Founded in early 2012, NatureBox set out to become synonymous with providing healthy snacks direct to consumers. It's made great strides toward that goal, and will continue to push forward with $18 million in new funding led by Canaan Partners. Existing investors General Catalyst and Softbank Capital also participated in the round, which brings total financing to $28 million. Along with the funding, Canaan general partner Warren Lee will be joining NatureBox's board of directors. The latest round comes just two years after the company was founded, but already NatureBox has shown some pretty impressive growth. Naturebox launched as a subscription commerce company that sends monthly boxes of healthy snacks direct to consumers. But unlike some competitors, which source products from third-party providers, Naturebox decided to create its own branded treats for its boxes. By the end of 2012, NatureBox had shipped about 50,000 of those boxes. But that number grew 20x over the following year, with the company shipping a million boxes in 2013. It hopes to triple that number this year. Along with increasing its sales, NatureBox has also grown its headcount. At the beginning of 2013, it had eight employees, a number that increased to 50 by year-end. That includes a couple of key hires in the last several months, including Dean & Deluca executive Kathryn Flouton, who joined as VP of Product Innovation and Sourcing, as well as former Netflix online marketing head Scott Lee joining as the company's VP of Marketing. Those hires will be crucial as the company seeks to expand its product offerings while attracting new customers. According to co-founder and CEO Gautam Gupta, NatureBox has increased its product line from 50 products a little more than a year ago to over 130 today. In addition to increased choice of products, NatureBox has also shifted its model a bit to give customers more flexibility in being able to select the snacks that are sent to them. Previously, the company chose the snacks it sent based on customer feedback, but now customers are able to curate what arrives in the box themselves. Of course, the company will also be looking to add more customers. Lee's experience should come in handy there, as few companies benefitted from online customer acquisition quite so much as Netflix over recent years. That said, NatureBox has a pretty rabid fan base already, with more than 850,000 fans on its Facebook page and a million monthly visitors to its website. Customers are also anxious to spread the word, with about 50 percent sharing their purchases on Twitter and email, according to Gupta. With the new funding, NatureBox will also be looking to build its consumer brand, something Gupta says Canaan should be able to help with. And Lee, who led the investment, has a background in supply chain management and optimization, which should be an asset to a company that sources and ships its own food products. At the end of the day though, the Naturebox folks just want to make it easier for customers to eat more healthy snacks. "[Consumers] need to trust the brand, that it's not only going to taste great but be free of artificial sweeteners," Gupta told me. "We're making sure the experience is unique and that it delivers on the expectations we're building with the consumer."
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