The Most Promising Retail Startups of 2022, According to Top VCs


imageInsider talked to top VCs and asked them to pick the most promising startups so far in 2022.VCs were asked to list startups in their portfolios and companies they have no financial ties to.The result is a list of up-and-coming startups within the retail industry seen below.Estimated total funding for each startup is based on reports from PitchBook unless otherwise specified.Some VCs identified in this list recommended multiple startups that cater to the retail industry.

Hans Tung, GGV Capital Hans Tung, a managing partner at GGV Capital.GGV Capital Recommended startup: Frubana

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $353.57 million

What it does: Frubana is an online grocery-shopping platform for restaurants and small retailers in Latin America.The platform allows merchants to source ingredients directly from farmers and manufacturers with no intermediaries.

The food-supply challenges during the COVID-19 have helped accelerate the growth outside its home base in Colombia.

It works with 87,000 restaurants and small retailers in Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico.

Why it’s on the list: By cutting off intermediaries like food distributors, Frubana’s B2B tech saves money for both producers and buyers.The company initially started as a fruit-and-vegetable distribution venture but has expanded to become “a one-stop-shop for Latin American restaurants,” Tung told Insider.”It provides price transparency, reduces waste, facilitates logistics, and generates trust to create a highly efficient and vertically integrated food-supply chain.”

Mark Fiorentino, Index Ventures Mark Fiorentino is a partner at Index Ventures.Index Ventures Recommended startup: Catch

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $30.6 million

What it does: Catch allows online shoppers to complete purchases by paying directly from their bank accounts instead of with credit cards.Brands pass on the savings that would normally cover credit-card-processing fees to shoppers in the form of store credit, building loyalty and offering an incentive to shop again.

Why it’s on the list: As customer acquisition becomes more challenging due to privacy-policy changes and rising ad costs on social media, more brands have begun to emphasize growing the lifetime value of existing customers.Catch allows brands to increase loyalty levels among their existing customer base by incentivizing repeat purchases with store credit.

Fiorentino was impressed by the way that Catch combines payments, loyalty, retention, and engagement into one product.”By cutting out the card networks altogether, they allow merchants to pass through those savings to the consumer via loyalty credits, leading to increased engagement and retention from its customer base,” he said.

Catch counts many direct-to-consumer favorites like Girlfriend Collective, Everlane, and Parade as clients.

Other backers in addition to Index Ventures include Forerunner Ventures, Sequoia Capital, SciFi VC, Verity Venture Partners, and BoxGroup.

Meera Clark, Redpoint Ventures Meera Clark is a principal at Redpoint Ventures.Redpoint Ventures Recommended startup: Whatnot

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $485.41 million

What it does: Whatnot is a livestream-retail marketplace where users can buy and sell collectibles like Funko Pops and trading cards.

Why it’s promising: Whatnot has raised almost $500 million dollars in funding since its founding, including a $260 million Series D in July.

Grant LaFontaine and Logan Head, the founders of Whatnot, continue to expand the categories on the platform and hire more employees at a time where many startups are conducting mass layoffs.

The company’s business model capitalizes on live-shopping trends already popular outside of the US, especially in Asia.

“Whatnot represents a clear category leader for users seeking to buy and sell collectibles ranging from Funko Pops to manga comics and more,” Clark said.”Whatnot has established an incredibly strong product market fit in its initial collectibles categories and shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to expand its scope based on the strong pull of its user base.”

Roger Lee, Battery Ventures Roger Lee is a general partner at Battery Ventures.Battery Ventures Recommended startup: Rutter

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $29.4 million

What it does: Rutter provides a universal API that allows e-commerce companies to easily connect with all of the systems they would use to run their business, from the platform hosting their site to the tech they use to processes their payments.

Why it’s promising: Brands are now reaching customers across a number of different channels, each of which would traditionally require complicated technical work to integrate.Rutter seeks to simplify that work.

Lee said that it “acts as the connective tissue” between the e-commerce tools and products that merchants use.It also helps merchants and platforms to look at the data across those tools and products with greater ease.

“We believe Rutter provides critical infrastructure to the world of e-commerce — a booming category for 2022 and beyond,” he said.

