Starbucks to support food, retail tech startups with US$100m investment

Coffee chain Starbucks said it will invest $100 million  (A$141 million) in a newly created fund that is focused on technology startups in the food and retail industries.

The venture capital fund Valor Siren Ventures Fund (VSV) will be managed by Valor Equity Partners, which has previously invested in Tesla, Uber and SpaceX, to support and promote companies that are developing new technologies, products and solutions in the two sectors.

In addition to the Starbucks anchor investment of $141 million, the VSV will later seek to raise an additional $300 million (A$421.9 million) from other investors to round out this fund, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said.

“This action reinforces our belief that innovative ideas are fuel for the future and we continue to build on this heritage inside our company across beverage, experiential retail, and our digital flywheel,” Johnson told shareholders at the annual meeting of shareholders on Wednesday.

“Increasing the velocity of innovation is an important part of streamlining the business and key to building an enduring company.”

Johnson said the new partnership with Valor presents exciting opportunities, not only for the startups but also for Starbucks as they build an enduring company for decades to come.

“We have done this by shifting from a long-cycle innovation model – which was too slow – to one that enables us to go from idea to action in less than 100 days,” Johnson said. “Then we rapidly learn and adapt, learn and adapt.”

The company has also shifted to smaller, cross-functional teams and opened a new Tryer Lab, a space for rapid ideation, prototyping and action.

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