Starbucks announced today it will invest $100 million in Valor Siren Ventures, a new venture fund from Valor Equity Partners. Valor Siren Ventures will serve as an incubator for food and retail tech startups. According to a press release, the investment is the first of its kind for Starbucks.
The incubator will focus on companies developing technologies and products related to food and retail. Valor Equity Partners counts Eatsa, Fooda, and Wow Bao among its portfolio companies, which is to say it’s had its hands in foodtech for some time now. (Side note: Valor was also an early-stage investor in Tesla.)
In addition to the investment from Starbucks, the new fund will, according to the press release, seek an additional $300 million “in the coming months” from other partners. Specific companies for the incubator have not yet been named, nor did the press release specify what areas of foodtech the new fund will support. Based on what’s already in Valor’s portfolio, however, those areas could range from data analytics to managing cryptocurrency to providing front- and back-of-house systems for restaurants. Valor also has a few investments in clean energy, a sector Starbucks is involved with through its Greener Stores initiative. Starbucks also just announced it is trialing greener packaging in select locations, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a company related to that pop up in the new incubator.
The investment in the Valor fund will give Starbucks access to new tech that could potentially be used for both food and retail aspects of Starbucks stores. Starbucks said in the release it will explore commercial partnerships with companies from the new incubator, with CEO Kevin Johnson adding, “We believe 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.”
Starbucks is one more name on a growing list of food and beverage brands investing in young companies via incubators and accelerators. Land O’ Lakes, Tyson Foods, and Chobani are among the major CPGs looking to inject their companies with some startup blood. Coca-Cola has its Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) program, as does Chipotle.