Can Zubale help retailers win e-Commerce race

Oddup Team
February 3, 2022

Zubale is a leading marketplace dedicated to various software and gig collaborators who come together to fulfill/solve e-commerce orders within the LatAm region. This startup is the brainchild of Allison Campbell and Sebastian Monroy who founded it in 2018 at the Harvard Business School. The company wrapped its series A finance round led by QED investors recently and is now looking to expand in new verticals.

“Our goal is very clear: We want to be present, in a very short period of time, in the six most important markets in Latin America. Over the past two years, we have grown steadily 25% month over month and expect to 3X our revenues in 2022 compared to the previous year,” said Sebastian Monroy, Co-Founder, and CEO.

Read on to figure out how Zubale started under the leadership of two Harvard MBA holders who worked for years at P&G Mexico in similar roles.  

How did it all begin?

Source

It started with the need for eCommerce solutions for Latin American retailers aimed at the same quality, efficiency, and reliability as some giant tech companies. Allison Campbell, the founder of the company, was the first person to have felt the need for a platform like Zubale that would feature a gig workers marketplace and embedded software to help traditional retailers prevail in the eCommerce market.

Campbell came out of Michigan State University with an honors degree in International Relations. After finishing her B.A, she set out to work as a Business Development Analyst at the E-Hubs Africa where she understood the challenges faced by businesses over there. In a short period, Campbell joined Walmart, the world’s leading retail corporation based in Arkansas that owns a chain of hypermarkets.

At Walmart, she worked her way up to the position of Director of International Strategic Initiatives in Shanghai and Shenzhen, China. Campbell spent almost 8  years working closely with like-minded people in different roles in places like Gurgaon, India, and then in Shenzhen, China. After that, she went to Harvard Business School to complete her MBA with distinction and was awarded for Entrepreneurship and Leadership in 2018. 

At the HBS, Campbell crossed paths with Sebastian Monroy who took the same professional route as her but did not realize that they would be co-founders in the near future. Sebastian Monroy was the co-president of the LatAm club and Campbell was known to spend some time as a member of the same club. Monroy spent 7 years at P&G Mexico as the sales supervisor who turned manager.

“Retailers are experiencing great pressure from consumers to improve the shopping experience in their digital channels, offering the same speed and quality of delivery offered by applications such as Rappi, PedidosYa, iFood, or Cornershop. However, providing these levels of service and speed of delivery requires giant tech work and large capital investment for which retailers are not prepared,” says Sebastian Monroy, Co-founder of Zubale.  

Having the same background and the same experience with the emerging retail markets gave this duo plenty of time to think about a venture of their own. Campbell and Monroy took a closer look at the retail industry and saw that it steadily generated $2 trillion a year but there was a problem. The majority of companies ended up spending up to $40 billion on employees who did in-store tasks.

As mentioned earlier, Latin America is under a major transformation thanks to retailers shifting to e-commerce to solve their daily challenges. The e-commerce fulfillment process across LatAm has been quite a challenge for various retailers from pharmacies, specialty stores, fashion brands, and supermarkets. Consumers are looking for efficient, fast, and convenient deliveries from e-commerce initiatives for which a lot of retailers are unprepared.

The duo envisioned a way to help retailers save that much of an expense by enabling them to crowdsource the same in-store tasks to independent contractors. Things like restocking, checking prices, and even building displays cannot be overlooked but they can be used to make money. Additionally, retailers lacked shorter delivery times and that’s where Zubale was born. It didn't take the co-founders of Zubale to form a team after their fateful encounter on the very first day of business school.

In 2018, they finalized the functional model of their venture and named it Zubale. The name is a wordplay on the Spanish word “subale” which means to “hop on” or “raise up”. This name reflects the company’s goal of “empowering” the retail industry in Latin America and helping anyone with a smartphone to connect with its flourishing marketplace. With Zubale it’s easy to find temporary workers for any sort of work.

At the demo day held in San Francisco, Zubale made an appearance for the first time and formed a startup pitch for investors. The primary goal for the two co-founders was to grab the attention of some of the big corporations that were looking for an outfit to address the problems with the LatAm retail industry on their behalf. Zubale had humble beginnings at the time but they soon grew larger.

“We are changing this with Zubale by helping retailers innovate faster than ever before. We doubled our revenue in the second half of 2021 and expect to double again in the first half of 2022. The interest and potential of our region plus our execution and results, led us to a more than 2x oversubscribed round,” said Allison Campbell, Co-Founder.  

