7-Eleven Goes From Big Gulps to Venture Capital

by Dave Clarke on February 18, 2014
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Wondering where the funding for your next amazing idea will come from? We bet you aren’t thinking it could be 7-Eleven, home of the Slurpee and the Big Gulp. But perhaps you should.

The convenience store chain, which operates more than 52,000 locations in 16 countries, began offering venture capital in 2013. Unlike other VCs, 7-Eleven has a built-in test bed for the startups it funds: It can make a product or service available directly through its stores.

Raja Doddala, the business development executive who’s leading the effort, dubbed 7-Ventures, seeks to fund innovation in three areas:

“We’re interested in consumer-facing technology that drives traffic to, and engagement with, our 7-Eleven stores,” he tells the Intuit Small Business Blog. “We’re also looking at new food and beverage retail models, such as Redbox, which took an existing category — movie rentals — and changed how they’re delivered. And, we’re looking for new food and beverage products, such as the fresh, cold-pressed vegetable juices now finding their way into stores on the East and West Coasts.”

Doddala explains that 7-Ventures is only looking to participate in Series A or B round financing. Companies should have at least some early validation in the marketplace. “We’re not doing seed or angel investing,” he says. “We’re not going to fund a PowerPoint.”

One venture Doddala has invested in is Belly, a customer-loyalty program that aggregates consumers’ purchases from multiple merchants into a single rewards program. “We’ve seen it drive traffic to our stores and increase the frequency of purchases,” he says.

If you think you have what 7-Eleven’s customers are thirsty for, contact Doddala through your connections in the VC community (that’s the best way, he says), LinkedIn, or 7-Eleven’s corporate office.

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