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7 elevens venture arm invests in a coffee start up to help with fresh products. Aivars Lode avantce
7-Eleven takes a big gulp of venture capital
7-11 is getting into the venture capital game alongside such players as Google Ventures and Intel Capital. Bloomberg
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The UpTake: Look for the corner store to get more innovative now that 7-Eleven is working with startups as a venture capitalist.
Quick, when you think 7-Eleven, what do you think? Big Gulps? Slurpees? How about venture capital?
That's right, the corner convenience store company has gotten into the venture capital game alongside such corporate players as Google Venturesand Intel Capital.
Called 7-Ventures and led by a long-time business development executive with the company, Raja Doddala, the new venture arm for the company is focused on startups in the retail and food spaces.
"One of the ways we think we want to develop new products… is to invest," Doddala told me this afternoon. "The purpose is to really learn about new products and services by investing in these companies."
7-Ventures isn't the only recent initiative for 7-Eleven, which has its U.S. headquarters in Dallas. The company is on an aggressive expansion kick that could take it to 30,000 stores in North America from 8,500 stores today.
Doddala said that as his company expands, the focus at stores and in the corporate suite is on 7-Eleven's own initiatives, while his group can bring in the knowledge and energy gleaned from startups.
"One of the reasons that we set up a different organization is that we can make these decisions more rapidly," he said.
For the startups, 7-Ventures has a certain appeal as an investor. The firm brings deep knowledge of how customers shop. And then there's its vast network of stores, which can be a great testing ground for startup ideas.
"The most obvious benefit is as a testing ground," he said.
So far, 7-Ventures has invested in two companies, an unnamed coffee startup that could help 7-Eleven improve its fresh food and beverage service but that Doddala wouldn't give details about, and, today, Belly, a Chicago customer loyalty marketing platform.
Doddala said Primack the Belly investment gives 7-Eleven an opportunity to learn how loyalty networks work.
"It allows us to learn more how the network effects can drive traffic and engagement at our stores," he said.
And there's a big difference between 7-Eleven's venture capital arm and even the other corporate players in the VC space. 7-Ventures isn't necessarily looking to make money from its deals.
"Obviously we want to make money on these deals but that is not the primary goal," he said. "To learn…that's the motivation."