Voly raises $18 million for tech disrupting the grocery market


Voly co-founders Mark Heath and Thibault Henry. Source: supplied.

Aussie startup Voly has raised $18 million in a seed funding round led by Sequoia Capital India for its platform offering grocery deliveries within 15 minutes, with the business looking to further disrupt an antiquated industry.

The round also includes backing from existing investors Global Founders Capital and Aussie VC Artesian Capital.

Founded in April this year and launched in July, Voly is a service allowing consumers to order their groceries online, with delivery in 15 minutes or less.

Co-founders Mark Heath and Thibault Henry started out “with just us two on a couple of bikes”, Heath tells SmartCompany.

Now the startup has a team of 35 working in its offices, plus around 100 people in stores, picking out, packing and delivering orders.

While the founders don’t share any specific revenue figures, they do say the business is doubling month-on-month.

Voly is opening a new store every couple of weeks, ever expanding the reach of the service.

Deliveries are available in 42 Sydney suburbs. Next year, that’s set to increase, with the service rolling out nationally.

“We’ve proven the model,” Heath says.

“Now we want to bring it to more people.”

How does Voly work?

The startup operates several so-called ‘dark stores’ or micro-fulfillment centres in Sydney. Voly owns all the products it sells, so doesn’t rely on any third-party providers.

Delivery riders are also employees, rather than gig-economy workers.

While the founders recognise the benefits of gig-economy riders in some situations, they opted to hire outright in order to focus on customer experience.

They’re trying to fundamentally change the way the grocery retail category operates. In order to get people on board, they needed stellar customer service.

“There’s some amazing, amazing outcomes you get having a fully employed and fully engaged team of people that are looking after the customer,” Heath notes.

That could be as simple as the customer getting the same rider every time, or riders getting to know the layout of apartment complexes — not getting lost every time.

“That brings with it a lot of trust.”

Voly’s new grocery economy

Heath and Henry set out to disrupt what is one of the most traditional retail sectors, dominated by a few big players in the Australian market.

However, with the pandemic irreversibly changing the way people shop for other goods, Henry says it’s the right time for a business like Voly.

Over the past two years, people have been doing their Coles or Woolies shop online more often — even for the first time.

“We are offering a real alternative to this,” Henry says.

Instead of doing a big weekly shop, customers can buy what they need three or four times a week, he adds. People are changing the very way they interact with their grocery suppliers, and the way they manage their food consumption.

“There’s no need to plan ahead anymore.”

In the future Heath sees the whole grocery sector switching to more “needs based” services.

People will think about what they want for dinner, find a recipe and order everything there and then. Those ingredients will arrive within minutes, taking away any pressure or unwarranted planning time.

Of course, the founders see Voly being front and centre of this new grocery economy.

“We want to create a brand that is pretty much the most-loved brand in Australia,” Henry says.


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