SnackMagic picks up $15M to expand from build-your-own snack boxes into a wider gifting marketplace

The office shut-down at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year spurred huge investment in digital transformation and a wave of tech companies helping with that, but there were some distinct losers in the shift, too — specifically those whose business models were predicated on serving the very offices that disappeared overnight. Today, one of the companies that had to make an immediate pivot to keep itself afloat is announcing a round of funding, after finding itself not just growing at a clip, but making a profit, as well.

SnackMagic, a build-your-own snack box service, has raised $15 million in a Series A round of funding led by Craft Ventures, with Luxor Capital also participating.

(Both investors have an interesting track record in the food-on-demand space: Most recently, Luxor co-led a $528 million round in Glovo in Spain, while Craft backs/has backed the likes of Cloud Kitchens, Postmates and many more).

The funding comes on the back of a strong year for the company, which hit a $20 million revenue run rate in eight months and turned profitable in December 2020.

Founder and CEO Shaunak Amin said in an interview that the plan will be to use the funding both to continue growing SnackMagic’s existing business, as well as extend into other kinds of gifting categories. Currently, you can ship snacks anywhere in the world, but the customizable boxes — recipients are gifted an amount that they can spend, and they choose what they want in the box themselves from SnackMagic’s menu, or one that a business has created and branded as a subset of that — are only available in locations in North America, serviced by SnackMagic’s primary warehouse. Other locations are given options of pre-packed boxes of snacks right now, but the plan is to slowly extend its pick-and-mix model to more geographies, starting with the U.K.

Alongside this, the company plans to continue widening the categories of items that people can gift each other beyond chocolates, chips, hot sauces and other fun food items, into areas like alcohol, meal kits, and non-food items. There’s also scope for expanding to more use cases into areas like corporate gifting, marketing and consumer services, and analytics coming out of its sales.

Amin calls the data that SnackMagic is amassing about customer interest in different brands and products “the hidden gem” of the platform.

“It’s one of the most interesting things,” he said. Brands that want to add their items to the wider pool of products — which today numbers between 700 and 800 items — also get access to a dashboard where they monitor what’s selling, how much stock is left of their own items, and so on. “One thing that is very opaque [in the CPG world] is good data.”

For many of the bigger companies that lack their own direct sales channels, it’s a significantly richer data set than what they typically get from selling items in the average brick and mortar store, or from a bigger online retailer like Amazon. “All these bigger brands like Pepsi and Kellogg not only want to know this about their own products more but also about the brands they are trying to buy,” Amin said. Several of them, he added, have approached his company to partner and invest, so I guess we should watch this space.

SnackMagic’s success comes from a somewhat unintended, unlikely beginning, and it’s a testament to the power of compelling, yet extensible technology that can be scaled and repurposed if necessary. In its case, there is personalization technology, logistics management, product inventory and accounting, and lots of data analytics involved.

The company started out as Stadium, a lunch delivery service in New York City that was leveraging the fact that when co-workers ordered lunch or dinner together for the office — say around a team-building event or a late-night working session, or just for a regular work day — oftentimes they found that people all hankered for different things to eat.

In many cases, people typically make separate orders for the different items, but that also means if you are ordering to all eat together, things would not arrive at the same time; if it’s being expensed, it’s more complicated on that front too; and if you’re thinking about carbon footprints, it might also mean a lot less efficiency on that front too.

Stadium’s solution was a platform that provided access to multiple restaurants’ menus, and people could pick from all of them for a single order. The business had been operating for six years and was really starting to take off.

“We were quite well known in the city, and we had plans to expand, and we were on track for March 2020 being our best month ever,” Amin said. Then, Covid-19 hit. “There was no one left in the office,” he said. Revenue disappeared overnight, since the idea of delivering many items to one place instantly stopped being a need.

Amin said that they took a look at the platform they had built to pick many options (and many different costs, and the accounting that came with that) and thought about how to use that for a different end. It turned out that even with people working remotely, companies wanted to give props to their workers, either just to say hello and thanks, or around a specific team event, in the form of food and treats — all the more so since the supply of snacks you typically come across in so many office canteens and kitchens were no longer there for workers to tap.

It’s interesting, but perhaps also unsurprising, that one of the by-products of our new way of working has been the rise of more services that cater (no pun intended) to people working in more decentralised ways, and that companies exploring how to improve rewarding people in those environments are also seeing a bump.

