Retail giants unite to launch W23 Global venture fund

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 10 Apr 2024
Ingrid Maes, CEO of W23 Global.
Ingrid Maes, CEO of W23 Global.

Retailer Shoprite Group has partnered with global retail companies to establish a collaborative venture capital (VC) fund, W23 Global.

The other founding members of W23 Global include Ahold Delhaize, Tesco, Woolworths Group, and Empire Company. Each retailer is an equal funder and partner in W23 Global, while their CEO’s will sit on the investment committee.

According to a statement, the VC fund aims to accelerate the development and adoption of solutions that address key challenges in the grocery industry.

The fund will seek to invest $125 million (R2.3 billion) over five years in start-ups and scale-ups that deploy technology to enhance customer experiences, transform the grocery value chain and address the sector’s sustainability challenges, reads the statement.

Leading W23 Global is Ingrid Maes, serving as both CEO and CIO. Maes, who currently leads Woolworths Group’s innovation fund W23 Australia, brings to the role over 25 years’ experience in fast-moving consumer goods and grocery retail.

“At a time when innovation is reshaping retail and value chains across the economy, we aim to offer our investors incomparable access to transformative innovation in grocery and sustainability across the globe,” says Maes.

“W23 Global will also work with its investors to identify common unaddressed challenges and identify entrepreneurs best placed to innovate new solutions. Our ambition is to offer our portfolio companies faster pathways to global scale, without being exposed to a venture fund anchored by a single strategic investor.”

The fund will focus on initiatives such as enhancing personalised and connected shopping experiences, streamlining grocery value chains for increased efficiency, and tackling sustainability issues, waste management, packaging innovation, product traceability, healthy choices, and biodiversity preservation.

In addition to supporting early-stage ventures, W23 Global seeks to identify and support entrepreneurs addressing unmet challenges within the grocery retail sector.

Says Shoprite Group CEO Pieter Engelbrecht: “In South Africa, we navigate exceptionally unique trading conditions unlike those encountered by our partners in this venture fund. Our participation in this venture underscores our dedication to being a responsible corporate citizen, serving the needs of our customers, employees, shareholders, and contributing to the sustainability of our planet.”

Empire Company president and CEO, Michael Medline, adds: “We are thrilled to be part of this unique partnership and work with other global leaders in grocery retail to drive innovation that will both benefit our customers and address key issues facing our industry.”