7-Eleven Starts To Invest In Startups

7-Eleven is getting into the venture capital business, with plans to invest small amounts of money in retail startups, according to Fortune.

The convenience-store giant's new effort, 7-Ventures, is led by longtime 7-Eleven business development executive Raja Doddala, and has already invested in two companies since it launched earlier this summer. One is a coffee company that 7-Ventures hasn't named. The other is Belly, a Chicago startup working on a customer loyalty and marketing platform, which named 7-Ventures as one of its investors on Wednesday (Aug. 28).

In both cases, the investments are small (for Belly, 7-Ventures was one of six companies that together kicked in a total of $12.1 million), and the the primary purpose isn't to make money. "Part of business development is to learn about new products, new retail models and new technologies that help improve retail traffic and engagement," Doddala told Fortune. "And a lot of that innovation is coming from startups."

In the case of the coffee company, Doddala said 7-Eleven hoped to learn things that would help improve its fresh food and beverage business. With Belly, Doddala said the startup "offers digital loyalty networks, and we want to learn how networks work as opposed to retailer-specific loyalty plans."

7-Ventures is far from the only retailer that has dabbled in startup funding. For example, since 2008 Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) has had its own VC unit, Best Buy Capital, which invested millions of dollars in eight early-stage startups with the hopes of exclusively selling their new technology through its retail stores. But Best Buy reportedly began winding down the unit in March of this year to focus on more immediate advantages for its stores.

For more:

- See this Fortune story

Related stories:

7-Eleven Owner May More Than Triple The Number of North American Stores
7-Eleven's Supply-Chain Effort Will Have Benefits Way Beyond 7-Eleven
Best Buy Getting Out Of The VC Business

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