Bianli24 (便利24), meaning 24 hours Convenience in Mandarin Chinese, a startup that provides unmanned retail solutions, announced it has closed an almost USD 10 million Series Pre-A round led by Sequoia Capital China in February this year, China’s biztech media and also KrASIA parent company, 36Kr reports on Tuesday.
The startup plans to use the fresh funds to expand into more Chinese cities, especially third- and fourth-tier cities.
Founded in 2017, Bianli24 has developed several models of self-service vending machines. Through partnerships with the startup, shop owners could put their most popular commodities in the vending machine. This would not only help shop owners with payment but also bring in new customers. At the same time, by using these vending machines, shop owners could increase their income as these vending machines could be placed outside of the store to work during closing hours.
Unlike many other competitors that adopt a franchise model, Bianli24 operates these machines by itself to achieve better efficiency, as well as to achieve a close tie-up with store owners.
According to Bianli24, its vending machines contribute 15-20% of a store’s daily transaction.
The startup claims that store owners in fourth- and fifth-tier cities in China have strong demand for staffless retail solutions, and Bianli24 has expanded into 13 Chinese cities thus far.
The founding team were core members of Meituan, which became the world’s largest O2O platform after the merger with rival Dianping.
Founder HUANG Hongguang had previously worked at Xiaomi as head of O2O business unit and also as a senior executive at Meituan. Co-founder JIAO Zhaonian, also head of the sales team, was Vice General Manager of Meituan’s hotel and travel business department.
Much hype was made since the end of 2016 when Amazon introduced its cashier-free store Amazon Go. In 2017, many established Chinese tech companies have forayed into the staffless retail business, for example, Alibaba showcased its staffless cafeteria Tao Café last July and its food delivery arm Ele.me claimed its self-service snack bar unit has turned a profit in Shanghai.
Riding on the wave, many startups have emerged including Xingbianli and Zailouxia, which KrASIA has previously reported on. China’s solution to Amazon Go, Bingo Box, announced the completion of a US$80 million Series B financing round led by Fosun in January this year.
Funding rounds (according to data service Jing Data)
2017.09: The startup raised an angel round from Gaorong Capital and personal investor GAN Jiawei, ex-COO of Meituan.
2018.02: The startup raised almost ten million dollars in a Pre-A round led by Sequoia Capital China.
Writer: JING Ting