Canadian Commerce Startup, Bonsai, Secures $4M In Financing Fueled By Private Investors

Published: January 24, 2020

Canadian Commerce Startup, Bonsai, Secures $4M In Financing Fueled By Private Investors

Canadian commerce startup, Bonsai, announces the completion of a $4 CAD million funding round led by the private investment of Michael La Brier, Chairman of Supreme Cannabis and a board member of Bonsai, as well as from other Toronto-based private family offices, bringing Bonsai’s total capitalization to just under $11 million.

Bonsai launched in 2016 as a streetwear shopping and news app blending content and commerce for a seamless native shopping experience. Bonsai now works with 35 publishers and has integrated 70 merchants, providing the ability to sell 1,200+ brands. The company announced in December, 2019 that its native checkout technology was licensed by U.S. media giant, Complex, to power a new online store for the publisher’s online audience of 120 million people. The new online store — called Complex Shop — allows the audience to discover and purchase exclusive products without having to leave the content. This allows Complex to keep customers within their ecosystem and own customer data without holding any inventory, marking a first for the digital media industry.

“There is an undeniable shift in how content is driving commerce, and many publishers are still missing out on providing a truly native shopping experience,” said Saad Siddiqui, Founder and CEO of Bonsai. “By integrating with Bonsai, emerging and established brands benefit from being where consumers are, rather than trying to get consumers to come to them. It’s curated commerce for a new generation of urban-centric shoppers who need more than targeted advertising to be persuaded to buy.”

In Canada’s technology ecosystem, which is dominated by B2B and SaaS startups across fintech and insurtech categories, the rapid growth of Bonsai — a commerce startup in the media space — represents diversification among Canadian startups. The company’s unique position in the market has helped them gain the attention of private investors and family offices, resulting in a funding model that’s allowed Bonsai to access a range of operational and strategic benefits unique to private capital.

“Bonsai’s technology allows you to buy products directly from digital media publishers talking about products, reducing time and friction for consumers,” said Michael La Brier, Chairman of Supreme Cannabis. “I believe it improves upon traditional e-commerce and is the way that younger, savvier consumers will shop going forward. Private investors are in a unique position to provide founding teams decades worth of operational experience — and when founders use that experience well, it makes for a safer proposition for investors.”

The $4 million in funding follows the more than $6 million the company had raised by this time last year, bringing Bonsai’s total funding to-date to just under $11 million. Bonsai will use the new funding to integrate more merchants and grow its product offering, acquire more publishers, and expand the company’s presence in Toronto.

This funding coincides with Bonsai’s appointment of J. Bernard “Bernie” Boudreau to its Advisory Board. Bernie was former Minister of Finance for Nova Scotia and was later appointed as Government Leader of the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and federal Minister responsible for Nova Scotia. Bernie brings a wealth of public and private-sector experience on large, cross-border enterprise transactions and will be working closely to support management through the company’s high-growth period. Bonsai’s advisory board currently includes: Barbara Atkin (former SVP, Fashion Direction at Holt Renfrew), Benjamin Smith (former business development executive at Google), Michael Caruso (Partner, Miller Thomson), and Dean DiSimone (former founding partner at Tender Creative).

Founded in 2016, Bonsai is an e-commerce platform trusted by elite publishers and retailers across North America and Europe. Bonsai’s discovery commerce technology allows users to purchase a product within the content they love, without leaving the page. For publishers, Bonsai provides a better revenue alternative to intrusive ads and the chance to own the customer from inspiration to gratification. For merchants, Bonsai puts their natively shoppable products in front of an audience at the moment purchasing intent is being formed, achieving more sales with less friction. The company employs 35 people and is headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

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