Portfolio News

Launching Kite, our new commerce platform, with Rob Solomon

At Juxtapose, we build businesses in large and dynamic markets that can benefit from novel solutions to tomorrow’s problems. Over the last eight years, we’ve created new engagement paradigms for dental patients and home buyers, we’ve transformed the life insurance buying process, and we’re bringing root cause relief to the millions that suffer from seasonal allergies. In each case, we developed conviction that our solutions would be sufficiently better than their alternatives and that they could capture the attention of the end-user in a way that allows for both rapid customer acquisition and value capture.

Today we are proud to announce our next business in partnership with Rob Solomon, the Founding CEO of Kite. Kite is a next-generation commerce company specializing in scaling small, high-potential brands in partnership with ambitious entrepreneurs. Together with Blackstone, Rob and the Juxtapose team have been developing and building Kite over the last 2+ years. This week, the company is announcing that it has closed on $200M in equity, and that Kite has already begun acquiring brands around a unique suite of commerce enablement technologies.

A New Way to Build

The opportunity behind Kite surfaced through years of research as part of our traditional Concept Development process. In this dig, we focused on the changing contours of the e-commerce value chain and the opportunities to leverage technology to develop a market leader in an evolving ecosystem. We ended up with an exciting thesis, but we struggled with a key question: how could we best demonstrate our value proposition to the emerging entrepreneur? This led to another question: what if we infused best-in-class M&A with Juxtapose-style technology innovation and modern operations to demonstrate systematic value creation through the delivery of differentiated business operations? The prospect of being the first creation-oriented investment firm to combine these capabilities was exciting.

To meet the market for this opportunity, we are sharing the formal launch of a modality that we call Platform Builds. For Concept Development digs where the conclusion of our learning is consistent with that of Kite’s, we will create businesses with the ability to consolidate markets by leveraging differentiated platform capabilities. In many of these markets, often characterized by supply constraints or really sticky customer relationships, we have observed significant returns in acquiring scale through M&A rather than (or in addition to) acquiring customers directly. Like all Juxtapose Builds, our platforms will always have their own proprietary technology thesis, as well as a perspective on how we evolve the value chain through user behavior change and modern operations. But in the specific case of Platform Builds, they will also be intentionally designed to scale quickly through consolidation. While each situation will be unique to the market and learnings of the thesis, our general approach is to build a platform and buy around it (versus the more traditional private equity strategy of buying an established business and its inherited operational and leadership debt).

Reimagining Commerce with Kite

One of the most relevant markets for Platform Builds is commerce. We believe consumer-facing commerce is in the early innings of a revolution as meaningful as the rise of the Sears Catalog or the Walmart Super Store. More and more categories are moving away from brands advantaged by hyper-scale, TV advertising, and big box retail relationships to specialized, smaller, high-passion brands that are nimble and powered by world-class technology. However, today’s entrepreneurs and their businesses are not designed to meet the challenges of the future - the demands put upon them by marketplaces, to service customers with next day delivery at the lowest price.

Kite is creating a new “every channel” commerce platform, designed from the ground up to support digital-first consumer product brands in developing the infrastructure and technologies they need to scale their businesses to customers across e-commerce, social, retail, and more. The company leverages AI and the API economy to build a modern technology stack that will drive manufacturing, supply chain, design, and customer acquisition excellence at scale. Creating radical efficiencies across a product’s commerce journey is the path to unlocking its greatest potential. Kite is reimagining how products are made, moved, stored, shipped and sold—at scale. As more products utilize the platform, the more the platform adapts and learns. As a result, the smarter and more transformational it becomes—with efficiencies at every turn—to intelligently scale the brands that we find, buy and scale, or otherwise support.

We are thrilled to partner with Rob, who brings over two decades of experience in product and business development, operations management, M&A, and brand launches to Kite. Before Kite, Rob was CEO and Chairman of GoFundMe, where he scaled the business from $2B in donations raised to over $15B (coming from 100M+ donors globally). Prior to GoFundMe, Rob served as President and COO of Groupon, where he led the company in creating a novel way for small businesses to meet customers online, making Groupon one of the fastest growing companies at the time. During his tenure, he grew the team from 100 to 7,500 employees within two years. Earlier in his career, Rob ran the Commerce Business Unit at Yahoo and was the CEO at Sidestep, an early Online Travel Agent, which he merged with Kayak. He has also held roles as Venture Partner at TCV, and Accel, and Board Member of HomeAway.

We have also welcomed James Chen, CTO of Built Technologies and former CTO of Flexport, one of the first digitizers of the supply chain, has joined Kite as a member of its Board. Throughout his career at Flexport, Amazon, and Rakuten, James has built industry-leading global logistics, shipping, and end-to-end commerce technologies, along with the product and engineering teams needed to bring them to life. Mark Mitchke, President and CEO of Delta Dental of Washington and former VP and GM of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), has also joined Kite’s Board. At Amazon, Mark’s work empowered hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses around the world and quadrupled sales for the company.

At Juxtapose, we believe the combination of large markets, complex user challenges, and generational executive leadership is a winning recipe to building the companies of tomorrow, and we are excited to embark on this journey with Kite.

Welcome to the family, Rob!