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Want to go from direct-to-consumer to retail? This startup has a platform for that

While the global pandemic was still in full force, Dipti Desai, who had been building data platforms at Uber at the time, started working with a nonprofit selling masks on Shopify. As she helped them build out their digital storefront, Desai began talking to other brands about their challenges with regard to data.

“It was really hard for them to understand what was going on in their business,” Desai told TechCrunch. “At the same time, these brands and businesses were starting to think about what comes next after being direct-to-consumer, wanting to see their retail and wholesale data all together.”

Dipti Desai Crstl
Dipti Desai Crstl

Dipti Desai, founder and CEO of Crstl Image Credits: Crstl

Looking at that more, she found that expanding beyond direct-to-consumer into retail, online marketplaces and wholesale was a challenge for small businesses. So, she decided to take that on and founded Crstl, a San Francisco–based SaaS application and platform that is now making its national launch after raising $4.4 million in seed funding to continue developing its no-code electronic data interchange (EDI) for brands, manufacturers and wholesalers.

The company is joining the ranks of those, like Logicbroker, tapping into EDI, which is how information is transferred digitally from one company to another. They are also among those doing no-code for smaller brands without developer resources, similar to other e-commerce enablement startups Popup and Rebuy. In Crstl’s case, it is providing data connectivity so brands can transact with the largest retailers and distributors.

Here’s how it works: Crstl has created an AI-driven network of trading partners and integrations and offers a no-code EDI workflow for businesses to quickly connect and begin transacting with the network. It also provides transparent pricing along with compliance, testing and certification, including generating compliant shipping labels and packing slips.

Desai, CEO, said that a few short months after launching, Crstl has made some big strides: It is working with over 50 companies and has already enabled 50,000 business-to-business shipments, accounting for millions of dollars, between brands and large retailers, including Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and CVS.

The $4.4 million seed round was led by Mastry Ventures with participation from Village Global, Alumni Ventures, SuperAngel VC, OnDeck, Mensch Capital Partners, Harizury, and a group of individual founders and executives.

Desai said the round closed a year ago but went unannounced until now. It is being used for additional hiring and commercialization.

“We're tackling a very hard, nuanced problem in a very big market that's gone under-addressed for a very long time,” Desai added. “We had to dig very deep on the technical side and had a lot of proof points that we wanted to get in front of before we were intentional about talking about it. This capital also brings us a lot of incredible connections in an industry that really, truly operates as a giant ecosystem.”