot itself through horizontal tunnels (imagine cave systems or transportation infrastructure) or vertical ones (stopes and sinkholes), slowly working its way along and returning minutes later with the data necessary to build a highly detailed map. I don’t know about you, but if I could send a drone ahead into the inky darkness to check for pits and other scary features, I wouldn’t think twice.

The idea is to sell the whole stack to mining companies as a plug-and-play solution, but work on commercializing the SLAM software separately for those who want to license and customize it. A data play is also in the works, naturally:

“At the end of the day, mining companies don’t want a point cloud, they want a report. So it’s not just collecting the data but doing the analytics as well,” said Hrabar.

Emesent emerged from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, an Australian agency not unlike our national lab system. Hrabar worked there for over a decade on various autonomy projects, and three years ago started on what would become this company, eventually passing through the agency’s “ON” internal business accelerator.

Data collected from a pass through a cave system.

“Just last week, actually, is when we left the building,” Hrabar noted. “We’ve raised the funding we need for 18 months of runway with no revenue. We really are already generating revenue, though.”

The $3.5 million (Australian) round comes largely from a new $200M CSIRO Innovation fund managed by Main Sequence Ventures. Hrabar suggested that another round might be warranted in a year or two when the company decides to scale and expand into other verticals.

DARPA will be making its own contribution after a fashion through its Subterranean Challenge, should (as seemly likely) Emesent achieve success in it. Hrabar was confident. “It’s pretty fortuitous,” he said. “We’ve been doing underground autonomy for years, and then DARPA announces this challenge on exactly what we’re doing.”

We’ll be covering the challenge and its participants separately. You can read more about Emesent at its website.

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Tier, the Berlin-based scooter rental startup, raises €25M as European e-scooter market heats up

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Tier, one of a number of electric scooter rental startups based in Berlin, has raised a chunky €25 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is VC fund Northzone, with participation from existing investors Speedinvest, and Point Nine.

The investment marks the biggest financial backing for a European company in the space, and, according to my sources, signals the beginning of a pending VC war to create the “Bird or Lime of Europe”.

Go Flash (or perhaps just “Flash”), founded by Delivery Hero and Team Europe founder Lukasz Gadowski, is also thought to be out raising a war chest from VCs across Europe. I understand the yet-to-launch startup is already backed by Gadowski’s own cash and €2 million from the mobility arm of Target global.

There’s also Coup, an e-scooter subsidiary owned by Bosch and backed by BCG Digital Ventures that operates in Berlin, Paris and Madrid. And just two month’s ago Taxify announced its intention to do e-scooter rentals under the brand Bolt, first launched in Paris but also planning to be pan-European, including Germany. To name just a few.

Meanwhile, Bird and Lime have made tentative launches in Europe. The U.S. e-scooter services are both available in Paris, with other European cities expected soon.

More on Northzone-backed Tier

Founded by “serial entrepreneurs” Lawrence Leuschner (CEO), Julian Blessin (CPO), and Matthias Laug (CTO), provides electric scooters that can be
rented on demand to travel the “last mile” in cities. To use the Tier service, riders download the app, locate one of the available e-scooters using the map, pay a fixed fee of €1 to unlock, followed by a fee of €0.15 per minute to ride.

The startup pitches its mobility offering as an “independent, fun and conscious way of urban commuting,” as says that what sets Tier apart from competitors is the way it plans to work closely with local governments and town halls to help create a sustainable experience. “The goal is to change the current status quo of polluted cities, smog and ineffective, inconvenient and overpriced transportation modes together!” says the company.

Its first active city is Vienna, which launched just last week. However, the plan is to use the new Series A funding to roll out the Tier service to additional European cities, and to further scale the team.

Cue a statement from Paul Murphy, Partner at Northzone: “European cities are uniquely placed to benefit from access to low-carbon, accessible and convenient transport, thanks to their high population density and political commitment to lower carbon emissions. It takes a strong team to navigate a complex landscape. Tier is the frontrunner in Europe, and we have been incredibly impressed with what the team has achieved to date. We think they can become a category winner in a space”.

Fun fact: Tier’s Blessin was instrumental in setting up e-scooter rival Coup as the company’s “Venture Build” & Head of Growth.

More on Lukasz Gadowski’s Go Flash

Although not yet official — Gadowski’s LinkedIn profile simply lists his latest job title as CEO at “TBA MOBILITY SERVICE” — Go Flash is one of Berlin’s worst kept secrets. The new venture was briefly mentioned by local German blog Gruenderzene, whilst I’ve heard a few more details from my own sources in the German city and from a number of VCs across Europe.

