E-commerce pioneer Wenzel launches 'Amazon on steroids'


FILE PHOTO: The Delivery Hero headquarters is pictured in Berlin, Germany, June 2, 2017. The Berlin-based company Delivery Hero, one of Europe's largest internet start-ups. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) -German entrepreneur Ralf Wenzel, formerly of Delivery Hero and Softbank, is launching a global rapid delivery retail platform, entering a field that is attracting huge investment and experiencing explosive growth.

The startup, called Jokr, is backed by venture capitalists HV Capital, Tiger Global and Softbank, and will aim to deliver a wide range of products from "hyperlocal" warehouses within 15 minutes of an order being placed via a smartphone app.

Jokr is already live in Mexico City, Lima and Sao Paolo, while New York and Bogota will follow ahead of rollouts across Europe and Latin America.

"We are building an Amazon on steroids," Wenzel told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

"It's not just convenience on demand, but a new generation of retail."

Wenzel, 41, founded online delivery company Foodpanda before he and the company joined forces with Niklas Oestberg at Delivery Hero - a global food delivery company headquartered in Berlin that is now a member of Germany's blue-chip share index.

More recently he has been a managing partner at Softbank, where he ran projects in Latin America. He left Softbank on good terms to found Jokr with his core team from earlier projects.

Wenzel declined to disclose the financial backing behind Jokr but said that, in addition to the trio of venture backers, he and his team had gone "all in" by investing their own money and temporarily forgoing salaries.

"Jokr has a best-in-class, experienced team made up of serial entrepreneurs which is well equipped to transform the future of on-demand retail at a global level," said Alexander Joell-Carbonell, a partner at Jokr backer HV Capital, a German venture fund.

ALL-ROUND OFFERING

In contrast to Wenzel's earlier focus on food, Jokr will offer a broad range of retail products delivered to people's doorsteps.

On the supply side, Jokr will not act as a marketplace but instead as a retailer in its own right, squeezing costs by cutting out the middleman and buying directly from suppliers.

For distribution, Jokr will operate networks of small neighbourhood warehouses - often in retail space that has fallen out of use in the coronavirus pandemic.

Jokr is analysing local data on demographics and consumer habits to tailor and update its product range of groceries, cosmetics and consumer electronics. By optimising operations it will be able to deliver for free, said Wenzel.

The launch comes at a time of breakneck expansion in the quick-delivery segment - even as investors have second thoughts about some more established players, with Deliveroo's stock market flotation tanking recently in London.

In Europe, Turkish rapid food delivery startup Getir has launched aggressively in London and raised $300 million in March from investors, including Tiger, in a round valuing it at $2.6 billion.

Berlin-based Gorillas, which has expanded to a dozen European cities since it was founded last year, has just raised $290 million at a valuation of more than $1 billion to invest in further growth.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Emma Thomasson, Mark Potter and Susan Fenton)

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