Rosie, a Cornellian-founded startup that offers e-commerce solutions for independent grocers and wholesalers, raised $10 million in Series A financing led by Avenue Growth Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm, earlier this month.
Fueled by rising demand for online grocery shopping and delivery amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rosie has tripled the size of its team and increased the number of retail and wholesale partnerships by 900% in 2020.
The startup, based in Ithaca, provides local and independent grocers with mobile and web platforms so they can expand their business online. This also benefits shoppers who prefer to frequent independent grocery stores in their own communities, and can now do so without leaving their homes.
“We’re thrilled to continue to execute on our vision of leveling the playing field so that independent grocers can strongly compete with national chains and online marketplaces,” said Nick Nickitas, MBA ’14, Rosie founder and CEO. “This investment will accelerate our tech roadmap, enable us to launch new products, and continue to rapidly scale up our retailer and brand community with new and existing partners.”
Nickitas, Jon Ambrose, MBA ’14, and Michael Ryzewic founded Rosie in 2013. They evolved their company through eLab, Cornell’s student startup accelerator, where emerging entrepreneurs spend a full year developing business plans, speaking with potential customers, pitching to investors, and preparing for a successful launch. Today, Nickitas serves on eLab’s instructor team.
In 2015, Rosie joined Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a business incubator in Ithaca formed in partnership between Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins-Cortland Community to support startups and grow employment opportunities in the region.
“Nick took advantage of every entrepreneurship resource Cornell University has to offer and it’s paid off. In addition to being a part of eLab’s Class of 2014, Rosie set up shop in the old Student Agencies space, now eHub, and worked with many faculty and alums on his business,” said Ken Rother, managing director of eLab. “We were excited to have Nick join the eLab teaching team where he is able to share his hard-earned learnings with current student entrepreneurs.”
The startup also received early support from the Ithaca Area Economic Development Loan Fund program, which aims to create quality employment opportunities in Tompkins County. In 2017, Rosie was recognized by the Tompkins Chamber of Commerce as the Distinguished Business of the Year for investing in and cultivating a modern workforce in Ithaca, as well as being pioneers in the county’s tech service industry.
"The entrepreneurial ecosystem at Cornell nourished our ideas, sharpened our vision and empowered us to build Rosie,” Nickitas said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about staying involved with the program by both teaching at Cornell and serving student entrepreneurs in eLab.”
Leading up to this recent financing milestone, Rosie launched several major features in 2020 to provide retailers with full autonomy over their e-commerce experience, from digital merchandising and marketing capabilities to a catering module. Local grocers and their customers that have used Rosie’s platform include P&C Fresh in Ithaca and Shur-Save in Trumansburg, New York.
“There isn’t anyone else in the grocery ecommerce space that is innovating at Rosie’s speed while putting the independent grocer front and center,” said Brian Goldsmith, co-founder and partner at Avenue Growth Partners. “We’re excited to support Rosie as they and their community of retailers serve millions of consumers during this unprecedented time.”
Rosie plans to utilize the new capital in a variety of ways, including introducing new features and tools to expand and enhance services for shoppers and retailers; launching new products to provide a seamless experience for shoppers; further investment to increase retailer profitability; and helping to connect consumer packaged-goods brands of all sizes to customers shopping online from their favorite local retailers.
“E-commerce is here to stay in the grocery space, and Rosie is positioned as the industry leader as we continue refining and innovating our platform,” Nickitas said. “This latest financing will accelerate new capabilities and provide new monetization opportunities to our brand and retailer partners.”
Bridget Bright is a writer for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.