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 incoming SEC chairman Gary Gensler clearly stated that both Ethereum and XRP were non-compliant securities

In a recent seminar with Court Judge Sarah Netburn, Dugan Bliss, a senior adjudicator at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, argued that the agency has not yet made a formal position on the regulatory status of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Bitcoin looks more certain, however, the status of ETH is being disputed as is the case with XRP.

Ethereum could still be classified as a security

Bliss stated:

“So I want to make clear that this is my understanding of the current situation and I don’t want to be overly technical, but the SEC, itself, my understanding, it has not taken an official position. There is no action that it took to say Bitcoin is not a security, Ether is not a security.”

While former SEC chairman Jay Clayton has repeatedly stated that Bitcoin is not a security, there is less regulatory certainty over Ethereum.

Bill Hinman, former head of the SEC’s Corporate Finance Division, issued a statement of approval on the sale of Ether and non-securities offers just months before the end of his term in 2018.

Bliss stated that Hinman’s speech does not necessarily reflect the regulator’s stance on Ethereum:

“Now, there was a speech by a high-ranking person who said that to him that’s what it looked like but there has been no action letter, no enforcement action, none of the official ways in which the SEC takes a position on that matter that has occurred.”

However, the upcoming SEC chairman Gary Gensler has made it clear that both Ether and XRP are non-compliant securities in an interview with the New York Times:

“There is a strong case for both of them — but particularly Ripple — that they are non-compliant securities.”

Notably, Gensler confirmed that he sees Bitcoin as a commodity during his recent congressional hearing:

“So I think at the SEC it’s really to the extent somebody is offering an investment contract and security that’s under the SEC’s remit and exchanges that operate there. […] If not, it’s a commodity as Bitcoin has been deemed.”

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum pre-mined a significant portion of the money prior to holding the initial coin offering (ICO).

Bitcoin Miners Hit Jackpot as Hash Rate Peaks Again

Data from on-chain analytics provider Glassnode has reported that Bitcoin’s average hash rate hit a new all-time high this week, crossing a daily average of 178 exahashes per second for the first time in history.

Bitinfocharts confirms the record high, reporting the current hash rate at 176 EH/s. It topped 150 EH/s twice in February and has remained at these high levels for the past two months, steadily increasing.

Hashrate is often considered as computing ‘horsepower’ for the Bitcoin network and a strong sign of its security. The higher the hashrate, the harder it is to attack the network.

The bullish on-chain metrics were observed by data scientist Rafael Schultze-Kraft [@n3ocortex], who added that mining difficulty has also hit a new all-time high.

1/ A thread on #Bitcoin miner metrics.

First, some fundamentals.

Bitcoin’s average hash rate hit a new ATH yesterday – crossing a daily average of 178 exahash / sec for the first time in history.

Miners keep spinning up machines – hash rate is up only.https://t.co/SEdtQGNsT7pic.twitter.com/vIjVGyH8QC

— Rafael Schultze-Kraft (@n3ocortex) April 6, 2021

Mining Never More Profitable

The analyst noted that Bitcoin miners have been making more than $50 million per day for the past month. He put this into perspective by pointing out that a year ago, this number was around $12 million – so current earnings are a fourfold increase despite the block subsidy being cut in half in May 2020’s halving.

Miners are also now holding on to the new coins they’re minting as the net position has flipped back to green, according to Glassnode. In the run-up to the $40K price level, miners were aggressively selling off to cover their costs, but they’ve now switched back into accumulation mode.

“In fact, the Bitcoin unspent supply (BTC that has never left the original mining addresses), has started to increase again after a quick and sharp drop of around 15k BTC at the beginning of the year. More hodling than spending.”

He added that direct BTC transfers from miner to exchange wallets have been going back down significantly, and even USD-dominated miner to exchange volume has decreased despite a stable price. However, miner activity represents a tiny fraction of BTC trading volumes as a whole.

The analyst concluded that these metrics are very bullish, and miners have little incentive to cash out now or capitulate as many predicted after the halving.

Bitcoin Price Update

At the time of press, Bitcoin was trading down 1% on the day at $56,700, according to Coingecko. It is down at the same time last week by 3.4% but remains within the month-long range bound channel it has formed.

Bitcoin has not dropped below $50K for over a month, which is also a bullish sign that support is holding strong.

Bitcoin Price Analysis: Losing $4K in 24 Hours, Can BTC Hold the Critical Support Area?

Bitcoin fell by a sharp 4% so far today as it dropped as low as $55,600. The cryptocurrency had started the month with another attempt to breach the $60,000 benchmark level. Unfortunately, it was unable to overcome this resistance through the week as it set a range between $60,000 and $57,000.

Today’s price drop caused bitcoin to break beneath this range as mentioned above. As of writing these lines, and as seen on the following 4-hour chart, it is currently holding the critical support around $56,200 – $56,100, provided by a short-term .382 Fib and a 4-HR 200 moving average line.

