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Philly-based GoPuff, the Wawa on wheels, raises $380 million more, says it’s worth nearly $4 billion

GoPuff, the Philly-based delivery service, raises another fortune, this time from Silicon Valley, making it a rare “unicorn" among Philadelphia-area start-ups.

GoPuff cofounder Rafael Ilishayev in 2018, displaying one of the company's big sellers, beer
GoPuff cofounder Rafael Ilishayev in 2018, displaying one of the company's big sellers, beerRead moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

GoPuff, the Philadelphia-based delivery service that prospered as convenience stores lost business under COVID-19 restrictions, said Thursday it has raised $380 million more, from investors led by Silicon Valley’s Accel Partners and D1 Capital Partners of New York.

That’s on top of $750 million — plus $250 million in future commitments — that the company raised from the giant, Japan-based Softbank Vision Fund, Accel, and other investors last winter. Softbank also contributed to the latest capital raise, as did Luxor Capital, a New York hedge fund.

Flush with investor cash, GoPuff, which offers customers a $1.95-a-trip delivery charge for everything from baby food to booze, said it has poached retail executives to build a management team for its workforce of 4,000 drivers, warehouse laborers, and sales and software pros.

The new chief customer officer, Jocelyn Wong, was chief marketing officer at Lowe’s, the hardware chain. The new chief business officer, Jonathan DiOrio, was head of fintech at rideshare giant Uber. And engineering vice president Rekha Singh was an engineering boss at TripAdvisor.

GoPuff, founded by Drexel students Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola in 2013, says this latest sale of nearly 10% of its private shares implies it is now worth close to $4 billion, making it a rare “unicorn" among Philadelphia-area start-ups.

Investors in such companies cash out when the firm sells shares in the public stock markets or is acquired by a larger company (or other investors).

Amazon, Uber, and other delivery services have paid fat premiums for start-ups, buying growth instead of building it as they add services across metro areas. Added Oct. 9: The larger Instacart service just raised $200 million, for an implied valuation of nearly $18 billion, The Information reports. DoorDash, which is also backed by Accel, expects to go public later this year.

While Amazon is known for its giant warehouses — including its largest ever, nearly four million square feet now under construction at the former GM plant in Wilmington — the monolith and its rivals have lately added neighborhood depots in an attempt to guarantee rapid service for groceries and other perishables.

GoPuff says it now delivers “within 30 minutes” of more than 200 “micro-fulfillment” centers in cities, suburbs, and college towns across the U.S.

In the Philadelphia area, that includes such areas as Somerton, Port Richmond, Queen Village, Callowhill, Manayunk, University City, Germantown, West Chester, Newark, Del., and Cherry Hill.

Half the sites deliver beer. A sixth, Port Richmond, will start beer deliveries this weekend.

The company’s original center on Hamilton Street in the Callowhill section has been the site of persistent neighbors’ complaints as GoPuff deliveries block nearby streets and drivers wait for orders at all hours.

With its “industry-leading economics,” GoPuff could “become the fastest and best delivery service for everyday needs,” Daniel Sundheim, founder of D1, said in a statement.

The founders are building a “unique, vertically integrated market” that ships what are often locally produced items to customers at low cost, said Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, who is from Blackwood, Camden County.

Other Accel investments have included PayPal, Spotify, DocuSign, Dropbox, and Philadelphia-based business software maker Guru.

With all the private cash it has raised, GoPuff has also attracted public subsidies. It won $400,000 in Pennsylvania state aid and $2.5 million in cheap city-backed loans to help develop its headquarters at Third and Spring Garden Streets. It got a 10-year, up to $39 million tax break in reduced taxes for a planned $43 million 300,000-square-foot warehouse and tech center near Rowan University in Glassboro.

In Philadelphia, GoPuff says it delivers Federal Donuts, La Colombe Coffee, Famous 4th Street cookies, Federal Pretzels, Side Project Jerky, Bassett’s ice cream, and Yards, Victory, and Love City beers, among other brands.

The company plans “significant expansion” in new markets such as Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, and Minneapolis, GoPuff said in a statement.

“We’ve come a long way, but we’re just getting started,” said cofounder Ilishayev, who shares CEO duties with cofounder Gola.

Suburban labs

WuXi Biologics says it has opened a new, 33,000-square-foot process-development and testing lab at Discovery Labs, the center developed by Integrated Project Services in Upper Merion Township, near King of Prussia.

The new facility employs 50, with plans to hire 50 more by the end of the year.

“This facility provides for closer collaboration with our partners to benefit patients worldwide,” said Chris Chen, chief executive at WuXi Biologics. He said the region’s “talented workforce” attracted his company.

The Shanghai-based company was spun off from WuXi AppTec, which employs about 600 at its Navy Yard contract cell therapy and gene therapy manufacturing facilities in South Philadelphia.

Besides King of Prussia, WuXi Biologics is opening larger manufacturing facilities at Worcester, Mass., and Cranbury (corrected), N.J.