By: Dan Stolar and Ben Freeberg

Bleu Capital is a seed stage, micro VC with offices in San Francisco and New York City. Bleu leverages their team’s strong experience in international retail and distribution to provide unique insights and support to their portfolio of 10 companies. The team brings 35 years of experience in Asia and Europe, having previously built the leading importer and distributor of Western food in the Chinese market, Sinodis.

Bleu Capital’s Investment Thesis:

If you have recently seen the cover of any major business publication (or walked through a mall) it is clear that this is a time of great change for the retail industry. The industry and consumer dynamics are accelerating forward. Advances in retail technology have led to more convenient and enjoyable shopping experiences for consumers with tailored offers. While technology has improved the shopping experience, it has also made consumers significantly more demanding than they have been previously.

Recognizing these industry-wide changes, Bleu identified two major needs for retailers and brands: 1) the battle to be more consumer centric offline and 2) the need to connect directly to their consumers. These two needs drive Bleu Capital’s investment focus: Partner with companies that are developing omni-channel technology solutions for brands and retailers across the consumer journey and product-value chain. These types of companies are leveraging cutting edge technologies such as AI, AR / VR and Blockchain.

Above all, Bleu believes in a founder-focused approach, where leaders demonstrate the right balance of execution and humility. Using these criteria, Bleu Capital has backed ten companies across retail, enterprise and AI and are on an exciting path forward.

How Does their portfolio fit in? 

Skip, founded in 2014, is a mobile self-checkout solution capitalizing on the next generation of mobile commerce, offline consumer behavior. Skip allows consumers to easily scan the barcodes of items and pay for these items while still walking through the aisles. Additionally, Skip catalogues the location of all items in the store so consumers can quickly and efficiently find their desired products.  

Skip aims to add value for consumers, retailers and brands. Consumers save time by skipping lines in store and save money by actively tracking what they are spending. For retailers and brands, there are significant savings and benefits. Retailers save on the cost of a POS system ($30,000 – $50,000 per year) and have data that is more similar to what e-commerce retailers use to make inventory and purchasing decisions. Brands would also be able to leverage this data to gain accurate real-time insights into how consumers are making decisions around their products and recommend directly redeemable coupons from the best available promotions (which generate additional savings for the users).

Bleu Capital was able to add significant value to Skip by guiding the company as they figured out how to manage and sign up new retailers. Furthermore, Bleu was able to introduce the company to a large European retailer, for piloting discussions.

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Founded in 2016, Cargo is a provider of vending machines for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. Cargo is based on the concept that the car is a significantly underutilized consumption space where only news and entertainment are consumed today, thanks to mobile phones. There are between 45,000 and 65,000 ridesharing cars in NYC alone, with riders averaging 10-20 minutes in these vehicles. Cargo saw this landscape as a significant opportunity to alter consumer consumption habits.

Cargo provides drivers with a box to place in their vehicle, and riders can quickly go on the Cargo webapp and order the items they want. Cargo partners with brands such as Dannon and Kellogg’s to provide these products directly to consumers. Drivers are only partly handling the items and are incentivized based on the number of items sold. Cargo tracks drivers’ inventory using their proprietary inventory management software and send refills when it is most optimal for the vehicle.

Bleu Capital was able to bring their expertise in distribution to help Cargo in their early initiatives, while also helping them set KPIs and make strategic introductions to brand partners. Ultimately, Cargo is merging the worlds of consumer brands and ride-sharing to disrupt convenience retail, and that’s exactly what Bleu Capital wants to back – strong founders with a disruptive model and strategy.

Thanks to Joseph Sartre and the Bleu Capital team for assisting us with this post.