Just yesterday, we wrote about a company called Alyce raising $30 million for its corporate gifting platform that is also based on personalization — using AI to help understand the interests of the recipient to make better choices of items that a person might want to receive.

Alyce is taking a somewhat different approach to SnackMagic: it’s not holding any products itself, and there is no warehouse but rather a platform that links up buyers with those providing products. And Alyce’s initial audience is different, too: instead of internal employees (the first, but not final, focus for SnackMagic) it is targeting corporate gifting, or presents that sales and marketing people might send to prospects or current clients as a please and thank you gesture.

But you can also see how and where the two might meet in the middle — and compete not just with each other, but the many other online retailers, Amazon and otherwise, plus the consumer goods companies themselves looking for ways of diversifying business by extending beyond the B2C channel.

“We don’t worry about Amazon. We just get better,” Amin said when I asked him about whether he worried that SnackMagic was too easy to replicate. “It might be tough anyway,” he added, since “others might have the snacks but picking and packing and doing individual customization is very different from regular e-commerce. It’s really more like scalable gifting.”

Investors are impressed with the quick turnaround and identification of a market opportunity, and how it quickly retooled its tech to make it fit for purpose.

“SnackMagic’s immediate success was due to an excellent combination of timing, innovative thinking and world-class execution,” said Bryan Rosenblatt, principal investor at Craft Ventures, in a statement. “As companies embrace the future of a flexible workplace, SnackMagic is not just a snack box delivery platform but a company culture builder.”

The city of Jackson is shaping up to be Tennessee’s cryptocurrency hub
the-city-of-jackson-is-shaping-up-to-be-tennessees-cryptocurrency-hub

The city of Jackson is shaping up to be Tennessee’s cryptocurrency hub. In the coming weeks, Mayor Scott Conger will form a blockchain task force to explore how to adapt the novel asset class.

Following Miami’s example, Jackson mayor Scott Conger plans to integrate cryptocurrencies into his city

Conger told that his plan is to encourage the use of cryptocurrency by incorporating it into the city:

“The plans are very simple right now. We want to encourage the use of cryptocurrency. I want to get people with a much greater knowledge of blockchain, than myself, in the room to discuss how we can incorporate cryptocurrency into our city.”

In 2020, Tennessee state representative Dennis Powers introduced a bill that calls for an in-depth study of blockchain technology, focusing on its use cases in banking, payments, lending, and other industries.

Jackson is the eighth largest city in Tennessee, but the rest of the state might be tempted to follow its lead due to exploding cryptocurrency adoption. Last week, the Bobby Hotel, one of the most popular hotels in Nashville, added cryptocurrency payments, a first for the state capital.

Conger says that he is taking pointers from Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who is determined to refashion the South Florida city as the world’s biggest Bitcoin hub.

In February, city commissioners voted to explore Suarez’s proposal to pay municipal employees in Bitcoin and invest a portion of the treasury into the cryptocurrency. Should they proceed with the audacious plan, Miami would easily become the most crypto-forward city in the U.S.

In a March interview, Suarez also mentioned that he wanted to turn Miami into a Bitcoin mining hub, offsetting China’s dominance in the industry. Meanwhile, crypto exchange FTX recently scored a deal to rename Miami Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena to FTX Arena.

This Spanish AR NFT Campaign Will Give You Pokémon Go Flashbacks
This Spanish AR NFT Campaign Will Give You Pokémon Go Flashbacks 101
Source: Adobe/Savvapanf Photo ©

If you thought you’d read all there was to possibly read about non-fungible tokens (NFTs), think again, because a Spanish platform giving out hundreds of USD worth of crypto to Pokémon Go-style augmented reality (AR) hunters – as part of a plan to sell NFTs.

Per La Voz de Galicia, residents of Viga, a city on the northwest coast of Spain, the project is part of a promotional campaign from a firm named OVR, which calls itself an “open-source, decentralized augmented reality platform.”

To drum up interest in the token, the media outlet reports, the firm has placed NFT “treasure chests” containing varying amounts of its Ethereum blockchain-based OVR tokens at strategic points of the city. Would-be participants are obliged to make use of a designated app, and must also connect via their social media profiles.

And just as was the case with Pokémon Go around a decade ago, “treasure hunters” armed with the OVR app on their smartphones can roam around the city in pursuit of the chests.

