Creoate raise a $5m seed round to shake up the $1tn wholesale industry

What is Creoate?

Creoate is a wholesale marketplace that helps millions of small businesses grow on better terms. As the UK’s largest B2B marketplace with embedded finance, Creoate helps independent retailers buy sustainable and unique products from brands and wholesalers on a centralised platform. The platform leverages artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to help retailers forecast sales and manage inventory levels as efficiently as possible and get sustainable payment terms. All with the aim of delivering more choice, better pricing, and more efficient logistics at a global scale. Founded in 2020, the team is led by Ashley Horn and Fahad Khan, a pair of retail and finance experts, and a seasoned team who have worked at or invested in Farfetch, Ocado, Lyst, Swiggy and Deloitte. The company serves more than 50,000 retailers in 10 countries.

The startup has raised a large $5m Seed round led by Fuel Ventures with participation from Vinted founder, Justas Janauskas. The size of the Seed round – which is twice the average in Europe – is validation of this vision of a post-pandemic economy built by independent businesses.

The funding will be used to further grow key go-to-market teams, double down on traction in Europe and add more advanced tools and analytics to the platform in order to partner with even more businesses and offer even more market-leading, game changing features.

Why did Creoate start?

Creoate’s founders Ashley Horn and Fahad Khan witnessed first-hand the pain points with the current wholesale ecosystem for local businesses. Ashley and Fahad wanted to build a community that puts local, high-quality, sustainable products in the hands of discerning consumers worldwide.

Why are they growing so quick?

The community is powered by a network of independent businesses, on a platform designed to reclaim the supply chain from global giants, all underpinned by Creoate’s unique data. Creoate leverages artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, that enables retailers to forecast which products will be the most popular in order to buy and manage inventory levels as efficiently as possible. Since Creoate’s launch in January 2020, the platform is being adopted rapidly despite widespread retail lockdowns, with more than 25,000 retailers having signed up in the past 6 months alone — a 1,600% year-over-year increase. Retailer adoption has increased to 7,000 a month over the last three months and is set for 6x growth by the end of the year as economies open up further.

Its UK retailer network already consists of 4.5x more locations by door count than Boots, Marks and Spencer, and John Lewis combined and its software has helped eliminate up to 40% in costs, helping pass savings back to the community

Creoate’s team has similarly grown four-fold in the last six months to meet demand and is on track to more than double by the end of 2021. Creoate is live in 10 countries including the UK, France and Netherlands and its UK retailer network alone already consists of 4.5x more locations by door count than Boots, Marks and Spencer, and John Lewis combined.

The independent retail market is enormous

For every £3 made from the sale of goods in the UK, a third comes via an independent retailer. Independent businesses contribute £504 billion to the wider economy, selling goods that make up the largest share of consumers' wallet at 19%. To put this into perspective, this share is more significant than that spent on transportation, which sits at 13%.

Run by residents who have lived in the areas they serve for many years, they know their customers’ names, and what values they care about. They play a key role in distributing life essentials and consumer goods, they’re a venue for social experiences and they proved a lifeline for many during the pandemic. They connect with their extremely loyal and engaged customer base via social networks and provide highly unique, hyperlocal services. The kinds of social ties and embedded distribution networks that big companies are desperate to mimic yet struggle to replace.

Creoate collateral
“Sourcing brands as an independent retailer is close to impossible, an experience I went through myself when running a multi-brand retail shop in London,”, said Creoate co-founder Ashley Horn.

“There are over 30 million brands on Instagram and it's getting cheaper to launch a new product, but knowing what to buy as a retailer is extremely risky, expensive and time consuming. To make matters worse, all the banks I talked to didn’t want to finance inventory so we were turning to expensive credit cards with 18-30% rates just to pay for goods. It felt like the barriers were so high for an independent business to thrive even though there was so much demand from consumers. We could see that this system was not sustainable and there had to be a better way”.

Building a better economy

Creoate acutely understands this. Not only is it led by an experienced team who have worked at or invested in Farfetch, Ocado, Lyst, Swiggy and Deloitte, but this team grew up in families that owned retail businesses. They represent the diversity of the brands and retailers on the Creoate platform and have seen how expensive and exclusive the current, broken system is.

Using their experience building financial products for SMEs and running retail shops, Ashley and Fahad unlocked marketplace liquidity by completely removing the sourcing and finance problem for both brands and retailers. Each brand on the Creoate platform is then personally curated by an in-house team of buyers to make sure they come from a group of diverse, representative, inclusive, creative and skilled businesses from all corners of the country.