One rumour in circulation is that Gadowski is in the midst of raising a “mega round” from multiple European VCs, with the aim of creating both a war chest to fend off Bird and Lime, but also to launch a pan-European e-scooter service that hits the road motoring via a roll up of other nascent e-scooter startups across the region.

The figure being touted is between $100 million and $200 million, with one source telling me it is still very early days, while another says the deal is practically done. I’ve also heard that Go Flash is already in talks with an e-scooter startup in Sweden (while Delivery Hero garnered much of its growth via acquisition).

As one person familiar with Gadowski’s previous modus operandi put it: “He’s good at fundraising. $100 million wouldn’t be hard for Lukasz to raise. He raised over a $1 billion in equity for Delivery Hero and made a lot of people money”. In other words, we might expect to see some investors previously associated with Delivery Hero take part.

More intriguingly, one source, albeit based on limited information, said that if the mega round is true it will be fascinating to witness a number of top European VCs “colluding” in a bid to keep Silicon Valley at bay. The general sentiment is that they don’t want the potentially lucrative e-scooter space, which appears to have very promising unit economics, to be rolled over by a U.S. company in the same way that Uber swept into Europe and overtook much of the local competition.

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After raising $25M in XRP, Omni lets you earn it renting stuff out

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“I think any company scaling today has to have a crypto strategy. This is the start of ours,” Omni founder and CEO Tom McLeod tells me. His on-demand property storage and rental marketplace raised $25 million in XRP coins back in January in what some saw as an opportunist move to capitalize on the cryptocurrency boom. That industry has since gone bust, and XRP is in the cross-hairs of regulators who may classify it as a security with extra restrictions.

Now Omni has a way to get rid of some of its XRP. It’s beginning to let people get paid in the coin when they rent their stuff to fellow Omni users. Their balance of earnings is held in USD, but they can cash out to XRP at any time with no fee.

“In every other crypto investment scenario, you have to risk your cash — this way you can put items you already own to work for you and have them earn XRP while you relax,” says McLeod. “With this integration, you can basically double dip on ownership-as-investment by both unlocking liquidity early and investing some or all of the proceeds back into the crypto markets.”

Many users may not want XRP or to have anything to do with crypto. They can luckily ignore the feature. But they won’t be able to ignore Omni’s aggressive push to get people renting their stuff out.

Omni began as a just a storage service, now available in San Francisco and Portland. You schedule a pick up, its reps come to your place, they photograph the condition of your items, and haul them away to be stored in warehouses where space is cheaper than inside the city at users’ homes. The insane convenience of the service is you can request any of your items to be returned in as little as a few hours, so it’s almost like they never left your place. Most traditional self-storage units aren’t open 24/7 and it’s a big hassle to go pick up your stuff, often requiring a truck.

Omni is essentially Amazon Web Services for physical goods. And the thought is that once self-driving vehicles and warehouse robots improve, much of the work to schlep your stuff around would be automated. The monthly recurring storage fees created a reliable business model, and suddenly having to make room for all your goods at home kept users from churning.

But long-term, Omni sees rentals as its cash cow. Instead of the items you store just sitting in the warehouse, it’s created a two-sided marketplace where anyone can rent those items without causing any additional work for the owner, who simply gets paid while Omni keeps a cut.

Unfortunately, Omni is now trying to pressure users into storing goods separately so they can be rented instead of as plastic bins or suitcases full of goods. So at the start of 2019 it’s doubling the monthly cost of storing a large closed container, box or bag from $7.50 to $15 per month. That’s pretty steep, and a significant hike.

“Marketplace is driving Omni growth, and has always been the core of the long-term vision,” says McLeod. “Closed containers don’t grow the business, but move almost as much. We’re basically the same price as competitors now for them. It also makes it potentially more likely that small items will be itemized. We’re going to launch kits/playlists that will allow for grouping in the coming months.”

The XRP integration could potentially save Omni money on transaction fees. But the whole idea sounded a lot better when cryptocurrency was perceived as a gold rush rather than a gamble.

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Vahdam Teas raises $2.5M to grow its tea-commerce business in the US

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Vahdam Teas, an India-based e-commerce startup that cuts the supply chain down to sell fresh teas online, has pulled in a $2.5 million Series B investment for growth in the U.S. and other global markets.

