Marks & Spencer’s brand accelerator programme has made its first grocery brand investment by taking a minority stake in raw dehydrated organic dogfood startup Rocketo.
The startup accelerator programme, a joint venture launched last year alongside startup investor Founders Factory, has taken a 7% stake in the direct-to-consumer petfood brand for an undisclosed sum.
The Founders Factory Retail programme joint venture was created last summer, and was backed by “a high single millions figure” investment from M&S into the fund, according to a Founders Factory spokeswoman.
Lithuanian business Rocketo claims to help dogs become healthier by offering them raw, organic and gently air-dried low-carb “all natural” food with seasonal menus using high-quality ingredients.
Production is “environmentally responsible” using three to four times less space in transit and manufactured using 100% solar energy, the startup said, which is currently only available online.
Daniel Himsworth, Founders Factory lead at M&S, said: “We’re backing new, innovative startups in the accelerator and we like Rocketo’s approach to reinventing healthy dogfood.”
Arunas Matacius, founder and chief executive of Rocketo, said M&S’s backing was “great validation” of its mission and vision and the experts at Founders Factory and M&S could help it to scale its dogfood offering across Europe to “create a happier and healthier life for dogs”.
Founders Factory was founded by serial entrepreneurs Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox in 2015 to discover and develop technology businesses.
Steve Rowe, M&S chief executive, said at the launch of the collaboration that linking with Founders Factory as its exclusive retail partner gave the retailer access to a global network of start-ups and entrepreneurs which would provide “disruptive thinking and questioning to the way we work at a time of critical transformation within the business”.
Startup founders get intense, bespoke support once accepted onto the six-month accelerator programme in areas such as marketing, product development, engineering, AI and business development in return for giving their corporate champions a stake in return.
Founders Factory Retail’s only previous investment to date is on-the-go mobile phone charging business ChargedUp.
Founders Factory said: “Each year we will accelerate five existing early-stage companies within our accelerator and build two form scratch together with M&S over the next few years.”
Other Founders Factory corporate partners include EasyJet, L’Oréal and Guardian Media Group.