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SoftBank-backed Brandless to lay off staff, shutter operations

Online retailer Brandless will lay off 70 people, or almost 90% of its staff, as it prepares to shut down business operations, the company confirmed to CNBC. The company is only retaining 10 employees to complete remaining orders.

Brandless is the first startup backed by SoftBank Vision Fund to fail. The $100 billion megafund has funneled cash into Uber, SoFi and WeWork-parent The We Company, among others.

The direct-to-consumer retailer launched in 2017 and quickly made waves selling beauty products, organic snacks and everyday essentials at $3 apiece.

However, the company’s business model was “unsustainable” in the “fiercely competitive” direct-to-consumer market, the Brandless board said in a joint statement to CNBC.

“Brandless set a new standard in the wellness and sustainable products industry, and while we weren’t able to compete competitively in today’s DTC market, I’m confident the next great brands of tomorrow will be built from this experience,” said Brandless CEO Evan Price in a statement to CNBC.

Other ventures supported by SoftBank Vision Fund have also faced difficulties. In January, robotic pizza business Zume laid off half its staff. SoftBank backed out of its investment in struggling dog care app Wag at the end of 2019. The company is also the biggest backer of WeWork, which suffered a botched IPO.

Last week, hedge fund Elliott Management took a more than $2.5 billion stake in SoftBank.

SoftBank did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Protocol first reported the news.

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