Why We Invested in Upp., an AI powered Retail Intelligence Platform
Dominique Yadegar & Mark Mullen
June 27, 2023
We are thrilled to announce our latest investment in Upp, an AI powered retail intelligence platform that has raised $10M in seed funding. Bonfire led the round alongside Brian Rich (Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Catalyst Investors), and strategic angel investors. Read more about their financing HERE.
“We are putting the band back together again.”
This is the story of a team with a 25 year history coming together again to tackle a decade-old problem.
I was curious to learn more about the unique and long-standing relationships that led to this investment, so I sat down with Co-Founder & Managing Director of Bonfire Ventures, Mark Mullen, to hear the story on this and how Upp. is powering a new frontier in commerce enablement.
How did you hear about Upp.?
I’ve known both Brian Rich (Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Catalyst Investors) and Ben White (Co-Founder & Chairman, Upp.) for almost 25 years. Brian and I have actually been LPs in each other’s funds over the years. In 2000, Ben hired me as his investment banker to raise capital for MessageLabs, his fledgling startup in the email security space. I introduced Brian to Ben and Catalyst went on to invest in and join the board of MessageLabs and subsequently help the company get acquired by Symantec in 2008 for $700M. This was one of the three companies Ben has started over the years, which have exited for more than a combined $1B in value.
Brian and I have always held Ben in high regard, so last summer when Ben reached out about his latest endeavor, Upp., we were excited to come together again and back Ben who we have such a deep relationship with.
Bonfire, more broadly, has long-standing DNA in commerce and advertising enablement, seeding investments in two of the largest companies ever built in the space, including The Trade Desk (NASDAQ: TTD) and MNTN.
What is the problem that Upp. is solving?
Upp. has essentially built the “easy button” for what is quite a sophisticated and widespread problem. Despite accumulating vast amounts of valuable data throughout the D2C and subsequent omnichannel revolutions that have transformed commerce over the last decade, brands have faced challenges effectively harnessing it. This is particularly evident in advertising, where in-house teams and advertising agencies alike struggle to manage the vast amounts of (often siloed) data and the velocity of meaningful changes in online auction dynamics, with their largely manual and disconnected processes. Even brands with expansive data science teams are failing to capitalize on the potential of their data, further exacerbating narrow profit margins.
What does the platform do (how does it solve the problem)?
Upp. is an AI powered retail intelligence platform that leverages comprehensive inventory insights to automate advertising decisions for brands on Google Shopping in real-time. By connecting disparate data across advertising, operations, market trends, and influencers, and then layering AI-driven decisioning on top, Upp. enables retailers to improve ROI and reduce wasted ad spend.
The platform operates with both great granularity and scale - analyzing 85M+ SKUs, each with 120 unique data points, equating to 7B+ analyses per day. Upp. utilizes advanced AI and machine learning to automate Google Shopping campaigns by grouping SKUs, allocating the right ROAS budget, and determining break-even points and contribution margins for profitable sales.
To date, Upp. has helped retailers achieve average ROAS of 719%, substantially increase the budget allocated against it (by expanding inventory trading on Google from ~20% to ~80% using predictive analytics), and increase revenues per customer by 27%, transaction rates by 62%, and new customer purchases by 16%.
What excites you about the founders?
Ben (Co-Founder & Chairman) and Drew (Co-Founder & CEO) form a complementary partnership, with Ben’s experience as a successful serial entrepreneur in SaaS and Drew’s domain expertise from his years of experience in eCommerce. This investment is unique in the deep level of trust that exists across parties here, but also in the progress they have made bootstrapping the business to a level of traction well beyond that of a typical seed-stage company.
Who are Upp.’s customers?
Upp. is an ideal partner for any retailer on Google Shopping looking to automate their performance marketing efforts. Today, over 50% of ad spend dollars are wasted - that’s a pretty big pool of opportunity for Upp.
Upp. is currently used by a number of leading retailers including Charles Tyrwhitt, Onbuy, Roman Originals, and Nkuku.
What’s next for Upp.?
Upp. has established its presence on Google Shopping, which is the dominant platform in the market driving 75%+ of ad spend. The next steps for the company will be to expand into new platforms (such as Amazon, Meta, and Bing) and new geographies (beyond Europe, further expanding within the US).
We are excited to watch Ben and Drew take the company through its next phase of growth here.