Amy Saper, Accel Amy Saper is a partner at Accel.Accel Recommended startup: The Expert

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $15 million

What it does: The Expert is a digital platform turned e-commerce home-goods site that pairs users with high-end interior designers for one-on-one video consultations about home renovations and decor.

Why it’s promising: Jake Arnold, an interior designer, founded the Expert was founded in 2021.His reputation attracted an audience of users looking to renovate their living spaces during the pandemic to the startup’s services.

The company expanded into selling home goods like couches and end tables, an offering called Showroom.

“As a design enthusiast in the midst of a home-renovation project, I love the way The Expert is democratizing access to the world’s best interior-design talent, ” Saper said.”The past few years have dramatically shifted our perceptions and expectations around our ideal home setup, and The Expert is well poised to capitalize on that persistent trend.”

Mike Duboe, Greylock Partners Mike Duboe is a general partner at Greylock.Greylock Partners Recommended startup: Convictional

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $48.9 million

What it does: Convictional helps retailers to onboard their vendors — and start selling their products online — much more quickly than more traditional methods.Two former Shopify employees, Chris Grouchy and Roger Kirkness, founded the startup.

Why it’s promising: It’s grown more costly for brands to acquire new customers as Apple’s 2021 iOS updates and other consumer-privacy policies have changed the digital-advertising landscape.

Because of that, many brands are looking to sell their products on a wider variety of channels, including on marketplaces other retailers run.

Convictional automates the process of getting vendors’ products on those marketplaces.And by listing products from other brands on their own sites, retailers get a chance to broaden their product assortment without having to invest in additional inventory.

“Convictional has streamlined and standardized the way brands ‘talk’ to retailer and marketplace partners, allowing them to sell through a broader suite of channels without any inventory challenges,” Duboe said.”The infrastructure underlying wholesale marketplaces and B2B trade will be an interesting area to watch in 2022 and beyond.”

Damir Becirovic, Index Ventures Damir Becirovic is a partner at Index Ventures.Index Ventures Recommended startup: Kojo

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $44.6 million, according to Crunchbase.

What it does: A platform for construction firms to source and purchase building materials.

Why it’s promising: Kojo, formerly known as Agora, rebranded earlier this year and aims to help make buying and managing construction materials more efficient through automation.

Its mobile app is key to this.

With it, construction teams can track existing orders and warehouse inventory in real time.Managers can also reorder materials from previous jobs.Kojo, founded in 2018, is now expanding its service to other sectors of the construction industry, such as mechanical and drywall construction.

“Construction is an industry where the two main costs are labor and materials.

Procore built a multibillion-dollar business addressing labor efficiency and Kojo is aiming to be the platform that makes material procurement efficient,” Becirovic said.

“Historically, construction firms used a combination of email and Excel to manage their material workflows and Agora is digitizing and automating this with software.The reception for their product has been strong and their customer count is growing quickly.”

Katie Stanton, Moxxie Ventures Katie Jacobs Stanton is the founder and a general partner at Moxxie Ventures.Amanda Aude, Shutter Pine Photography Recommended startup: Luminai (formerly Digital Brain)

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $25.12 million

What it does: Luminai’s software automates multi-step processes, such as canceling Shopify orders, for customer-support teams.

Why it’s promising: Luminai has a “world-class founding team, with a remarkable story of resilience, hustle, and high achievement,” Stanton told Insider.The CEO of Luminai, Kesava Kirupa Dinakaran, for instance, worked with cofounder Dmitry Dolgopolov to found what would become Luminai while living off hackathon prize money and pitching to over 100 VCs.

The company also has a “laser focus” on helping customer-support teams save money, Stanton said.On average, Luminai’s customers see a 16% decrease in average handling time per interaction, as well as a 60% reduction in customer-experience-agent onboarding time.

Alex Taussig, Lightspeed Venture Partners Alex Taussig is a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners.Lightspeed Venture Partners Recommended startup : Snackpass

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $ 93.74 million

What it does: Snackpass is a Venmo-inspired app that allows college students to order food for takeout with a social-sharing twist.

Like a peer-to-peer payment app, Snackpass lets users share what they are ordering publicly.They can also gift meals to others and earn and share reward points.

The startup, whose early investors include Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator, targets college towns.

