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Is this online grocery delivery’s moment?

March 24, 2020, 1:49 PM UTC

Americans are willing to buy a lot of things online, from clothes to mattresses to electronics to vitamins.

But groceries have been a challenging space. Just 3% of Americans ordered groceries online for weekly pickup or delivery in 2019, according to a Gallup poll. Consumers, it seemed, still preferred to choose their own perishables, and overly precocious startup attempts during the dot-com bubble may have stunted development in the space. (Per Reid Hoffman’s book, Blitzscaling: “Webvan’s notorious failure kept most players out of the grocery delivery space for over a decade.”)

Now, though, in a turn of events no one could have predicted, Americans are stuck at home and wary of human contact and turning to online grocery delivery in droves.

On Monday, Instacart, which delivers groceries from the likes of Costco or Kroger, said it would hire 300,000 full-time shoppers over the next three months to meet rising demand. Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, said it would onboard some 100,000 more employees in warehouse and delivery positions over the entire business. Target-backed Shipt is seeking thousands too. 

The best ideas are born out of recession, venture capitalists say. Now the question is, which grocery delivery companies will, well, deliver the services needed to convert customers and keep their employees when all this is over? Unable to handle demand, Amazon Prime Pantry temporarily closed last week. Grocery delivery business Peapod also crashed for some parts of the country on Friday. Walmart meanwhile limited its delivery window to two days rather than the typical seven.

So is this a turning point for the grocery delivery market, or is it a symptom of coronavirus? 

It’ll depend on whether companies can handle the strain.

On a not-coronavirus-related note: SoftBank. The Japanese telecom giant will sell as much as $41 billion in assets in a bid to buyback shares and reduce debts, after its venture capital strategy met heavy scrutiny last year. As part of the deal, SoftBank is planning to offload roughly $14 billion of its crown jewel stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Bloomberg reports.

But don’t worry—its 300-year vision isn’t dead yet. SoftBank is said to be finalizing a $300 million investment in the autonomous driving unit of Chinese ride-sharing company and existing investment, Didi Chuxing, per The Information.

Read more.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda
Email: lucinda.shen@fortune.com

VENTURE DEALS

- Nature’s Fynd, a Chicago-based food tech company producing a protein from microbes previously known as Sustainable Bioproducts, raised $80 million in new funding. Generation Investment Management and Breakthrough Energy Ventures led the round. Existing investors 1955 Capital, ADM Ventures, Danone Manifesto Ventures, and new investor Mousse Partners also invested. 

- Arkose Labs, a San Francisco-based provider of online fraud and abuse prevention technology, raised $22 million in Series B funding. Microsoft’s venture fund, M12, led the round, and was joined by existing investors PayPal and USVP.

- Manetu, an information privacy platform focused on consumer consent and data-access requests, raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Castle Island Ventures led the round.

- IASO Biotherapeutics, a Nanjing, China-based biotech, raised $60 million in Series B funding. GL Ventures, the venture capital fund of Hillhouse Capital, was the investor. 

- SouSmile, a Brazilian direct-to-consumer dental company, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Global Founders Capital, Kaszek Ventures, and Canary were the investors. Read more.

- Coterie, an Ohio-based insurtech connecting small businesses to insurance, raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. Investors include RPM Ventures and Allos Ventures.

- Cat Person, a startup focused on cat owners, launched. Razor startup Harry's Lab backs the firm.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Transportation Impact, an Emerald Isle, N.C.-based provider of technology and service solutions for small parcel and freight, was acquired by The Jordan Company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Tangent Technologies, a portfolio company of the Sterling Group, acquired Bedford Technology, a Worthington, Minn.-based plastic lumber extruder.

- Global Resale, a portfolio company of Brightstar Capital Partners, acquired CFA Trading, a U.K.-based IT hardware refurbisher. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHERS

- Quantum completed its acquisition of Western Digital’s ActiveScale object storage and erasure coding technology business. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH) agreed to acquire Lev, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based digital marketing consultancy in the U.S. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- Brex acquired three businesses, Neji, Compose Labs, and Landria. Neji is a startup building blockchain and networking technologies for businesses. Compose Labs focuses on online learning experiences. Landria builds internal knowledge databases for companies. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- BigBasket, a Bengaluru-based company backed by Supermarket Grocery Supplies, acquired milk delivery app DailyNinja. Read more.

IPOS

- Finance Ireland, an Irish non-bank lender, has paused its 100 million ($108 million) IPO amid market volatility. Read more.

F+FS

- Coefficient Capital raised $170 million for its first fund out of a target of $150 million.