A local blockchain business leader named Antonino Comesaña was quoted as stating,

“I went hunting with my six-year-old son. We found chests full of 100 tokens and we made two or three dollars a day. But the price has risen and we managed to get up to […] USD 475 euros one morning. I have given them to my son so he can save them.”

“Veteran” hunters, however “only get one award per day” as “they want to encourage new people to play to promote the use of their cryptocurrency,” Comesaña added.

But it appears that gaining attention for the token is not OVR’s only goal. The media outlet added that the app divides the city up into 22 quadrants, and offers advertisers the chance to place AR ads at points around the city, in a further bid to catch treasure hunters’ eyes. This, it said, can be done by buying OVR-issued NFTs.

One advertiser paid “between and USD 1,783 and USD 4,753 for 22 AR NFT “billboards” at and around the 29,000-capacity Balaídos Stadium, the home of Celta Vigo, the city’s La Liga football club. Other popular spots for treasure hunters include the Alameda de Bouzas park, the Príncipe commercial district and the Vigo Maritime Station.

Hedge Fund Giant Invests In Bitcoin Trust, JPMorgan’s CEO On Crypto Regulation + More News
Hedge Fund Giant Invests In Bitcoin Trust, JPMorgan's CEO On Crypto Regulation + More News 101
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan. Source: a video screenshot

Get your daily, bite-sized digest of cryptoasset and blockchain-related news – investigating the stories flying under the radar of today’s crypto news.

Investments news

  • USD 48bn hedge fund giant Millennium Management invested in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), TheStreet reported, citing two undisclosed sources familiar with the matter. “While the price premium GBTC long traded at against bitcoin collapsed recently, it’s unclear if New York-based Millennium booked any losses on the crowded trade,” the report added, without providing any numbers about the investment.

Regulation news

  • Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, placed the legal and regulatory status of cryptocurrencies on a list of “serious emerging issues that need to be dealt with – and rather quickly.” Per a letter to shareholders, others such issues include the growth of shadow banking, the proper and improper use of financial data, the risk that cybersecurity poses to the system, the proper and ethical use of AI, the effective regulation of payment systems, disclosures in private markets, and effective regulations around market structure and transparency.
  • A collective of Russian crypto and blockchain players has launched a bid to convince politicians not to pass restrictive a new set of crypto laws, per Izvestia. The new campaign has been masterminded by the pro-business pressure group Investment Russia, the law firm the Digital Rights Center and the public organization RosKomSvoboda, a body that claims to support open self-regulatory networks and protection of digital rights of Internet users. The campaign addresses the country’s finance ministry, Duma financial chiefs, tax bodies and the Central Bank. A manifesto calls for amendments to draft laws that the parties say “will have an extremely negative impact on the Russian crypto industry” if they are adopted.

NFTs news

  • Latvian airline airBalticsaid that it will become the world’s first airline to issue non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The airline will issue limited collector NFTs showcasing an individual Airbus A220-300 with its registration and a piece of art of the Kuldiga city to promote tourism and Latvia in the world. Starting with Kuldīga, the cities and towns which were voted as the people’s favorites will one by one be represented on the digital art pieces issued by airBaltic. The initial drop of the first airBaltic limited NFT will be announced later in April.
  • The seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is launching an NFT platform called Autograph this spring, CNN reported, citing a representative for Brady. The platform “will bring together some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment, fashion, and pop culture to work with creators to develop unique digital collectibles,” it added.

Exchanges news

  • Blockchain technology company Ebang International Holdings Inc.announced the official launch of its crypto exchange for qualified investors to register and trade on. This launch will “not only expand the revenue sources from our cryptocurrency business but also optimize the development of our blockchain industry chain,” said the company Chairman and CEO Dong Hu.
  • bitFlyer has gotten their third president in two years. The new president is Goldman Sachs alum Kuniyoshi Hayashi, who replaced the outgoing President Kimihiro Mine on March 30, they said.
  • ShapeShift announced support for simultaneously connecting multiple wallets. Per an emailed announcement, users can switch between KeepKey, Trezor, Ledger, Portis, and ShapeShift mobile wallets on the ShapeShift web platform, without needing to reconnect. Support for additional wallets is coming soon, they said.
  • South African crypto exchange iCE3said they “will not return to operation” and that they “have been advised to initiate liquidation proceedings.” “All withdrawals from the platform have been disabled, and we have processed the withdrawals which have already been submitted via the form today, manually. We currently have no withdrawal requests pending for any currencies other than BTC and LTC,” they said.
  • Coinme, a US-based cryptocurrency cash exchange, announced its entrance into Florida with the launch of over 300 bitcoin-enabled Coinstar kiosks located at select Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Mas, Harveys, and other grocery outlets across the state.
  • The Miami HEATsaid it has entered into a long-term partnership with crypto derivatives exchange FTX.us, making this platform “The Official and Exclusive Cryptocurrency Exchange Partner of the Miami HEAT.” This deal works in tandem with the recent announcement that, starting with the 2021-22 NBA season, the home of the Miami HEAT will be known as “FTX Arena.”