BTC Price Support and Resistance Levels to Watch

Key Support Levels: $56,200, $55,600, $55,000, $54,675, $54,200.

Key Resistance Levels: $58,355, $60,000, $60,750, $61,781, $62,400.

Moving forward, if the bears push back beneath the current support at $56,200 (MA-200 on the 4-hour chart), the first support lies at today’s low around $55,500 (which is also a descending trend-line started forming towards the end of January).

This is followed by $55,000, $54,675 (.382 Fib), and the critical level of $54,200 (50-days MA). This last support is further strengthened by an ascending trend line that has been in play since early March 2021.

On the other side, if BTC price will hold here, the first resistance now lies at the daily MA-20 around $56,800. This is followed by $58,355 (February highs), and the crucial area of $60,000. The latter had been rejected at least 5 times over the past month.

The daily RSI has now crossed beneath the midline, indicating bearish momentum has taken control within the market, in the short term. This comes after the RSI produced a bearish divergence signal earlier in the week as we mentioned here in the previous price analysis.

Does nuclear power have a future?

Why the controversy?

Right from the beginning of nuclear power – the first commercial nuclear reactor was built at Windscale in Cumbria in 1956 – it was controversial due to issues of safety, cost and the long-lived and toxic waste it produces. Even so, nuclear energy continued to expand globally until the 1990s, since when it has all but flatlined. Then, ten years ago last month, the disaster at Fukushima dealt its reputation a body blow. Within days Angela Merkel, previously a strong backer of nuclear energy, ordered all of Germany’s reactors to be phased out. In China the world’s biggest programme of new nuclear plants was put on hold.

How much energy does nuclear provide?

Globally, nuclear power produces around 10% of the world’s electricity, making it the second-biggest source of low-carbon energy after hydroelectric power. But that’s a sharp drop from a peak of 18% in the mid-1990s. According to figures collated by Bloomberg, there are 440 nuclear reactors currently in operation, with a combined electrical capacity of 392 gigawatts (GW). Another 50 are under construction, adding around 15% to current capacity. But that’s not even enough to make up for the 25% of reactors due to be shut down in advanced economies by 2025. Nuclear accounts for a bigger slice in advanced economies – 18% rather than 10%, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), making it the largest low-carbon source of energy. In the UK, for example, about 20% of current electricity capacity is nuclear. However, half of that is due to be retired by 2025, and all but one of the existing fleet of nuclear reactors is due to be taken offstream in the next ten years. Meanwhile, only one new plant, the 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C in Somerset, is being built, replacing just under 40% of current nuclear capacity.

So it’s in decline?

In most of the world, yes, with advanced economies due to lose two-thirds of their nuclear capacity by 2040. Proponents of nuclear power (including the IEA) argue that it is vital to the overall drive for net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. Despite the impressive growth of solar and wind power, says the IEA, the overall share of clean-energy sources in total electricity supply in 2018, at 36%, was the same as it was 20 years earlier due to the decline in nuclear since the 1980s. “Halting that slide will be vital to stepping up the pace of the decarbonisation of electricity supply,” it says. Advocates argue that nuclear-power plants aid electricity security by keeping power grids stable and limiting impacts from seasonal fluctuations from renewables, and cutting dependence on imported fuels. In other words, nuclear has a vital role to play as reliable “firm generating capacity” during the decarbonising shift to renewables, and winding nuclear down for misguided safety reasons would be folly.

But isn’t nuclear power dangerous?

The debate about that has long been a battle between those concerned more with climate-change warming (nuclear is carbon-free) and those worried about safety. For pro-nuclear environmentalists, the embrace of nuclear power by China and (to a lesser extent so far) India is cause for celebration. Advocates have long argued that, in terms of the number of people killed or harmed, nuclear power is far safer than other forms of power generation. Since its earliest days, nuclear accidents have killed one person every 14 years, proponents say. Indeed, in 2013, Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen calculated that, between 1971 and 2009, nuclear power saved the lives of 1.84 million worldwide thanks to reductions in air pollution.

But what about Fukushima?

The earthquake and tsunami that flooded Japan’s east coast ten years ago killed about 18,500 people. But the destruction of the three reactors of the Fukushima plant – the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 – killed only one person as a result of radiation exposure. Moreover, a report on Fukushima released last month by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded that “no adverse health effects among Fukushima residents have been documented that could be directly attributed to radiation exposure”. Future consequences for health “are unlikely to be discernible” and there was “no credible evidence of excess congenital anomalies, stillbirths, pre-term deliveries or low birthweights related to radiation exposure”.

And Chernobyl?

The worst ever nuclear disaster was the result of human errors so “bizarre” that the scenario would have been “thought overambitious by a genuine saboteur”, says Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. The Soviet-era accident, which blew a 1,000-ton concrete reactor shield away in a mighty explosion, was the result of an insane experiment in which one of the reactors was made to run at a dangerously low level, the cooling unit disconnected and the safety mechanism switched off. It was feared deaths would run into the hundreds of thousands. In fact, “apart from the heroic Chernobyl emergency team, fewer than 100 deaths have been attributable to increased radiation – and no known birth deformities”, according to UNSCEAR.

