SoftBank-Backed Online Store Brandless Shutting Down

Brandless, the pioneering Amazon alternative, shuts down

Brandless, the pioneering Amazon alternative, shuts down

"Brandless, a San Francisco-based e-commerce firm that produced and sold a variety of" cruelty-free" goods in personal and beauty care, family, pet and baby categories has closed its doors less than three decades later formally opening them in July 2017. As part of the closing, Brandless is laying off 70 employees, while 10 employees remain onboard to assist with winding down operations.

The organization's short run will not come as a complete surprise to industry watchers. It was a surprising development, given the company's relatively nascent business.

As has happened in numerous companies backed by Vision Fund, including Wag and more recently WeWork, it also meant an executive restructuring.

Brandless is reportedly the first startup to shut down after winning support from SoftBank's Vision Fund, the Japanese investment giant that has also backed the likes of WeWork, Uber and food delivery service DoorDash.

At that time, Evan Price, the then Brandless CFO, became the company's interim CEO. In May, John Rittenhouse, the former chief operating officer of Walmart.com, took the job. Co-founder Tina Sharkey stepped down as CEO last spring, and the company pivoted to selling CBD, or cannabidiol, products, which tap an ingredient in cannabis to help lessen anxiety and promote better sleep.

Certainly, the development undermines SoftBank's already unstable reputation for its intelligent agreements.

"While the Brandless team set a new bar for the types of products consumers deserve and at prices they expect, the fiercely competitive direct-to-consumer market has proven unsustainable for our current business model", the company said. Brandless failed to secure its third tranche of funding worth around $120 million after missing milestones required by SoftBank.

Brandless's board had been evaluating its position for several weeks and ultimately chose to shut down and use the remaining cash for severance for employees, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

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