korean grocery startup kurly secures $150 million.
South Korean, online grocery startup Kurly has raised $150 million in its latest funding round from Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Capital, and DST Global. The Series E funding round followed on from a $113 million Series D round last year and now places the five-year-old startup at a valuation of approximately $780 million.
Kurly is, in many ways, the Korean startup response to Amazon Fresh, allowing customers to buy groceries and other produce – fresh as well as packaged – from one platform and have it delivered the next morning. Convenience is king. Since being established in 2015, Kurly has rapidly gained market share, and although it remains a market dominated by e-commerce giants such as Coupang and G-Market, Kurly continues to pull in significant funding.
Whilst food is becoming an increasingly central part of the already crowded e-commerce market, Korea’s thirst for e-commerce is growing as well. In 2019, Korea was the fifth-largest e-commerce market in the world and is forecast to become the third-largest within five years. Korea’s unusually high single person household numbers, impressive digital infrastructure, and openness to innovation make it a country primed for startups such as Kurly to make headway.
Indeed, Kurly’s success can be partly attributed to the country’s appetite for e-commerce, but their frequently cited and impressive dawn delivery has also proved invaluable – any orders placed before 23:00 will arrive before 07:00 the next day. Kurly’s incessant commitment to creating the most convenient service paired with a focus on quality foods – something that has paired well with the growing number of higher-income families – has contributed significantly to their current position.
Kurly, however, isn’t yet operating at profit, and despite sales trebling in 2019 from the year before, their losses doubled. Profitability seems a slippery catch for many in the e-commerce world, and even the larger conglomerates such as Coupang are accumulating colossal losses. Kurly’s recent funding round was, however, helped unexpectedly by the current coronavirus pandemic, and the surge in online shopping prompted by strict social distancing and self-isolation played some part in them securing such a substantial funding round.