Why Emergence Capital Is Comparing This Retail SaaS Startup to Zoom

Retail Zipline, which describes itself as “Slack for Stores,” has raised a $9.6 million Series A that was led by Emergence Capital and included participation from Serena Ventures.1

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According to the company (which has offices in Vancouver and San Francisco), the funding marks the first retail SaaS investment Williams has made through her venture firm. This round brings Retail Zipline’s total raised to just over $10 million.

(Disclosure: Emergence is an investor in Crunchbase, Crunchbase News’s parent company. For more about Crunchbase News’s editorial policies on disclosure visit our About page.)

Retail Zipline provides a “communications and task management solution for retailers,” giving retailers the ability “to streamline, coordinate, and automate communications from headquarters to the sales floor.” It counts among its 55,000 users brands such as Lush Cosmetics, LEGO, TOMS, BevMo!, and Torrid. What’s impressive about the company is its ability to turn a profit with minimal venture backing. It’s also seen its revenue triple each year over the past two years.

Santi Subotovsky of Emergence, which has also invested in companies like Box, Salesforce and Zoom, said the startup reminds his firm of an early Zoom.

We’re seeing similar unit economics as to what we saw when we first invested in Zoom back in 2014

“We see a lot of parallels between Zoom and Retail Zipline,” he told Crunchbase News. “Both have overwhelmingly positive customer references. We’re seeing the same type of customer passion from Zipline customers as we did with Zoom. Both are also incredibly capital efficient. With Zipline, we’re seeing similar unit economics as to what we saw when we first invested in Zoom back in 2014.”

Melissa Wong, a former communications manager for clothing retailer Old Navy, and Jeremy Baker, who hails from the adtech world, co-founded the company in 2014. Wong was motivated by her own experience after seeing what Retail Zipline describes as “execution failures happen between what was decided at the corporate level and what was eventually executed in store.”  Wong, who serves as the company’s CEO, believes that “retail has been left behind” while other industries have “benefited from new workflow tools.” For example, Retail Zipline is helping Lush save $1 million annually just on store manager time alone, according to Baker.

As part of the funding, Subotovsky and Kara Egan of Emergence will be joining Retail Zipline’s board.

Baker, who serves as the company’s CTO, told Crunchbase News that Retail Zipline will use the new capital to hire and continue building out more products. Retail Zipline operates under the premise that the retail industry is severely underserved despite one in four jobs in America being retail positions, according to the National Retail Federation. Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of all retail associates in the US are female (48.7 percent) and over one-third are people of color (35.9 percent), statistics that stood out to Williams.

“As someone with an incredibly active life, I understand the need to be dynamic and capable of quickly adapting to shifting priorities, but I’m also aware of the stress a fast-paced work environment can impose,” she said in a written statement. “Retail Zipline is tackling this issue head on in retail – a notoriously stressful industry – by pioneering products that help store associates get organized, communicate efficiently, and deliver amazing customer experiences.”

The company is approaching 50 employees operating as a fully remote team across North America and Europe, a number that is double what it was one year ago today, according to Baker.

To Subotovsky, Retail Zipline is addressing a “deskless” workforce that he believes has historically been ignored by tech.

“Only 1 percent of venture dollars go to support deskless workers,” he told Crunchbase News. “Yet 80 percent of the workforce is not sitting at a desk. We believe that over the next 10 years, the next generation of software is going to be targeting this workforce.”

Note: This story was revised post-publication to more accurately reflect investor participation.

  1. As in professional tennis player Serena Williams’ investment vehicle, in case you weren’t aware.

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