Robotics-powered microfulfillment startup Fabric raises $M
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Fabric, a startup developing a “microfulfillment” automation platform for retailers, today announced that it raised $ million in series C funding led by Temasek with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Union Tech Ventures, Harel Insurance & Finance, Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, KSH Capital, Princeville Capital, Wharton Equity, and others. With a valuation of over $1 billion and $ million in capital raised to date, Fabric plans to expand its headcount and build a network of microfulfillment centers across major cities in the U.S.
According to McKinsey, ecommerce sales penetration more than doubled to 35% in , the equivalent of roughly 10 years of growth within a few months. The surge in online shopping has been compounded by a desire for faster shipping — a tough ask in the midst of a pandemic. While the same-day delivery market in the U.S. is poised to grow by $ billion over the next four years, a worldwide labor shortage — not to mention backups at critical ports of call — make the prospect daunting for merchandisers without economies of scale.
Above: An isometric view of a Fabric fulfillment center.
Image Credit: Fabric
Fabric claims to level the playing field with a modular, software-led robotics approach to fulfillment. AI orchestrates robots within its microfulfillment centers’ walls to break orders into tasks and delegate them autonomously. Some robots bring items awaiting shipment in totes to teams of employees who pack individual orders. Operating in rooms with ceilings as low as 11 feet, other robots move packaged orders from temperature-controlled zones for fresh, ambient, chilled, and frozen products to dispatch areas, where they’re loaded onto a scooter or van for delivery.
Fabric’s customers choose either a platform model to run and operate independently on their real estate or a service model in which fulfillment is offered as a service with an investment.
“Fabric’s solution was designed from the ground up for local, on-demand ecommerce, which means it was designed to achieve high throughputs in small urban footprints, with low operational costs and maximum flexibility,” Fabric CEO Elram Goren told VentureBeat via email. “By combining our software, automated robotics, and logistics expertise, Fabric helps brands and retailers to future-proof their businesses with profitable unit economics. Robotics and automation bring a range of efficiencies to the ecommerce fulfillment space, increasing throughput per square footprint and decreasing the reliance on costly manual labor. Keeping fulfillment local speeds up delivery times while reducing shipping costs.”
Microfulfillment centers — located inside existing stores or structures that hold a market’s worth of goods — are increasingly being hailed as the answer to speedy shipping in space-starved city centers. For example, Calgary, Alberta-based Attabotics’ solution condenses aisles of warehouse shelves into single vertical storage structures that roving shuttles traverse horizontally.
As for Fabric, which was founded in and now employs over people across its Tel Aviv, New York, and Atlanta offices, it’s among the most successful startups in the emerging segment. The company runs microfulfillment operations for grocery and retailers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Tel Aviv and has partnerships with FreshDirect and Walmart as well as Instacart. For Instacart, Fabric plans to integrate its software and robotics solutions with Instagram’s technology and network of shoppers. And for Walmart, the company intends to add microfulfillment centers to dozens of store locations as part of a pilot involving other technology providers including Alert Innovation and Dematic.
“[W]e’re building our robots to be as robust and simple as possible from a hardware perspective, shifting the heavy lifting as much as possible to our software stack, to allow for scalability, lower costs, and robustness. At the same time, our software leverages our robotics architecture and topology, which allows it functionality and performance optimization opportunities that are unparalleled in the market,” Goren said.
In something of a proof of concept in December , Fabric launched an 18,square-foot grocery site in Tel Aviv that’s now delivering orders to online customers. Fabric’s first sorting center, also in Tel Aviv, covers 6, square feet and services over orders a day for drugstore chain Super-Pharm.
“We’re utilizing AI and machine learning in many different ways,” Goren added. “We have task resource allocation and planning that uses supervised machine learning to predict the duration, resource, and demand of each possible resource assignment which then works with other optimization algorithms such as genetic algorithms and Bayesian optimization. We enable retailers forecasting and prediction capabilities over their stock, to make sure they always have the right items in the right place at the right time. Stock level optimization is composed of two stages: First, time series forecasting predicts future demand for each product, and expected replenishment time. Second, an optimization algorithm maximizes stock availability for orders while minimizing the total costs of replenishment shipments and not exceeding available storage. These are just some of the software components that we’re continuing to develop.”