So nuclear is safe?

It’s far safer than most people realise, says The Economist. China’s post-Fukushima pause on nuclear didn’t last long: it soon accelerated again and by 2019 produced four times as much as in 2011, with more expansion planned. There’s a strong case for countries such as Britain to follow China’s lead and import its technology. Moreover, modern smaller reactors with lower unit costs are a promising development that can make nuclear cheaper and more flexible. Nuclear power has its drawbacks, but to hasten its decline “is wilfully to hobble the world in the greatest environmental struggle of all”. The lesson of Fukushima is “not to eschew nuclear power, it is to use it wisely”.

What I learned from 15 years of investing in small companies

Games Workshop has risen 20-fold in five years but had been a recovery stock three times previously. The lure of recovery is the prospect of multiplying your money in a share everyone else hates but it’s not an area to bet the farm on.

I was charmed into Bluebird Toys by its CEO, Torquil Norman (father-in-law of venture capitalist Kate Bingham) who had been a popular client in my short spell in corporate finance. The success of “Polly Pocket” caused the shares, previously on the rocks, to multiply. The version aimed at boys, “Mighty Max”, was named after me after a humorous exchange at the Earl’s Court toy fair. I cashed in soon after.

My most spectacular success was the most reckless. I bought two million shares in Cannon Street Investments at 2p, down more than 99% from their peak in late 1992 on the sole basis that Tom Long, whom I knew of as the former CEO of Souza Cruz (a subsidiary of British American Tobacco) had become chairman. The shares multiplied tenfold in a year or two as a messy, over-borrowed conglomerate was streamlined through disposals. I then sold.

Regrets: I’ve had a few

My biggest regrets are not the duds I bought but the great companies I missed. Channel Express floated in the mid-1980s as an air-freight business. Its boss, Philip Meeson, had been a Red Arrows pilot and then began importing 2CV cars from France and selling them from a lot on the King’s Road, London. The site was converted into a BMW dealership and later sold. Though Meeson was clearly a serial-entrepreneur, I didn’t see a long-term investment thesis. The company is now called Jet2 and the shares have multiplied more than 100-fold.

Another regret was Asos. In early 2004, we identified this online retailer, whose idea was to replicate cheaply and quickly clothes worn by celebrities, hence the name “As Seen on Screen”. We recommended the shares to our clients in the monthly newsletter at 25p… and suggested taking profits after they had doubled in six months. The shares then multiplied 100-fold in ten years but have had a yo-yo ride since. I hope some clients didn’t sell.

What are the lessons? The best long-term investments are not the get-rich-quickly companies but those offering long-term compound growth. Holding them requires nerve and patience as the shares are often volatile and can stagnate for long periods. It is tempting to give up and sell. If an investment is not suitable for the long-term, it’s best to be clear about that at the start as it makes selling easier.

Buying for recovery can also be hugely profitable but these are rarely “forever” investments. Finally, great investments are not found through diligent research and endless company presentations but through casual recommendations, chance encounters and inspiration, not perspiration. As John le Carré wrote: “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

The amount of Bitcoin on exchanges is starting to drop again

The total number of Bitcoins on exchanges is starting to decline more sharply after gradually declining since the start of 2021, according to data from data analytics website Glassnode.

How much Bitcoin is held on exchanges can give us a lot of information about the current state of the market, as well as provide insight into what Bitcoin investors are thinking. If Bitcoin leaves exchanges, it tends to imply that investors are holding their assets for the long term instead of looking to trade for short-term profits.

Bitcoin balance on exchanges as of September 2020 | Source: Glassnode

“The data clearly shows that an asset is in high demand and one seems to be trusted by traders, which further implies that resale of newly purchased BTC will not be in the short term,” Jason Deane said BTC analyst at market analysis firm Quantum Economics.

Between February 23 and March 2, the amount of BTC on the exchange decreased by 2 percent, corresponding to 52,900 Bitcoin ($ 2.7 billion) being removed from the exchanges. This continues its downward trend over the past year as more Bitcoin is still being withdrawn from exchanges for long-term storage.

There are currently 2.3 million Bitcoins left on exchanges, the lowest level since July 2018, when BTC was worth around $ 7,400.

“The continued removal of Bitcoin from exchanges seems to indicate that‘ buy and hold ’is a common sentiment among investors,” added Deane.

This downtrend is going against history. During most of BTC’s existence, the total amount held on exchanges increased. According to Glassnode data, Bitcoin held on exchanges typically rose from August 2014 to March 2020.

BTC balance on the exchange | Source: Glassnode

But in March 2020, this historical trend changed and BTC has largely left the exchange since. Part of this could be attributed to Bitcoin’s growing popularity following the COVID-19 epidemic. At the same time, over the past 12 months, giant organizations like MicroStrategy, Square and Tesla have bought large amounts of Bitcoin for offline storage, exaggerating the trend.