Two years ago, Lillian Cartwright, along with some fellow Harvard Business School students, launched a new edgy seltzer brand called Astrid. Despite all the tools that made it easier than ever to launch the D2C brand, the team faced complications in securing the raw materials.
This piece of the supply chain is still stuck in the past, according to Cartwright, who pointed out that much of it is still based around trade shows, driven by referrals and personal connections and lots of phone calls.
thoughts for then shelf life was born. The company, founded by Cartwright and John Kline, aims to build a directory and marketplace of raw material suppliers based on exactly what brands are in need, allowing them to secure quotes quickly.
The current system is set up to benefit large existing CPG brands, but the industry is changing. Craft drinks, in particular, are growing in popularity And the pandemic encouraged consumers to buy more bottled, boxed and canned goods online.
In fact, Cartwright says there are 50 food and beverage brands. launched every single day. But smaller, newer brands don’t have an easy way to buy ingredients. For Cartwright and Astrid, it was so complicated that it prompted them and their team to abandon the project.
“I ran that experience with it instead,” Cartwright said. “There are thousands of others who want to launch brands in the food and beverage sector. There are no resources when it comes to supply chain. There is something out there, and this whole space is going to end digitization in the very near term. “
In beta, Shelflife charges a small fee for use of the software, and is buying supplier quotes manually on behalf of brands. The funding will, in part, go towards automating that process as much as possible on both the brand and supplier sides.
One of its challenges is that not all suppliers like the idea of being compared to one another, all on one page. Cartwright argues that the changing landscape of the industry means that lead generation around new brands is increasing in importance, and a trend that suppliers should pursue.
Ultimately, Cartwright wants to move the shelf life business model to a commission structure that will draw from budget suppliers that is typically reserved for field sales reps. The company wants to build products around financing for brands, as many suppliers require upfront payment, which can be taxing on a smaller brand.
The funding round was led by Switch Ventures and Kindred Ventures, with participation from NextView Ventures, Ben Ziss (SuperAngel.VC), Ilya Papa (Former CTO of Blue Apron), and Elena Donio (Former President of SAP Concur) . .