By Nancy Dahlberg
In addition to a $700 million equity raise, REEF Technology, led by Ari Ojalvo, launched a $300 million infrastructure fund with Oaktree Capital to acquire more real estate assets.
REEF Technology has scored a mega-investment from SoftBank Vision Fund and Mubadala Capital: a $700 million growth equity round.
The Miami-based startup has a huge mission: re-imagining the common parking lot as a neighborhood hub for sustainable urban living in cities, where two-thirds of the world’s population will be living by 2050. REEF owns a network of thousands of lots and garages and has already begun turning some of them into ghost kitchens, COVID-19 testing sites, electric vehicle charging stations and last-mile delivery hubs.
The funding will be used to scale from about 4,800 locations to about 10,000 new locations around the country, REEF Technology CEO and co-founder Ari Ojalvo told TechCrunch, which first reported the news Tuesday.
What’s more, REEF also separately announced that the company, in partnership with Oaktree Capital Management’s infrastructure arm, launched a $300 million fund, called Neighborhood Property Group, to acquire more strategic real estate assets.
“We are excited for this next stage of growth and are committed to continue learning, listening and working with our communities to reimagine urban real estate into localized and networked infrastructure that entrepreneurs and cities can use to deliver goods and services sustainably and directly to our neighborhoods,” said Ojalvo, in a statement. “By working together, we can reimagine and rebuild our urban spaces for people, not just cars, and help our cities become more sustainable and inclusive centers of community and opportunity.”
This is REEF’s second mega-investment from SoftBank. Although the exact amount was not disclosed, in 2018 and 2019, the company (then called ParkJockey) reportedly raised an estimated $900 million led by SoftBank, which has been expanding its presence in Miami. That investment greatly helped propel the Miami metro area to notch its best year ever in venture capital; South Florida companies raised $2.4 billion last year.
REEF is also one of Florida’s unicorns, still rare enough you can count them on one hand.
“We believe REEF’s conversion of city parking lots into urban logistics hubs makes them much more useful than in their current form. As we have witnessed during the pandemic, proximity to the consumer is increasingly important in today’s economy. We’re excited about management’s vision of transforming and revitalizing the urban center, and are confident in REEF’s ability to execute,” said Ervin Tu, managing partner of Softbank Investment Advisers.
REEF runs about 100 Neighborhood Kitchens across more than 20 North American markets, featuring local favorites like Michelle Bernstein’s brand in Miami as well as fast growing national companies such as Burger-Fi and David Chang’s Fuku. Miami's Della Bowls, for instance, is open in 18 REEF Kitchens across the country. Cutting out the usual brick and mortar overhead and staffing issues, the kitchens provide a turnkey, zero capital investment solution for restaurateurs looking to launch or scale their businesses, REEF said. REEF is far from the only ghost kitchen player; it’s an increasingly competitive field, including CloudKitchens founded by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
With the funding, expect expansion of REEF's digital platform, said Philippe Saint-Just, co-founder and head of product at REEF. "We’re especially proud to be able to provide local restaurants with solutions that they need to thrive.”
During the pandemic, the need for delivery infrastructure as well as affordable solutions for restaurants has became even more pronounced. To that end, REEF is also allocating $10,000 marketing grants to 100 local, minority, and women-owned restaurants to grow their business on REEF’s Neighborhood Kitchens platform and is accepting applications at nbrhd.com.
In addition to kitchens, REEF’s lots have also been used for COVID-19 testing sites during the pandemic, and the vision is to create neighborhood hubs with a number of consumer services, such as healthcare clinics for everything from check-ups to flu shots. REEF has announced partnerships with DHL for micro-fulfillment and last-block e-cargo bike delivery – with a pilot in Miami – and with Crate to Plate for vertical farming.
“The concept of transforming infrastructure to better connect the origin of production with the destination of consumption resonated with us. REEF is strongly positioned to serve communities where they have key infrastructure, proving essential to food delivery, package delivery, grocery delivery and healthcare,” Adib Mattar, who heads Mubadala Capital’s private equity business, said in a statement.
Along with Mubadala and SoftBank, Oaktree Capital Management, L.P., UBS Asset Management and Target Global also participated in the mega-round.
This story will be updated. Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at email@example.com
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