Tesco Extra

Tesco is among a raft of global grocery retailers behind a new collaborative venture fund, set up to try to accelerate innovation across retail.

The W23 Global initiative includes Tesco, Ahold Delhaize, Woolworths Group, Empire Company/Sobeys and Shoprite, bringing together major backing from countries from the UK to Australia.

The body is being led by led by CEO and chief investment officer Ingrid Maes, who currently leads Australia’s Woolworths Group’s innovation fund, W23 Australia.

W23 Global will seek to invest $125m over five years in the world’s most innovative startups and scale-ups, which it says has the potential to transform grocery retail and address the sector’s sustainability challenges.

Startups and scale-ups that deploy technology to enhance customer experiences both in store and online, increase productivity across the grocery value chain and address the sector’s sustainability challenges, will be targeted by the initiative.

Each retailer is an equal funder and partner in W23 Global, while their CEOs will sit on the investment committee. Tesco will contribute $25m over five years.

“W23 Global is a pioneering international VC fund with a uniquely powerful proposition for both our investors and portfolio companies,” said Maes. “At a time when innovation is reshaping retail and value chains across the economy, we aim to offer our investors incomparable access to transformative innovation in grocery and sustainability across the globe.

“W23 Global will also work with its investors to identify common unaddressed challenges and identify entrepreneurs best placed to innovate new solutions. Our ambition is to offer our portfolio companies faster pathways to global scale, without being exposed to a venture fund anchored by a single strategic investor.

“With five of the world’s leading grocery CEOs sitting on our investment committee and access to our broader ecosystem, our founders can test and develop their ideas quickly based on an accelerated understanding of retailers’ needs.”

Tesco Group CEO Ken Murphy said: “We are excited to be collaborating with four other leading grocery retailers in this new investment fund. We are passionate about seeking out the best retail innovations and finding ways to make everything we do sustainable, and this partnership allows us to do that on a truly global scale.”