“For as long as Mom and Pop shops, like those run by my family, have existed, they have been faced with poor information, discriminatory pricing and unpredictable cash flows,” said co-founder Fahad Khan.

“I saw first-hand working in financial services how little data is used today to make inventory decisions, which locks out millions of businesses from financial inclusion. That’s where we believe technology can add the most value, by empowering businesses to be more resilient and make better money. By focusing on how inventory is bought and financed, we are building an omni-channel future where offline consumer shopping brings the best out of online business-to-consumer commerce. It’s not one or the other.”

The data and analytics that underpins Creoate’s unique offering

To empower its retailers, Creoate has built a suite of B2B software tools for brands and wholesalers which make them instantly wholesale ready. B2B trade is complex, yet using Creoate’s software brands and wholesalers can start selling in just three clicks, without having to rely on pen and paper or having to go through multiple layers of middlemen. Creoate’s software has helped eliminate up to 40% in middlemen costs, helping pass savings back to the community and creating more transactions than ever before.

Once a retailer has joined the Creoate community, it can browse and buy wholesale items from handpicked brands, as well as get access to Creoate’s proprietary payment terms. Instead of relying only on data from traditional sources like bank statements, which tell an incomplete story, Creoate’s data engine, Bifrost, uses proprietary marketplace data to make instant payment decisions for each retailer. This removes the pressure of retailers having to negotiate terms with multiple intermediaries like large-scale banks and third-party lenders. Many of which refuse to offer sustainable payment terms to smaller businesses in this way. And it means retailers can more quickly, efficiently and accurately respond to changes in demand from customers and move to an on-demand inventory model.

During severe economic hardship when Covid-19 shut down supply routes for most essential products, independent retailers relied on Creoate’s real-time, on-demand supply platform to buy essential supplies such as hand sanitisers and face masks. Creoate’s alternative supply chain network to traditional wholesale allowed retailers to serve local community needs within days, not months.

The platform is also accelerating growth of the value-based economy, with the most popular categories on the platform being Fair Trade and Eco-Friendly. When Jenny McCann, owner of Bear Bookshop in Bearwood, launched her bookshop, she turned to Creoate for a one-stop-shop solution in sourcing brands and products that nurture creativity and fit her paper-based, plastic-free ethos.

What’s more, having access to Bifrost’s unparalleled data looking across tens of thousands of shops, retailers like Jenny get recommendations about which products are likely to be the most popular among their specific demographic. They can determine what price points these products are most likely to sell at, what their current customer base are searching for, how best to appeal to new consumers and more trend-led suggestions. The more data that flows through Creoate’s platform, the smarter Bifrost’s decisions get, helping build at scale one of the world’s most comprehensive data maps of the retail industry.

“Unless you’re in the world of retail, it can be difficult to truly grasp just how broken the system is for the 2.5 million retailers and 30 million emerging brands that Creoate serves,” said Mark Pearson, founder and managing partner at Fuel Ventures.

“We are captivated by Creoate’s technology which is inspired by the founding team’s real-world experience and empathy. Creoate’s incredible growth, despite a severely challenging economic environment is clear evidence of the must-have value it provides to independent businesses. We at Fuel Ventures only invest in super ambitious hard-working founders and companies that have large global scale potential and with Ashley and Fahad, this is exactly what we have found.”

7 months ago, Creoate presented us with an ambitious, bold vision of empowering independent businesses. In a mere 7 months, Creoate has built a world class team from some of the world’s top unicorn startups as well as an amazing product, which now caters to more than 50,000 retailers across the developed world!

From the outset Creoate set their targets high, and they went on to crush those targets by 10x! We could not be more thrilled to partner with them as they reinvent the $1 Trillion wholesale industry.

Huge congrats to Ashley Horn, Fahad Khan and the entire Creoate team on this transformational milestone! So proud of how you are thinking about financial inclusion for independent businesses, and grateful to be a part of this journey. We are really excited to be working with other amazing investors Justas Janauskas (hyperlink).

Creoate are now looking to double in size so It's an incredible time to join this rocketship.

If you are an entrepreneur looking for investment or want to join Creoate, please email your deck/CV to or reach out to me on LinkedIn.

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Independent retailer platform Creoate raises $5M Seed led by Fuel Ventures
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