Subscription box startup Loot Crate, which sends toys and fan gear to subscribers in monthly mystery boxes, has raised an $18.5 million Series A funding round. It also said it had surpassed $100 million in sales last year.

The e-commerce company claims more than 600,000 monthly subscribers in 35 countries. To better serve demand in the United Kingdom, its second-biggest market, the company will be using the funding to open a marketing and business development office there this summer.

Loot Crate partners with movie studios, gaming companies, and comic book publishers to sell themed items for fans, including figurines, comic books, and apparel. An annual subscription costs $144.

Loot Crate’s fast-growing revenue comes as some subscription box services have struggled to grow outside of a niche customer base. Others have suffered high-churn rates among their subscribers who tire of paying for items that don’t get used. Loot Crate has found ways to avoid these problems, said Chief Executive Chris Davis.

“We think about the utilities of the items, are they useable?” he said, noting that the company carefully surveys its customers. “One of our big focuses is not cluttering up homes.”

The company themes the items in each box around words such as dystopia, invasion, and galaxy. It also ties the themes together in its print magazine and online content. The firm works with media franchises to manufacture new paraphernalia timed with major content releases, said Davis.

“We are planning years out with some of the big studios, like in the case of ‘Deadpool,’” he said of the comic-book superhero movie. The company shipped an original figurine and T-shirt when the movie premiered in February.

Loot Crate’s funding round was led by Upfront Ventures of Santa Monica, with participation from Breakwater Investment Management, Time Inc., Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures, M13, and SterlingVC.

Take and Bake

Chef’d wants to make it easier to cook gourmet meals at home.

The online meal-kit seller, which launched last year, raised $12.3 million in Series A financing last month to expand its marketing efforts and push growth.

The El Segundo-based company sells pre-measured meal ingredients and recipes online for customers looking for convenience, minimal food wastage, and a cooking experience, said Chief Executive Kyle Ransford.

The startup’s financing comes on the heels of securing a partnership this month to sell meal kits for “NYT Cooking,” a popular online and app-based recipe book published by The New York Times Co. The company has also established similar services for other publications such as Men’s Health and Good Housekeeping.

It’s trying to distinguish itself from established subscription-based food services, such as Plated and Blue Apron, by offering meal kits à la carte. It also is partnering with chefs to serve meal kits from their restaurant menus. Locally, the company has partnered with Ford’s Filling Station.

The startup delivers meals in one or two days. It offers more than 300 recipes on its website and is adding about 50 more each month, said Ransford.

“Our customer is somebody who is interested in cooking dinner,” he said. “Our offer is having very high-quality ingredients and saving you from having to go to several different grocery stores.”

Chef’d would like to raise $17.5 million in total for its Series A, said Ransford. There are 14 investors in the round so far, including online grocery delivery service FreshDirect of New York and HomeAway Inc. co-founder Carl Shepherd.

Snapchat Overtakes Twitter

Disappearing-content app Snapchat has reportedly surpassed social media rival Twitter Inc. in its number of daily active users.

More than 150 million users log into Snapchat each day compared to about 140 million users for Twitter, according to sources and an estimate cited by Bloomberg. The Venice startup told investors in February that then it had more than 100 million daily users who spent an average of 25 to 30 minutes on the app each day.

Deep engagement by users and a fast-growing audience come as Snapchat raised another $1.2 billion in capital last month. Investors in the ephemeral app company’s latest round include a number of financial institutions and hedge funds, including General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price, Lone Pine Capital, Glade Brook Capital Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, Coatue Management, and Fidelity Investments, according to TechCrunch. Snapchat has raised more than $2.4 billion since its founding in 2011.

It generated $59 million in revenue last year, according to an investor deck obtained by TechCrunch. The company has set internal sales targets of $250 million to $350 million for 2016, and $500 million to $1 billion for 2017, according to the deck.

Staff reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 232.

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