As logistics and fulfillment challenges continue to mount, companies are embracing automation across the entire supply chain. According to one estimate, 4 million commercial warehouse robots are to be installed in over 50, warehouses by Amazon alone uses over , autonomous robots to automate order fulfillment, the company recently reported.
The concept is catching on particularly quickly among grocers and convenience stores with small delivery radiuses. On-demand food and goods startup Gopuff employs hundreds of microfulfillment centers in its delivery network. And Kroger, Albertsons, and H-E-B are using — or actively exploring — microfulfillment for online customers.
Fabric rival Attabotics raised $25 million in July for its robotics supply chain tech, and InVia Robotics last summer nabbed $20 million to bring its subscription-based robotics to ecommerce warehouses. Softbank recently invested $ billion in robotics and microfulfillment company AutoStore. In the European Union, supermarket chain Ocado deployed a robot that can grasp fragile objects without breaking them. And startup Exotec has detailed a system called Skypod that taps robots capable of moving in three dimensions.
“[The pandemic] has changed very little, really, and at the same time — it accelerated everything. People still like to get more, pay less, and get it faster. Retailers still like to sell more and make more. But there has been a leap of a decade in this past year, and this is what we’re seeing. COVID caught retailers and brands off guard and has forced them to move much faster than they had planned for,” Goren said.
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How a year-old turned her crochet hobby into a booming business on Instagram with fans like Bella Hadid and Kylie Jenner
- Delsy Gouw, 26, started crochet brand Memorial Day on Instagram as a hobby.
- She's since completed orders for Bella Hadid, Kylie Jenner, and Rihanna.
- She eventually quit her job to run the business full time, hiring her mom to help keep it running.
The day Bella Hadid reached out to Memorial Day via Instagram direct message for a crocheted hat was the day owner Delsy Gouw, 26, had quit her full-time marketing job. With piling orders, a growing waitlist, and now a celebrity request, her side gig became her full-time passion within hours.
Today, Memorial Day — named after Gouw's birthday — has a combined 50, followers on Instagram and TikTok and become a household name among influencers and celebrities like Hadid, Rihanna, and Kylie Jenner.Gouw told Insider it all began with a simple hobby she picked up when she lost her job at womenswear company Batsheva at the start of the pandemic. While crocheting in her free time and attending school at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Gouw scrambled for the next three months to find another job located in New York City — eventually landing a full-time role at marketing research firm BuzzBack. "At the time, I was making things for my friends just for fun," Gouw said. "Working at the marketing company, I wasn't able to do it as much."
Gouw's first orders through Memorial Day were favors — small, make-shift commissions from her peers. "It was kind of a silly project," she said. "I wasn't thinking from a business standpoint; it was more so to make something for my friends." Gouw didn't expect it to become anything more — that is, until her favorite Instagram influencer Jo Rosenthal, who has more than 61,o00 followers on Instagram, reached out last September.
"I've been following her for years and I really like her style," Gouw said. Rosenthal saw Gouw's products through an acquaintance's Instagram feed, Gouw said, and reached out to request her own commission — she later sent Rosenthal a cozy white and red checkered handbag.
Rosenthal posted the item on her profile and within days, Memorial Day received hundreds of followers. "She posted it without my asking her to do that," Gouw said.
As more orders flooded in, Gouw started to get overwhelmed with her full-time job, academic responsibilities, and the lack of hands for her small crochet business. "I kept turning down orders since I was only doing like, five hats a week," she said. She officially quit her marketing job in March.
"These were all the signs of a potential long-term business," Gouw said about the influx of orders and reach-out from Hadid.
"I want to make sure that I have a goal for myself," she added. "Set goals and make sure I'm hitting those goals like an official business."
