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Starbucks invests in new fund for food, retail start-ups; to modernize stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Starbucks Corp. is looking to boost its future growth with innovative start-ups and an updated customer experience.

The coffee giant announced on Wednesday — the same day as it held the largest shareholder meeting in its history — that is has invested $100 million in Valor Siren Ventures, a new fund that seeks to grow the next generation of food and retail start-up technology companies. The venture fund, managed by Valor Equity Partners, will identify and invest in companies that are developing technologies, products, and solutions related to food or retail.

Starbucks also announced at its annual meeting plans to modernize the customer experience across key touchpoints. The initiative will get underway this summer, in New York City.

Starbucks did not reveal any specific details about the update, but said it will focus on convenience, comfort and connection.

“I don’t want anyone to walk away today thinking this is about furniture or a new renovation strategy,” said Roz Brewer, Americas group president and COO. “Reimagining the third place is about listening to our customers, so we can better position our business now and for the future.”

The retailer said it hopes to learn directly from its customers and adapt changes to new and better customer experiences using technology, product innovation, in addition to new and reimagined store formats.

The venture fund investment is the first of its kind for Starbucks. The new fund hopes to raise an additional $300 million from other investors in the coming months. Separately, Starbucks will also explore direct commercial arrangements with the start-ups.

“We believe that innovative ideas are fuel for the future, and we continue to build on this heritage inside our company across beverage, experiential retail, and our digital flywheel,” said Kevin Johnson, president and CEO, Starbucks. “At the same time, and with an eye toward accelerating our innovation agenda, we are inspired by, and want to support the creative, entrepreneurial businesses of tomorrow with whom we may explore commercial relationships down the road. This new partnership with Valor presents exciting opportunities, not only for these startups, but also for Starbucks, as we build an enduring company for decades to come.”

Starbucks also announced Wednesday that it plans to test recyclable cups in select markets and to roll out recyclable strawless lids to all stores in the U.S. and Canada in the next year.

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