The round comes from existing investor Fireside Ventures, a consumer brand-focused VC firm. It follows a $1.4 million Series A round that was announced at the end of 2017, and it takes two-year-old Vahdam to $5 million from investors to date. TechCrunch understands from a source with knowledge of discussions that the deal values Vahdam at the $25 million mark. Vahdam declined to discuss its valuation when asked.

Vahdam founder and CEO Bala Sarda, a 26-year-old who comes from a tea industry family, told TechCrunch that the company could have raised more money but it is aiming to be picky. There’s clearly demand. Teabox, the startup that pioneered the digital distribution model for tea sales, has raised nearly $15 million from its backers to date, for example.

“We’ve chosen to raise patient, intelligent capital from people who know this industry,” Sarda said. “We’re not profitable yet but not burning a lot of money.”

He admitted that the company could look to raise more funds next year if it sees the right growth opportunities to merit it. He expects the company to reach breakeven over that period, too.

Vahdam Teas founder and CEO Bala Sarda

Stepping back for a moment, Teabox, Vahdam and others like them are aiming to redesign the way people consume and buy tea by massively cutting the time between picking and drinking.

In traditional corporate circles, that process is something like 9-12 months as produce is kept in warehouses and supply chain takes time. Now, the new standard is freshly-kept teas that can go from plantation to home in as few as 10 days depending on harvest time. That’s thanks to temperature-controlled storage and the efficiencies of e-commerce. For consumers, these digital tea sellers offer not just fresher teas, but an easy way to buy a premium selection that is tough to find on the high street.

Vahdam recently said it had delivered its 100 millionth cup of tea — note: it sells loose leaf tea not bags — having just hit 200,000 customers to date. (Teabox said it had delivered 40 million cups in December 2017, but it hasn’t issued a new figure.) Revenue is on track to grow 2X this year, and CEO Sarda believes the company can reach 500,000 customers before the end of next year.

The company sells in over 85 countries, but it has focused on the U.S. market, which accounts for up to 75 percent of its revenue, according to Sarda.

Vahdam first entered America largely through Amazon — which sells its teas, alongside those of Teabox and others, although Vahdam was part of Amazon’ Launchpad startup accelerator program. While that relationship has helped break into the market, Sarda said that Vahdam is on track to see activity from its own website overtake that of its own Amazon store by the end of 2018. That’s important because it helps establish a direct relationship with customers, which is essential for new products, that will soon include a subscription-based service and also a ready-to-drink teabag option.

That subscription was originally going to launch this year, but Vahdam has delayed it while it set up logistics in the U.S. market. Using its previous Series A financing, the startup opened an office in New York and warehouse in New Jersey and Indianapolis — the location of Fedex’s second-largest U.S. hub and a UPS “super hub” with convenient links between east and west coast consumer markets.

Through these locations — and the use of delivery partners — Sarda said Vahdam can now deliver its product to U.S-based customers more effiently. The CEO said it managed U.S-based inventory mostly predictively, but the new locations make it much easier (and cheaper) to handle smaller packages quickly in the U.S. That’ll help with its upcoming subscription, which will include a ‘surprise box’ or regular orders that can be scheduled over variable times, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.

Vahdam Teas plans to introduce a subscription-based option for its customers

“We are targeting mainstream tea-drinking customers in the U.S, it’s a multi-billion market,” Sarda told TechCrunch. “Our focus is to disrupt the mainstream brands and we’ve been converting [consumers] because they believe it is much fresher tea that’s also easier to order.”

The company is also giving attention to its native market. Not only is it preparing to begin to sell tea in India — it has focused on global markets to date — but it has also unveiled a CSR project aimed at putting money back into the grassroots industry.

Its TEAch Me project sets aside one percent of company revenue to fund the school fees for the children of workers at its partner plantations, where the tea sold to consumers is sourced. Vahdam works with over a dozen partners which, Sarda said, should mean it covers the education costs of over 1,000 students before this year is out. A pilot with one estate saw it cover 60 students and Sarda said that already Vahdam is planning a follow-up initiative focused on health insurance.

“Education is a big part of their salaries [and it] can become a burden for their families even with the [incoming national] minimum wage. As we have more capital to infuse we’ll also look at health care options,” he said.

While it is involved with its estates through these projects, Sarda said there are no plans to own any outright. In some cases, Vahdam buys up a majority, or all, of an estate’s premium tea products but there are other goods sold on to other merchants or at auction. He did say, however, that the company would consider buying stakes where an estate needs new capital, and it is actively helping its partners to embrace technology.

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