Connecting the World to your Block — Backing REEF Technology’s $1 Billion Investment Round
Our portfolio company REEF Technology secured today one of the largest funding rounds in Target Global’s history, raising $700m in growth equity led by Mubadala with participation from Softbank, Oaktree Capital Management, UBS Asset Management and Target Global. Additionally, REEF and Oaktree signed an agreement to form the Neighborhood Fund, a $300 million joint investment vehicle to acquire strategic real estate assets.
It might be surprising that this milestone has come at a time of such global uncertainty, but REEF is a great example of a rare thing: a company with both a bold vision and the discipline to make it a reality, combined with the flexibility to weather even the disruption of a major global crisis.
This article will look at why we invested in REEF and explain the company vision to transform today’s cities for good.
Our World is Changing — So Should Our Infrastructure
Digitalization is making it easier to order goods and services online, and consumers are taking full advantage. After staying stable for 40 years, the average number of freight deliveries per year has doubled since 2010 and is expected to double again by 2023. That’s not necessarily a problem, but this increased demand hasn’t been matched on the logistics side. So even though consumers are staying home in their millions, traffic and congestion are getting worse.
Today’s cities don’t have the last-mile and last-block infrastructure required to handle this increase. Even before the pandemic, New York City was seeing 1.5 million packages delivered every day, even though Manhattan traffic can only achieve an average speed of 8mph. With parking scarce, delivery companies in New York have started to simply factor in parking fines on their balance sheets as an inevitable cost.
This is exacerbated by the simple fact that more people are living in cities. Today, approximately 84% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, up from 64% in 1950. By 2050 this figure is expected to rise to 89% for the U.S. and 68% for the entire world.
REEF is committed to lead the transformation of the cities we live in today. By transforming its distributed real estate network of more than 4,500 parking lots and garages into Neighborhood Hubs, REEF leverages the power of proximity to connect people and neighborhoods to locally curated goods, services, and experiences. This way, whether you are an entrepreneur, a growing local business, or a global brand, REEF provides the platform businesses need to deliver their products locally at scale and transform cities into more sustainable and neighborhood-centric economies.
Target Global first met the REEF team in 2018. At that time REEF was still known as ParkJockey, and was managing just 50 locations across Europe and the US. But even then, we fell in love with the great vision to transform “the last mile distribution”. And that confidence was rewarded: after that initial investment round, in just two years, REEF has expanded those 50 locations to more than 4,500 after raising a transformatory investment round in late 2018 led by Softbank, and Mubadala. Additionally, REEF has deployed its first proximity services at scale starting with REEF Neighborhood Kitchens, which are live across 20+ North American cities hosting some of the most beloved food brands like Burger-Fi or David Chang’s Fuku.
Proximity as a Service
REEF identified serious inefficiencies in a traditional parking sector, developed a solid business model and proved they could make it a success. But REEF’s vision was more ambitious than effectively managing parking locations. REEF realized that having large, easily accessible, open spaces in the heart of urban areas was just what many service providers need to connect with local communities. These last-block hubs can pay a vital role in a city’s ecosystem. REEF calls this proximity as a service.
One of the use cases was to transform food delivery by using REEF’s infrastructure and transform it from a heavily subsidized peer-to-peer delivery model into a profitable hub-and-spoke model. With restaurants forced to close to diners during the pandemic, marrying dark kitchens with REEF’s urban hubs was a perfect fit. In fact most of the consumer trends of the pandemic, like kerb-side pickup, mesh perfectly with REEF’s model.
Urban hubs are also a boon for delivery companies. Improvements in logistics and services have seen a huge shift in customer expectations: consumers are used to ordering products and services online, and they expect delivery to be fast, even for non-essential goods that are non-perishable. They also want delivery to be eco-friendly, and not create disruption and noise in their neighbourhoods. And of course they don’t want to pay much for it. It’s a huge ask.
To meet these high expectations, large companies need infrastructure close to their customers. Reef has partnered with some of the largest delivery players to provide environmentally friendly last-block delivery. Deliveries are brought to the parking location in a standard freight vehicle before being transferred to an e-bike for the final part of the journey.
A less cheerful, but extremely important use case: parking locations are a perfect place for COVID-19 testing sites. They’re open, well-ventilated, and easy for people to reach without unnecessary contact, thus minimizing exposure and transmission. REEF was quick to offer up its 5,000 parking locations in the fight against COVID-19, allowing people faster access to testing and freeing up much-needed healthcare resources elsewhere.
So What can we learn from REEF’s success?
As investors, REEF provides many key takeaways that will inform future trends and investments. First, it’s not just as simple as being in the right sector at the right time. Mobility as a whole is facing huge challenges. Traditional powerhouses like airlines are in danger of collapse, and even modern success stories are turning sour. For example, the biggest mobility trend of the past decade was ride-sharing, a high-volume/low-margin sector which has been devastated by the pandemic — today fewer than 10% of people believe that ride-sharing is safe even with increased hygiene measures.
A solid company is able to ride these disruptions and demonstrate the agility to adapt and thrive. They also have the vision to see the opportunity in the problem. This is usually rooted in empathy: understanding what people really need and how to provide it to them.
Many companies are bold enough to try new things, but there isn’t always much cohesion underpinning these experiments. What sets REEF apart is the clear-headedness to fold a broad variety of projects into a unified business model, and the discipline and drive to make it all a reality. In that, the REEF team has achieved something genuinely special and rare.
This is the perfect example of what we’re looking for in the Target Global Mobility Fund. REEF shows that even large companies can be agile, and even a major crisis doesn’t mean abandoning your core proposition.
Indeed, flexibility is built into REEF’s business. REEF is taking the old restrictive model of parking locations — narrow use-case, limited customer base — and opening them up to be whatever the local community needs, ensuring there’s always a service and always a customer, even if the details change.
From our dedicated Mobility Fund at Target Global we have been excited about the transformation of last-mile logistics in complex urban environments. Since our first meeting with Ari Ojalvo in 2018, we have been big believers in the power of proximity and decentralized hubs that REEF has created across the US. We are excited to continue supporting REEF on their journey, and we look forward to the next stage of growth for the company.
Launched in 2018, the Target Global Mobility 2.0 Fund is the first multi-stage evergreen fund investing in the Automotive, Transportation, and Logistics sector. The Fund is composed of a unique team of successful mobility investors, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs. The fund provides unmatched access to key mobility hubs across Europe and Israel, facilitating cooperation between start-up ecosystems and strategic players in the mobility industry. More about Target Global: https://www.targetglobal.vc/