Woolworths, four overseas peers to launch US$125 million venture capital fund

Woolworths – together with four overseas retailers – is to launch a US$125 million (A$190 million) venture capital fund called W23 Global that over five years will invest in retail industry-related start-ups and scale-ups.

The other retail investors are the UK’s Tesco, Dutch-Belgian multinational Ahold Delhaize, Canada’s Empire Company, and South Africa’s Shoprite.

The fund will invest in start-ups and scale-ups that deploy technology to improve customer experience in-store and online, boost productivity across the grocery value chain, or address the sector’s sustainability challenges ranging from biodiversity in agriculture to sustainable packaging.

“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,” W23 Global CEO and chief investment officer Ingrid Maes said.

“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.”

Maes also currently leads Woolworths’ corporate venture capital fund, W23 Australia, which invests in retail innovation, sustainability and digital health. The two funds will be managed from the same office in Sydney.

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