The reason why Zubale started and grew substantially through Mexico city is that their app-based crowdsourcing platform is easily available to the common mass. About 85% of the total Mexican population owns a smartphone that they use for almost everything and with an app like Zubale, they can easily earn mobile phone credit and several other redeemable digital rewards. 

Zubale’s Solutions

The way Zubale got a hold of the market is exemplary according to both of its co-founders. Allison Campbell says that the users love Zubale as working for them has increased people’s income roughly by 40%. An integrated platform like Zubale can be used to crowdsource any type or number of tasks from a nearby inventory. 

By identifying an opportunity to utilize tech to drive retail execution in LatAm and thus create job opportunities for millions, Zubale managed to offer the solutions below. 

Zubale’s important aspects include:

  1. An eCommerce suite
  2. Integrations
  3. Results dashboard
  4. Mobile applications
  5. Digital training
  6. Artificial intelligence

The following is an overview of the solutions offered by the startup.

  • End-to-end fulfillment

Through its platform, Zubale helps connect supermarkets and independent collaborators who can handle picking up or delivery tasks for any e-commerce orders easily. This way, it becomes easier to increase customer satisfaction as well as cost-efficiency for any order.  

In a market that analysts say could be worth $200 billion by 2025, "retailers are under pressure," Allison Campbell, Co-founder of Zubale, said. Customers in Latin America now expect an "incredible experience in their digital channel offered by applications," she added.  

  • Deliveries 

Zubale can be used as a bridge between brands, retailers, and even restaurants that are looking for help in completing last-mile deliveries within a time window. The platform gives you real-time updates as well as an option to pay for deliveries online to cut costs and increase convenience.

  • In-store tasks

There is a wide range of in-store tasks that take up a substantial amount of expense to be fulfilled by regular employees. But thanks to Zubale, it is possible to contact collaborators interested in such tasks and give them a stable source of income by paying per task to reduce staff supply costs. 

Zubale is mainly preferred due to its integrated platform and its quality of service that provides compliance, safety, satisfaction, and punctuality. 

Competitors, Market Growth, Investors, and Partners

According to analysts, the e-commerce market in Latin America has reached up to $100 billion at the moment. It is expected to double by the end of 2025, urging the retail sector to find solutions to have successful e-commerce initiatives. Campbell believes that the LatAm retail industry is generating $2 trillion each year. It’s not a surprise that Zubale exceeded people’s expectations in its first year of doing business. 

“Latin America is the apple of e-commerce’s eye,” Ebanx noted in its Beyond Borders 221-2022 report. 

In 2019, the team increased to 40 full-time employees who helped complete 170,000 tasks on behalf of various consumer brands. The co-founders proudly revealed that their startup did not require aggressive marketing efforts as it spread only through word of mouth and relevant Facebook groups. In these groups, people discussed the company’s model and shared it with their worker friends who were looking for jobs.

“We have signed contracts that will enable the company to more than triple [growth] in the next month,” Zubale CEO, Sebastian Monroy said. “So imagine what we have achieved, and now our execution is laser-focused with Brazil and Chile, which have been very huge opportunities for us.” 

Once the co-founders felt it was the right time, Zubale announced a seed funding round in 2018 that was led by Kevin Efrusy of Accel, NFX. Investors like GGV Capital, Maya Capital, Wollef, and many others showed interest in this early-stage venture for this round. The company quickly gained the trust of several retail giants like

  • AJE
  • Maruchan
  • Gessa
  • Cencosud
  • Walmart
  • Nestle
  • Kraft Heinz
  • M&Ms
  • Reckitt Benckiser
  • La Comer
  • Petco etc.

But the ever-growing market like Latin America has several competitors that operate like Zubale. Let us take a look at three such direct competitors: 

  • Rappi

The Colombia-based delivery platform Rappi was established in 2015 by co-founder and CEO Simon Borrero. Its headquarters is located in Bogota and has almost 5,000 full-time employees. The total revenue generated annually by the Colombian version of Uber eats is around $220 million. Since its inception, Rappi has led many financing rounds successfully and amassed $2.2 billion in total funding.

  • iFood

iFood is available to its users as an online application that they utilize to find and order food from local restaurants conveniently. Fabricio Bloisi is the current CEO of the company iFood which ended up acquiring SiteMercado in September 2020. An estimate shows that iFood generates $240 million as annual revenue and has up to 1,400 employees with its headquarters in Sao Paulo.