Why it’s on the list: “With a Venmo-like social feed, users can see and interact with their friends, colleagues, and family,” Taussig said.”Beyond the social app, Snackpass has also streamlined the in-store ordering and pick up process so that the consumers no longer need to wait in line for hours to get their favorite food.Snackpass is positioned to lead a new wave of innovation in one of the largest — $2 trillion in size in 2021 — and most dynamic industry: Food.”

Laela Sturdy, CapitalG Laela Sturdy is a general partner at CapitalG.CapitalG Recommended startup: Curated

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $141.5 million

What it does: Curated pairs consumers that are considering big-ticket purchases, like baby-strollers or athletic equipment, with knowledgeable subject-matter experts who can advise shoppers on the best products to buy.

Why it’s on the list: Curated’s category experts can monetize their passion or hobby by doling out advice to online shoppers researching specific items.

Meanwhile, consumers can outsource research and comparison shopping to someone who actually enjoys it.

“Anyone who has ever ventured to choose a baby stroller or the perfect espresso machine knows how confusing and stressful these decisions can be,” Sturdy said.”Curated doesn’t just take the pain out of choosing these high-consideration purchase decisions — they make it actually fun and delightful.”

Morad Elhafed, Battery Ventures Morad Elhafed is a general partner at Battery Ventures.Battery Ventures Recommended startup: Vita Mojo

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $57.96 million

What it does: Vita Mojo’s platform allows restaurants to manage workflows such as digital-ordering and kitchen operations in one integrated system.The London-based startup serves more than 130 operators across the UK and Europe, including Nando’s and Le Pain Quotidien.

Vita Mojo’s digital-ordering services include in-store kiosks, direct-channel online ordering, and ordering through third-party delivery apps such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats.

Why it’s on the list: The company’s founders built the platform by first testing the software in a brick-and-mortar restaurant, billed at the time as the UK’s first cashless and digital-only restaurant.By battle-testing the software in the real world, Vita Mojo has been able to refine and perfect its tech platform.

“Vita Mojo helps restaurants streamline and automate operations, which is critically important as these businesses strive to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic amidst ongoing labor shortages and supply-chain issues,” Elhafed said.

Genevieve Gilbreath, Springdale Ventures Genevieve Gilbreath is a cofounder and general partner at Springdale Ventures.Genevieve Gilbreath Recommended startup: Goodles

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $3.79 million

What it does: Goodles is a macaroni-and-cheese brand.It offers four different varieties of dairy-filled mac and cheese as well as a vegan option.Goodles says that its product is healthier than many other household mac-and-cheese brands while still offering a good taste.

Why it’s on the list: Gilbreath said her group has “never seen market demand like this for a new product” and that celebrity customers and investors range from those in the NFL to Hollywood stars.

“They are absolutely crushing velocities and get inbound calls to get on shelf from everyone,” Gilbreath said.

“I think that Goodles has fully nailed what it takes to build a true household brand.They have an incredible product with really good nutrition, fun, sticky brand, A+ team and they picked one of the biggest, fastest-moving food categories to tackle.”

Chauncey Hamilton, XYZ Venture Capital and Benjamin Ling, Bling Capital Chauncey Hamilton is a partner at XYZ Venture Capital and Benjamin Ling is the founder and a general partner at Bling Capital.XYZ Venture Capital/Bling Capital Recommended startup: Veho

Relationship: Bling Capital is an investor in Veho.XYZ Venture Capital does not have a financial interest in Veho.

Total startup funding: $299.28 million

What it does: Veho is a last-mile logistics platform that uses gig-economy drivers to facilitate next-day delivery for brands.The company currently operates in 22 cities across the US.

Why it’s on the list: Veho steps in at the point in the fulfillment process where retailers have the least amount of control over their products: when products are in transit from warehouses to customers’ doorsteps.Veho offers customers more insight into package deliveries by sharing real-time tracking information and allows for last-minute changes like rescheduling, address changes, and delivery instructions.

Veho also offers doorstep pickup for returns that don’t require labels or packaging, bringing the full delivery loop under its umbrella.

Hamilton told Insider that the ability for retailers to personalize the delivery experience and make it “truly an extension of the brand” is advantageous for brands looking to build up customer trust.