Set on following through on those goals, she put her marketing background to work, cleaning up her Instagram account, setting up a website, and shipping her products off to stylists or influencers that might want to collaborate. Gouw said she already had a marketing strategy of advertising on Instagram, but by launching her website, she could focus on featuring her pieces rather than taking sales on social media. "I've definitely maintained the overall vibe since I've started: nontraditional ways of using the pieces, incorporating box-name brands in images, and doing more guerilla-style marketing," she said.
Soon after the red, black, and yellow crocheted hat she'd made for Hadid received million likes on Instagram, Instagram influencers began knocking on Gouw's virtual door for items like bikinis and totes. In April, Kylie Jenner's stylist commissioned a crocheted bikini set. "Once a stylist reaches out and says they want to dress this celebrity, to me it's like, 'Oh, people are looking at my pieces,'" Gouw said.
"By June of this year, I physically couldn't do any more," Gouw added. She noted her time was split between making pieces as fast as possible and taking care of administrative duties such as order management, website maintenance, and social-media growth on TikTok and Instagram.
"I realized that stretching myself thin made me focus less on things I was actually good at," she said.
She initially looked to hire a manufacturer in New York, "but it wasn't what I wanted for my product," Gouw said. As she vented to her mother, Isnayanti, over FaceTime about finding a good fit, her mother, who taught Gouw how to crochet at the age of nine, asked, "Why don't you teach me?"
"It was perfect and I couldn't believe it," Gouw said. "She learned it within a day." After having her mother send over a mock product from Indonesia, Gouw hired her first full-time employee.
With her mother working remotely from Indonesia, Memorial Day began to churn out 10 hats a week. "That's when I had this idea to reach out to other women in Indonesia that have a passion for crochet and also have this kind of story — losing their job to COVID," she said. Currently working with five women, Gouw and her mother hope to expand the team.
As for the crochet business's future, Gouw said she fully intends to extend her line from accessories to a crocheted clothing brand. "I don't think there's a brand out there that focuses on this type of work," she said.
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As an unfrosted strawberry and cinnamon roll Pop-Tart die-hard, it's not very often that I stray from my usual. I might be a changed woman, though, because Pop-Tarts released three new fruit dessert-inspired flavors that all might become a part of my rotation.
The flavors include peach cobbler, lemon créme pie, and banana créme pie. I was lucky enough to test all three of them and have to say that overall I was very impressed by the taste and how similar each Pop-Tart was to the dessert it took inspiration from.
All three Pop-Tarts come frosted with the peach cobbler on covered in a layer of bright orange icing, the lemon créme pie covered in a vibrant yellow icing, and the banana créme with a layer or bright white icing on top. I made sure to bite into each enough to get the filling and frosting together for the full affect.
I love all things peach-flavored and the peach cobbler did it just right. It wasn't sweet to the point where your teeth hurt, but tasted exactly like the summer fruit. The outside crust of the Pop-Tart even gave it that cobbler-like crust. Same goes for the lemon créme pie, which I will admit was my least favorite out of the three new flavors. I love lemon desserts because of how citrus-forward they are and think that this one missed the mark just a bit. If you aren't too big on citrus, though, you'll love it.
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Banana créme pie was truly the star of the show. Admittedly, I've never eaten a true banana créme pie, so I can't speak to how true the flavor was to its inspo. However, I will say that this Pop-Tart tasted exactly like a piece of homemade banana bread. I imagine after heating it up in the toaster you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the Pop-Tart and a banana bread loaf straight out of the oven—yes, really.
These new Pop-Tarts are available everywhere right now with the banana créme exclusive to Walmart, with lemon créme pie and peach cobbler available in eight-count boxes and banana créme pie available in count boxes. I, for one, will totally be purchasing these next time I get on a Pop-Tart kick.
Alexis MorilloAssociate EditorAlexis Morillo is the Associate Editor at Delish.com where she covers breaking food news and viral food trends.
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