Mining news

  • Chinese online lottery company 500.com has acquired Bee Computing, a Hong Kong-registered maker of Bitcoin mining machines, in a USD 100m deal, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 500.com will pay Bee Computing USD 35m in stock by the end of the second quarter and send the other USD 65m worth of stock after the company has produced a certain number of 7nm ASIC bitcoin mining machines, as well as made higher performance bitcoin, ethereum (ETH), and litecoin mining machines.

Crypto adoption news

  • A new deal with the Valencia-based crypto exchange Criptan will allow Spanish travelers to make claims for airline-related delays and other incidents – and receive crypto rather than fiat as compensation. Per El Mundo Financiero, the exchange has teamed up with the Wings to Claim platform. The parties will allow travelers to make claims from travel agencies or airlines in situations whereby customers experience delays of three hours or more, lose baggage, if their flights are canceled or overbooked, or if they miss a connecting flight.

Blockchain news

  • Daegu, one of the largest cities in South Korea, has introduced a blockchain-powered ID authentication system for users of its online and offline public services. Per the Daegu Shinmun, the new platform makes use of a smartphone app that allows users to reserve city-operated facilities, make use of city-funded electric scooters and borrow library books using blockchain-based innovations. In a separate development, Law Issue reported that the electricity provider Nambu Power will also make use of blockchain-powered ID solutions on its renewable energy certificates platform.

Legal news

  • Michael Hlady pled guilty before a US Chief District Court Judge to conspiring to extort a startup company for millions of dollars in ethereum. When sentenced, Hlady faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as a fine, said the US Department of Justice. The startup was a mobile-based business that issued cryptocurrency as loyalty rewards for generating user traffic to its clients’ products. Hlady and his co-conspirator Steven Nerayoff issued threats to the company executives that included destruction of the company if they did not agree to demands for additional funds and tokens, claims the press release. As a result of this threat, the startup transferred ETH 10,000 to Nerayoff. He has entered a plea of not guilty to extortion charges and is awaiting trial.
McKenzie calls time for Saracen’s career to join Amati Global Investors

McKenzie, whose career in UK equities spans more than 20 years, joins CEO Paul Jourdan, David Stevenson, Anna Macdonald and Dr Gareth Blades on Amati’s investment team and will work across the TB Amati UK Smaller Companies Fund, Amati AIM VCT and the Amati AIM IHT Portfolio Service.

McKenzie joined Saracen in 2014 after a five-year break from the industry, having previously managed Martin Currie’s UK Equity Income fund.

Also managed by David Clark, TB Saracen UK Alpha has returned 75%, 29.9% and 62.8% over one, three and five years respectively, according to FE fundinfo. Peers in the IA UK All Companies have averaged gains of 42.5%, 14.9% and 42% over the same time periods respectively.

TB Saracen UK Income is a top quartile performer in the IA UK Equity Income over one, three and five years.

The fund aims to provide income exceeding 110% of the dividend income of the MSCI All Cap index and an overall return superior to that of the index.

Prior to Martin Currie, McKenzie held investment roles at FS Assurance, which subsequently became part of Ignis Asset Management, and Aviva Investors.

Jourdan explained that Amati “have known Scott for many years” and “have always held him in the highest regard”.

He added: “He comes with a proven track record and adds considerable weight to our investment management resource at a time when we are experiencing considerable growth.

“Our team-based approach means we can immediately integrate Scott into Amati’s investment philosophy and process. We look forward to benefiting from his extensive stock picking experience.”

HL selects TB Amati UK Smaller Companies as first addition to Wealth Shortlist

McKenzie said Amati “is a business I have followed and admired for some time now and I look forward to helping the team build upon the considerable progress they have made in recent years”.