  • Cornershop

The San Francisco-based company is the only direct competitor of Zubale in the U.S. as of now. Under the leadership of co-founder and CEO Oskar Hjertonsson, this on-demand delivery services platform was established in 2015. Cornershop was acquired by Uber Technologies Inc when its annual revenue reached over $100 million. From a financial perspective, Cornershop received $31.7 million in funding.  

$48 Million and 2  Funding Rounds

Owing to the sharp increase in Zubale’s business, the company nearly doubled its revenues in the 2nd half of 2021. The company helped finish around 4 million tasks for various retailers within the region. There are about 20,000 contributors and independent collaborators available on its marketplace that cover up to 3,000 municipalities. Zubale is catering to consumer products, supermarkets, retailers, industries, and also restaurants via its revolutionary app.

Recently, the company received fresh funding from QED investors who led its Series A funding round. 7 other investors also participated in Zubale’s Series A. The last valuation of this early-stage venture is around $200 million while its post-money valuation inches closer to $240 million. Our experts have given it an Oddup score of 61.52 which is not great but also not bad. 

The passable score signifies that though Zubale has sufficient backing within its relevant industry, it has a long way to go. A total of 23 investors are eyeing Zubale at the moment which is an encouraging sign that could help in the company’s expansion in Peru and Brazil. Starting in Mexico and slowly making its way to Colombia and Costa Rica, Zubale is aiming to triple its sales in 2022.

“Zubale is transforming the e-commerce fulfillment process across Latin America. Their growth has been stunning over the past 2 years as they’ve delivered a best-in-class shopping experience, completing over 7 million tasks. This enables Zubale to quickly scale with demand while maintaining a very high-quality bar,” said Lauren Morton, Partner at QED Investors. 

Zubale’s model is gaining traction and benefits from its brand recognition aspect for storefronts who wish to avoid third-party apps like Rappi and Cornershop. Giving a reliable, integrated, and punctual digital channel is a cherry on top for retailers who make the most out of Zubale.

Seed - $8 Million

Back in August 2018, Zubale’s co-founders called forth its seed funding round when the company had just 10 employees. It had been 3 weeks since the application was launched and the Zubale community had completed more than 20,000 branded tasks by that time. Investors like Pear VC (who also endorsed this round), XFactor Ventures, The Graduate Syndicate, and James Cash from General Electric joined this round. Ultimately, NFX and Kevin Efrusy came out as the leading investors for this round resulting in a total of $8 million.

Series A - $40 Million

After quite some time, Zubale, the mexico-based company which nearly doubled its previous annual revenue announced Series A. 8 well-known VC firms as well as angel investors ended up participating in this round of finance which was led by QED Investors. Other worth noting participants were Global Founders Capital, Wollef Ventures, Accel’s Kevin Efrusy, NFX, Maya Capital, Hans Tung of GGV Capital, and Felicis Ventures.  

Lauren Morton, a partner at QED Investors, said, “We were immediately impressed by the vision and execution of the Zubale team. Their approach to growing opportunities for independent workers in the region is a major step forward in financial inclusion and we’re inspired by the ways to grow this impact over time. We’re incredibly excited to be on the journey with them,”

What does the future hold for Zubale? 

Zubale’s working model is solving two major challenges in Latin America. One is solving the crisis of workers that retailers can use to fulfill standard orders and on the other hand, independent workers are getting a chance to earn regular income. With the new cash infusion, the co-founders are considering investing more in the technology behind Zubale. Though nothing has been decided yet there will be several pilot launches in the future.

The company is making steady progress and experiencing 25% month-over-month growth each year. What started from 10 team members has now grown into 150 product and engineering managers. In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Monroy said that they have signed contracts that would triple the company’s growth in the coming month.

“Now as the next step, we’re looking at how we can build financial products and services to help them [workers] solve their problems,” Allison Cambell added. “We wanted a fintech at the table, which is why we chose QED as a part of the Series A round because they have the expertise in building these financial products. They were really excited by the strength of our marketplace, and how we could actually provide this as another layer to offer financial inclusion.”

While expanded operations are built in Brazil and Chile, the company could be launching a brand new finance product to follow a new vertical. Monroy the CEO of Zubale shifted to Brazil to handle the company’s presence and said that they are working with 3 of the largest retailers in the area. 10 more retailers are in discussion to onboard Zubale’s platform. 

Zubale was looking for a fintech investor with expertise to help them in the path ahead. Fortunately, QED Investor’s interest and financial support cleared Zubale’s road to exploring an entirely new vertical.

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