Ling was impressed with Veho’s potential to challenge both national-delivery heavyweights like FedEx and UPS and emerging regional players like Lasership, as well as its fundraising ability.Even as markets became unsettled earlier this year, Veho raised a $170 million Series B in April, which followed a $125 million Series A in December.

Michael Brown, Battery Ventures Michael Brown is a general partner at Battery Ventures.Battery Ventures Recommended startup: Blue Onion

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $8 million

What it does: Blue Onion simplifies financial management for e-commerce brands.

Its software reconciles transaction data from across multiple systems, including e-commerce platforms like Shopify and payment processors like Klarna, so that finance-and-accounting teams can have a full and accurate picture of their data in one place.

Why it’s promising: Running an online business means integrating a number of different software systems.Modern brands are connecting with customers in a number of different ways, from their online stores to their social-media channels.

Blue Onion helps accounting teams automatically match financial records across systems to make sure every transaction is accounted for.

“With the rise of e-commerce, these merchants need a new set of tooling to help run their business across multiple channels, particularly with automating their back-office systems and workflow,” Brown said.

Buffy and Draper James currently use Blue Onion’s services.Entrée Capital, Green Visor Capital, Halogen Ventures, Vinyl Capital, and Y Combinator are all investors.

Niki Pezeshki, Felicis Ventures Niki Pezeshki is a general partner at Felicis Ventures.

Felicis Recommended startup:

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $20 million

What it does: offers artificial-intelligence software to distribution companies that sell to other businesses.The company’s goal is to help distributors increase sales.’s software has many potential uses, such as coming up with product recommendations for specific businesses and providing data to sales representatives who work for distributors.

Why it’s promising: “Distribution and supply-chain challenges have been one of the major themes of the last couple of years, and Proton has done an incredible job of helping distributors weather the storm through the use of industry-specific software and AI,” Pezeshki told Insider.

There’s even more opportunity for the company to grow going forward, he added.Roughly 290,000 distribution companies operate in the US, “but the technology in the industry still lacks some of the innovation that we have seen in other verticals.”

“Proton is changing that,” he added.

Nicole Johnson, Forerunner Ventures Nicole Johnson is a partner at Forerunner Ventures.Forerunner Ventures Recommended startup: Cometeer

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $95.85 million

What it does: Cometeer’s coffee capsules resemble the pods commonly used in Keurig machines, but there’s a key difference: They don’t contain any grounds, making them easier to recycle.

The coffee is brewed and frozen using Cometeer’s proprietary process, which the company says improves the flavor.Cometeer sources its coffee from a variety of roasters around the world, such as North Carolina’s Counter Culture and London’s Square Mile.

Why it’s promising: Cometeer’s approach makes it popular with consumers, Johnson said.”Customers are obsessed.”

Cometeer also cultivates a dual relationship with its roasters, which gives it a sales edge, according to Johnson.

“Cometeer partners with an A-list of roasters from across the country,” she said.”They give Cometeer their best beans, Cometeer makes the coffee, and both distribute to their customers.”

Jimmy Frischling, Branded Hospitality Ventures Jimmy Frischling is the founder and a managing partner at Branded Hospitality Venture.

Jimmy Frischling Recommended startup 1: Dexai Robotics

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: $6.66 million

What it does: Dexai Robotics has built a robotic sous chef, “Alfred,” that can connect with point-of-sales systems and cook orders automatically by following recipes.The technology also tracks food inventory and keeps staff informed of when they’re running out of items.

The company says the robotic chef can help protect the food industry from labor shortages by offering an extra set of robotic hands.Addressing labor concerns in restaurants through robotics has become a popular strategy for startups in recent years.

Why it’s on the list: Frischling said Dexai is “building a new way to prepare meals, and soon robots in the kitchen will be as common as microwaves or dishwashers.”

“We’re looking forward to a future where delicious meals are available for everyone at any hour of the day, prepared quickly, safely, and exactly how you like, by Alfred,” he said.

Recommended startup 2: TapRm

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding : $6.18 million

What it does: TapRm is a platform that allows alcohol brands to reach their consumers directly online without having to work with a traditional distributor or retailer.Consumers can get beer and hard seltzer delivered to their doors.

