Global Retail Giants Launch $125 Million W23 Global Fund for Retail Innovation

In a groundbreaking move to foster innovation and sustainability in the retail sector, five major global grocery retailers have joined forces to establish the W23 Global venture capital fund. With a total investment of $125 million over the next five years, this collaborative effort aims to propel promising startups and scale-ups worldwide.

The participating retailers include Tesco from the UK, Ahold Delhaize representing the US, Europe, and Indonesia, Woolworths Group hailing from Australia and New Zealand, Empire Company/Sobeys based in Canada, and Shoprite operating in Africa. Each retailer has an equal stake in the fund and will be represented by their CEOs on the investment committee.

Heading this initiative is CEO and Chief Investment Officer Ingrid Maes, renowned for her leadership in retail innovation with Woolworths Group’s W23 Australia. Maes brings over 25 years of experience in FMCG and grocery retail, envisioning W23 Global as a catalyst for transformative innovation in the grocery sector and sustainability solutions worldwide.

"W23 Global is a pioneering international VC fund with a uniquely powerful proposition for both our investors and portfolio companies," said Maes. "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."

The fund's mission extends beyond mere investment; it seeks to identify common challenges across the grocery industry and empower entrepreneurs to innovate solutions. With the CEOs of the five leading grocery giants on the investment committee, W23 Global provides an unparalleled opportunity for startups to develop solutions tailored to the needs of retailers worldwide.

"Collaboration is key to driving innovation in the retail sector," remarked Tesco Group CEO Ken Murphy. "We are excited to be collaborating with four other leading grocery retailers in this new investment fund. We are passionate about seeking out the best retail innovations and finding ways to make everything we do sustainable, and this partnership allows us to do that on a truly global scale."

The fund will prioritize startups leveraging technology to enhance customer experiences both in-store and online, improve productivity throughout the grocery value chain, and address sustainability challenges. Notably, portfolio companies will retain the freedom to engage with any customer, irrespective of their association with W23 Global partners, ensuring a level playing field for innovation.

"In South Africa, we have very unique trading circumstances that are unlike anything our partners in this venture fund have ever faced," commented Shoprite Group CEO Pieter Engelbrecht. "This is the driving force behind our need to innovate faster than most retailers and is why we entered this venture with our esteemed global counterparts."

The launch of W23 Global marks a significant stride in retail innovation, signaling a collaborative effort among industry leaders to drive meaningful change and address the evolving needs of customers and the planet.