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SoftBank-backed startup Brandless is shutting down



Brandless, the retail startup that shared an investor with Uber and WeWork, is shutting down after less than three years in business.

The San Francisco-based company announced that it’s stopping operations on its website, where it sold generic discount consumer goods from snacks and vitamins to shave gel and body wash. Shoppers are no longer able to place orders on the site.

“While the Brandless team set a new bar for the types of products consumers deserve and at prices they expect, the fiercely competitive direct-to-consumer market has proven unsustainable for our current business model,” the company said.

Brandless will also lay off almost 90 percent of its staff, or 70 people, leaving 10 workers to handle the final customer orders and assess offers for acquisitions, according to the news website Protocol, which first reported the shutdown Monday.

Brandless is reportedly the first startup to shut down after winning support from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the Japanese investment giant that has also backed the likes of WeWork, Uber and food delivery service DoorDash.

The Vision Fund led a $240 million round of funding for Brandless that was announced in July 2018, a year after the company launched. Jeffrey Housenbold, a managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisors who joined the Brandless board of directors, praised the firm’s “highly data-driven approach” and “personalized shopping experience” at the time.

A spokeswoman for the Vision Fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.

Founded by entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler, Brandless offered hundreds of basic home goods, food staples and other essentials in monochromatic packaging with a focus on organic and natural products. The company was known early on for pricing items at $3 apiece, but it introduced more expensive offerings and a subscription service last year.

While Brandless is the Vision Fund’s first investment to close, some of its other bets have hit bumps in the road.

WeWork had to scrap plans to go public last year amid non-stop headlines about ex-CEO Adam Neumann’s alleged self-dealing, erratic behavior and marijuana use. And DoorDash has faced scrutiny over its practice of effectively pocketing tips meant for delivery workers, which it changed last year.

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