R|T: The Retail Times – Loblaw is an everything company, and it isn’t done

Plus: Plenty of Fish founder Markus Frind catches new CEO gig.

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Loblaw Has Become an Everything Company

With over 2,500 stores in Canada, it claims to process roughly 2 billion transactions a year through its online pharmacy, cosmetics, apparel, and financial services.

It boasts that 90 percent of Canadians live within ten kilometres of a location, while nearly half of us (over 18 million) are part of its data-hoovering PC Optimum program. On top of that, 3 million hold a PC Financial Mastercard.

Loblaw, whose slogan is “Live Life Well,” is also gobbling up health care: it operates seventy-four for-profit clinics; almost as many are planned this year. With its stake in the telemedicine platform Maple, Loblaw is on a mission to capture your dollars from cradle to grave.

(The Walrus)

Majority owner Markus Frind named permanent CEO of Cymax Group

Burnaby, British Columbia-based Cymax Group Technologies has found its match in majority owner and Plenty of Fish founder Markus Frind, who is taking over as its new permanent CEO.

Cymax was founded in 2004 as a furniture marketplace and has since grown to include multichannel e-commerce platform Channel Gate and shipping management platform Freight Club as part of its offerings.

Upon taking on the responsibility himself, Frind said in a LinkedIn post that he was “stepping into this subsidiary to provide direction, vision and focus.”


Blackstone-Founded E-Commerce ‘Roll-Up’ Firm Shuts Down

Two years ago, a division of Blackstone that invests in consumer brands such as Supergoop and Spanx joined a second investor to commit $200 million to an e-commerce startup they had founded together.

The startup, Kite, was pursuing a roll-up strategy that aimed to buy small consumer goods brands and provide them with a “tech stack,” software to handle marketing, manufacturing and distribution.

But Kite only used around $25 million of the committed funds before shutting down earlier this year and laying off its staff of more than 25, according to two people involved in it.

(The Information)

MDF Commerce to go private in $255-million acquisition by New York-based KKR

Montréal-based e-commerce solutions company MDF Commerce is going private after entering a $255 million definitive agreement that will see it acquired by New York-based investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).

MDF was founded in 1996 and provides software-as-a-service solutions for e-commerce interactions between buyers and sellers.

The Globe and Mail reported: several shareholders have come out against the deal. While none of the dissenting investors are among [MDF]’s largest shareholders, all of them say the $5.80-per-share offer price is too low.


EU opens probe into Alibaba’s AliExpress over illegal content, pornography on platform

The European Commission on Thursday said it opened a formal investigation into AliExpress, an international e-commerce website run by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, over concerns surrounding the dissemination of illegal content.

The commission will look at whether there was a lack of enforcement of AliExpress’ own terms of service, which prohibit certain products that pose a risk for consumers’ health, such as fake medicines.


Saskatchewan government doubles cap of startup investor tax credit to $7 million

The Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive offers a 45 percent tax credit to individuals who invest in eligible tech startups in the province. Previously capped at $3.5 million, as of April 1 of this year, the program’s annual disbursement cap is now $7 million.

Saskatchewan tech ecosystem leaders lauded the province’s decision to double the program cap, with Jordan McFarlen, director of Conexus Venture Capital, telling BetaKit this decision “signals that the government believes in the tech sector.”

“We’re a huge fan of what Innovation Saskatchewan and the government have created. It’s provided such a great boost to the ecosystem,” he added.


Startups are getting more realistic about exit roadmaps

M&A remains frequent, thanks to fire sales of struggling companies in the past year. But gone are the days when a strategic acquirer like Unilever would shell out $1 billion on a startup simply because it’s a direct-to-consumer brand.

In turn, young DTC brands are being more pragmatic about their exit strategies.

Founders that are launching their brands today are opting to not take on venture capital funding until it’s needed for specific expansion, and are increasingly hoping to sell within three to 10 years as opposed to going public.


#Tech+Biz4SickKids launches with new name, lineup of Canadian tech ambassadors

#Tech+Biz4SickKids has launched its new campaign that aims to spur the Canadian innovation and corporate community to raise $1 million per year for Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

The funding will specifically be used to support the hospital’s Precision Child Health campaign, which aims to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prediction of children’s health issues.


Refund fraud schemes promoted on TikTok, Telegram are costing Amazon and other retailers billions of dollars

Refund fraud, which involves tricking retailers into refunding a customer for a purchase without an item being physically returned, has become so pervasive that groups now market their services on Reddit, TikTok and Telegram.

Type in “refund method” — or “r3fund,” to skirt content moderators — on TikTok and videos will pop up of users showing off piles of cash, sneakers and iPhones.

One video has the caption, “me after realizing you can get a refund on any Rick Owens if the ‘package never came,’” referring to the minimalist fashion brand. The clip shows a hand endlessly tossing shoes to the ground.


$85 million in combined investments will build up Calgary’s tech hubs

This week, Calgary became a hot target for tech investment.

California-based cybersecurity company Fortinet announced it was going to invest $30 million CAD to create a cybersecurity technology hub in downtown Calgary.

Fortinet expects to secure space in downtown Calgary, acquire equipment, and start hiring immediately, the company said in a statement, noting it intends to add more than 100 staff by the end of 2025.

The Government of Alberta also committed $55 million in its 2024 budget for a new multidisciplinary science hub at the University of Calgary.

The $450-million facility, expected to open in 2029, will include a student success centre to teach workplace skills, host startup incubators, and industry collaboration spaces for internships and hands-on learning.

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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