TORONTO—Hubba Inc., an e-commerce startup, is on track to raise $45 million in new venture-capital financing as it looks to expand the use of its consumer product-information platform beyond North America to the U.K., founder and Chief Executive Ben Zifkin said.
Toronto-based Hubba’s platform offers marketing and other information on a vast array of products—everything from Unilever PLC’s Dove brand soap to Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Budweiser beer. Clients including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and others use the site to ensure the product information they provide to their customers is complete and accurate. Hubba’s technology also distributes companies’ product information to Amazon.com Inc. and other online shopping sites.
“We are a little bit like LinkedIn for products,” Mr. Zifkin said, in reference to the professional-networking site.
Toronto-based Hubba launched its platform about 18 months ago and has since lined up more than 10,000 companies, mostly U.S.-based, to list their products on its site. The system features close to a million different products, Mr. Zifkin said. Hubba is targeting the U.K. as its next major market, betting it will benefit from the growth in e-commerce activity in that country, which is home to many global brands and retailers. The latest financing will help that effort, Mr. Zifkin said.
Hubba’s fundraising also offers an early sign that the strong growth in venture capital investment in Canada-based startups last year could continue in 2016. That sign comes amid an uncertain outlook for early-stage companies in North America, where some startups have fallen short of expected valuations when they went public or were sold to a strategic buyer.
Department-store operator Hudson’s Bay Co. agreed earlier this month to buy New York-based Gilt Groupe Inc. for $250 million, below the Internet retailer’s private valuation of $1.1 billion in 2011. And in November, BlackBerry Ltd. acquired Good Technology Corp. for $425 million, less than half of Good’s $1 billion valuation in 2013, based on funding Good had raised privately.
Hubba expects its $45 million deal to close by the end of March, Mr. Zifkin said. That would follow year-over-year gains in both the total value and number of deals in Canada for the first nine months of last year, according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. The financing would also rank as the fourth-largest venture-capital financing among publicly disclosed investments over that period, according the industry group. The association hasn’t yet published full-year data for 2015.
Mr. Zifkin said consumers’ growing use of smartphones and other digital devices both to buy products online and to access information about brands is driving interest in Hubba. In 2013, consumers used digital information to help them buy an estimated $1.1 trillion worth of goods while visiting a U.S. retailer, and that trend is growing, according to Deloitte Consulting LLP.
The executive declined to comment on Hubba’s valuation based on the latest financing or to identify investors in Hubba, except to say the group includes venture-capital firms from Silicon Valley, New York and the U.K, as well as some of Hubba’s existing investors. The latter include Canada’s Canso Investment Counsel, Brightspark Ventures, Real Ventures and Kensington Capital Partners.
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