Tim Hortons marks two years in China with Tencent investment

Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and doughnut giant, has raised a new round of funding for its Chinese venture. The investment is led by Sequoia China with participation from Tencent, its digital partner in China, and Eastern Bell Capital. The round comes two years after Tim Hortons made its foray into China’s booming coffee industry.

Tim Hortons didn’t disclose the amount of its latest fundraise but noted in a social media post that the proceeds will be used for opening more stores, building its digital infrastructure, brand presence, and more.

Tencent, the Chinese social media and entertainment behemoth, first backed the 57-year-old Canadian coffee chain last May. At the time the tie-up was seen as Tencent’s move to counter archrival Alibaba’s alliance with Starbucks to deliver coffee and help the American coffee titan go digital in China.

Tim Horton’s collaboration with the WeChat parent is in a similar vein. It has so far accumulated three million members through its WeChat mini program, a type of lightweight app that runs within the instant messenger. To appeal to young Chinese consumers, Tim Hortons opened an esports-themed cafe with Tencent, China’s biggest gaming company.

Two years into operating in China, Tim Hortons says it has reached storefront-level profitability with a footprint of 150 locations across 10 major cities. It plans to add more than 200 locations in 2021 and reach 1,500 stores nationwide in the next few years.

The dramatic rise and fall of coffee delivery startup Luckin brought the prospects of China’s coffee market to the forefront. Despite the investment frenzy around Luckin and other coffee businesses, coffee drinking still has a relatively low penetration in China compared to countries like the United States and Germany. On the other hand, coffee consumption is growing at a much faster rate of 15% in China, well above the global average of 2%, and is projected to reach 1 trillion yuan ($150 million) in 2025, according to a 2020 report by Dongxing Securities.

Bessemer Venture Partners closes on $3.3 billion across two funds

Another major VC firm has closed two major rounds, underscoring the long-term confidence investors continue to have for backing privately held companies in the tech sector.

Early-stage VC firm Bessemer Venture Partners announced Thursday the close of two new funds totaling $3.3 billion that it will be using to back early-stage startups as well as growth rounds for more mature companies.

The Redwood City-based firm closed BVP XI with $2.475 billion and BVP Century II with $825 million in total commitments.

With BVP XI, it plans to focus on early-stage companies spanning enterprise, consumer, healthcare and frontier technologies. 

Its Century II fund is aimed at backing growth-stage companies that Bessemer believes “will define the next century,” and will include both follow-on rounds for existing portfolio companies and investments in new ones.

BVP XI marks Bessemer’s largest fund in its 110-year history. In October 2018, the firm brought in $1.85 billion for its tenth flagship VC fund. This latest fund is its fifth consecutive billion-dollar fund, based on PitchBook data. 

Despite being founded more than 100 years ago, Bessemer didn’t actually enter the venture business until 1965. It’s known for its investments in LinkedIn, Blue Apron and many others, with a current portfolio that includes PagerDuty, Shippo, Electric and DocuSign. Exits include Twitch and Shopify, among many others.

With more money than ever before available for backing startups, the challenge now for VCs is to see how and if they can find (and invest in) whatever will define the next generation of tech. 

“As venture capitalists, we pay too much attention to pattern recognition and matching when in reality, the biggest opportunities exist where those patterns break,” the firm wrote in a blog post today. “Our job is to make perceptive bets on the future, especially those that others will dismiss and ridicule. We are fundamental optimists and strong believers in the power of innovation; our life’s work is putting our reputation, time, and money to help entrepreneurs realize a different future. They’re the ones pioneering something entirely new and obscure — a technology, a business model, a category.”

In addition to announcing the new funds, Bessemer also revealed today that it’s brought on five new partners, including Jeff Blackburn, who joins after a 22-year career at Amazon, alongside the promotion of existing investors Mary D’Onofrio, Mike Droesch, Tess Hatch and Andrew Hedin.

Most recently at Amazon, Blackburn served as senior vice president of worldwide business development, where he oversaw dozens of Amazon’s minority investments and more than 100 acquisitions across all business lines — including retail, Kindle, Echo, Alexa, FireTV, advertising, music, streaming audio & video and Amazon Web Services.  

“Having been part of Amazon for more than two decades, I’m excited to begin a new chapter helping customer-focused founders build breakthrough companies,” said Blackburn in a written statement. “I’ve known the Bessemer team for many years and have long admired their strategic vision and success backing early-stage ventures.” 

With the latest changes, Bessemer now has 21 partners and more than 45 investors, advisors and platform “team members” located in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Boston, London, Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Beijing. 

“At Bessemer, there’s no corner office or consensus; every partner has the choice, independently, to pen a check. This kind of accountability and autonomy means a founder is teaming up with a partner and board director who thoroughly understands your business and can respond quickly and decisively,” the firm’s blog post states.

Bessemer’s task is all the more difficult because there is more competition than ever before to get into the best deals.

TCV closed on a record $4 billion fund to invest in e-commerce, fintech, edtech, travel and more in late January.

Last November, Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) closed a pair of funds totaling $4.5 billion. The firm raised $1.3 billion for an early-stage fund focused on consumer, enterprise and fintech, and closed a $3.2 billion growth-stage fund for later-stage investments.

And, last April, Insight, the firm that has backed the likes of Twitter and Shopify and invests across a range of consumer and enterprise startups, announced it had closed a fund of $9.5 billion, money it said it would be using to support startups and “scale-ups” (larger and older startups that are still private) in the coming months.

Although BVP is one of the older firms in the valley, there has been a new wave of investors, some like SoftBank with very deep pockets, and others will less money but a lot of credibility, so it will be interesting to see how these next two funds play out for the firm.