Tridge, a Seoul-based agriculture marketplace backed by SoftBank, has raised $60 million in a new funding round that has more than tripled its valuation to $500 million in a year.
Korean venture capital firm Forest Partners, a returning investor, was the sole investor in the funding round, said Tridge. The startup intends to use the fresh funding to expand its packing and warehousing facilities to meet rising demand from food businesses whose supply chains were disrupted by the pandemic.
In April last year, Tridge raised $11 million at a valuation of $140 million from Forest Partners, U.S.-based Activant Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia, the early-stage venture arm of Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son’s tech conglomerate. In 2019, Tridge raised $5.5 million from SoftBank Ventures Asia.
SoftBank has invested in several Korean startups in recent years, including $175 million into AI tutoring app Riiid in May and $160 million into content localization service provider Iyuno-SDI in April. SoftBank reported record full-year net income in May, thanks in large part to Korean e-commerce giant Coupang’s blockbuster New York IPO in March. SoftBank’s Vision Fund is planning to buy a 10% stake in Korean hotel booking platform Yanolja for $870 million, according to a Financial Times report.
Founded in 2015 by Hoshik Shin, a former Deutsche Bank commodities investor, Tridge is an online platform that links farmers in more than 150 countries with food buyers around the world, helping cut out the middlemen. Products sold on Tridge, which is short for transaction bridge, includes fruits, seafood and coffee beans.
Demand for Tridge’s service soared in the pandemic era when logistics congestions and travel restrictions forced buyers and suppliers to find alternative ways to sell and source products. “With the pandemic, it’s becoming more and more difficult for buyers to have physical interactions or [face-to-face] meetings, so dealing with a supplier whom they’ve only met online can be risky,” says Kyunghwan Cha, Tridge’s director of operations. “Essentially, we are the ones who purchase products from the suppliers so buyers do not have to worry about the reliability of the suppliers.”
Last year, Tridge launched a market intelligence service, which utilizes AI, data analytics and algorithms to publish market trend reports for food buyers. The startup also launched a fulfilment service, providing door-to-door delivery for buyers.
So far, 50,000 buyers, including the likes of Walmart, Nestlé and Kellogg’s, have used its market intelligence and fulfilment services, according to Tridge. Sales from its fulfilment service, its biggest revenue source, is expected to reach $300 million by the end of the year, the startup said in a statement.