Why it’s on the list: By bypassing traditional distributors, TapRm makes it easy for any beer or hard-seltzer brand to sell their products online and ship those orders nationwide.

In New York, Frischling said the startup can take brands live from contract signing to online in under seven days.

The company has an “impressive network of integrated retailers, shippers, and couriers,” he said.Since launch, their contracts have grown 21% month over month and have expanded shipping to 45 states.”With thousands of beers and hard-seltzer brands to work with just in the US, TapRm is proud of their platform’s success so far, and are looking forward to the next stage of growth,” Frischling said.

Steve Ahern, KB Partners Steve Ahern is a partner at KB Partners.KB Partners Recommended startup 1 : Tixologi

Relationship: Investor

Total startup funding: $2.25 million

What it does: Tixologi makes blockchain-based ticketing software designed to eliminate the “pain points” of the ticketing experience, Asher Weiss, the CEO and cofounder of Tixologi, told Insider.

Why it’s on the list: The ticketing industry is due for a refresh.Tixologi and its investors, including KB Partners, think blockchain is the answer.

Blockchain is essentially a permanent digital ledger.When used for ticketing, it can prevent counterfeiting by letting fans easily trace back to see if a ticket is authentic.

It can also help event companies gather data on fans because in order to accept a ticket, a fan must have a Tixologi account.The account’s data can be used to make marketing efforts more targeted and effective.

Tixologi’s platform also can convert tickets into non-fungible tokens or digital collectibles.

“In the future, all tickets will be blockchain-based and all will likely be NFTs,” Weiss told Insider.

“We feel confident we can be the industry leader.”

The company is nearing its official launch after raising $2.25 million in venture capital.While sports is a natural first market for Tixologi, Steve Ahern, a partner at KB Partners, said there’s significant room to expand.

“One of the things that’s exciting about the ticketing space is there’s an application beyond purely sports,” he said.

“There’s a really solid market there.Some of the biggest success stories in sports have been ticketing companies.”

Recommended startup 2: Real

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: Self-funded, according to the company

What it does: A social-sports app designed to connect fans and provide a community where they can discuss live games on a play-by-play level.

Why it’s on the list: Ever notice a spike in traffic on social media during big events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl? The Real app builds on that phenomenon, but is aimed strictly at sports fans who regularly watch the games of a specific team or the performances of specific players.

The app also has a notification system that can alert fans to pivotal moments, such as when bases are loaded in a baseball game.

NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA men’s basketball games are available on the app.Louis and John Antonelli, the cofounder brothers of Real, plan to expand to other leagues and sports, including auto racing and ultimate fighting.

“Real has done a very solid job developing a platform that keeps fans engaged around the most exciting moments in sports,” Ahern told Insider.”They’ve quickly found a way to bring Gen Z back to live sports and created an amazing community of sports fans along the way.”

The company launched in March 2021 and is self-funded.It has 88,000 active members and a 4.9-out-of-5-star rating on the App Store.

“We’re trying to avoid the true venture-capital route,” Antonelli said.

“If we do need an influx to get us over a gap, we’ll probably do a friends-and-family round.”

Deborah Benton, Willow Growth Partners Deborah Benton is cofounder and managing partner at Willow Growth Partners.Deborah Benton Recommended startup 1: Youthforia

Relationship: No financial interest

Total startup funding: Self-funded, according to the company

What it does: Youthforia makes makeup formulated with plant-based ingredients typically used in skincare products.Founder Fiona Co Chan, a former enterprise-sales executive with no prior beauty-industry experience, wanted to develop a makeup line that didn’t require removal at the end of the day, but wouldn’t give wearers a breakout or allergic reaction.

Why it’s on the list: Makeup made with skincare ingredients is a concept that has been growing in popularity for a few years, but Deborah Benton of Willow Growth Partners said Youthforia’s “so clean you can sleep in it” approach takes the trend to the next level.

As Benton looks at the mid-COVID-makeup landscape, she thinks affordable, multitasking products like Youthforia’s TikTok-famous blush oil, which sells for $36, will be especially compelling to consumers looking to get the most out of their purchases.

“Clean color with true innovation, functional benefits, and a compelling brand will take more than their fair share of growth,” Benton said.”Youthforia represents all of those.”.

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