133 Startups Disrupting Brick-and-Mortar Retail


CB Insights:

Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools – Startups that leverage augmented or virtual reality to aid retailers in layout of stores and the design of promotional displays. InContext Solutions, which has worked with clients like Walmart, Nestle, and Kellogg’s, lets brands visualize marketing concepts and test new designs on shoppers in virtual reality to gauge their efficacy before launch. Augment aims to help brands, such as General Mills, L’Oreal, and Coca-Cola, pitch their vending machines, kiosks, or merchandise displays to retailers by showing how they would look in augmented/virtual reality.

Beacon-Based Analytics and Marketing – Companies that provide hardware and software to help stores track visitors. Many focus on data collection for internal analytics, such as merchandise tracking, adjusting staffing levels, monitoring promotions, etc. Euclid Analytics, for example, tracks visitors to monitor the impact of promotions on driving store visits and to better understand when people visit stores and specific aisles. Others focus on proximity marketing to shoppers while in or near stores. For example, Estimote provides small, colorful beacons that send push notifications to users’ phones about products or promotions when it senses someone near. Kimetric’s sensors aim to visually identify shoppers’ age, gender, eye focus, and clothing style to present them with personalized marketing. This category includes the most well-funded company in the graphic: RetailNext, with $189M in funding, offers traffic sensors, customer route mapping, mobile marketing, and more.

Connected Shopping Carts – Startups that outfit shopping carts with digital features. For example, Gatekeeper and Carttronics outfit shopping carts with RFID tags to track the carts and prevent theft.

Customer Loyalty – Reward and loyalty platforms for retailers. Thirdshelf provides white-label loyalty program software, while Dealyze installs tablets by the cash register to encourage loyalty program signup and let customers track their rewards. LevelUp lets customers pay by phone and earn rewards.

Digital In-Store Assistants – Fellow Robots and Simbe Robotics launched robots that can act as store associates, checking store shelves and guiding customers throughout the store. Fellow Robots recently launched its Navii robot in 11 Lowe’s stores in California, while Simbe has tested its Tally robot in Target. Satisfi, on the other hand, provides a mobile app leveraging artificial intelligence to help shoppers in-store; it recently piloted its app in conjunction with IBM Watson in Macy’s.

Digital Signage – Companies that provide stores with connected, digital signs to advertise products inside stores, provide shoppers with product information, or let stores adjust product pricing in real-time. For example, Blue Bite recently raised its $2.5M in funding to create product tags enriched with QR codes and NFC technology.

Employee Tools – A variety of messaging tools and planning platforms for retail store staff. Branch, for example, which graduated from Techstars in June, offers internal messaging networks for retail employees. Salesfloor provides software that helps associates maintain consistent relationships with customers across store and online channels.

Guest Wi-Fi – Startups that enable free in-store Wi-Fi for retailers. The companies generally use the Wi-Fi to track shoppers and provide stores with customer analytics. Zenreach, for example, has raised $50M from investors including First Round Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, and 8VC.

Indoor mapping – These startups take advantage of connected devices to create detailed indoor maps of stores and malls. Retailers leverage the apps to help users find the right items and direct them to promotions.

In-Store Point-of-Sale Financing – Startups that let shoppers instantly apply for and receive loans or installment plans while shopping in-store. Blispay, with $14M in funding from investors including NEA, lets users apply for financing on their phones while in-store.

Interactive Aisle Displays – Startups producing interactive digital displays and kiosks – often in tablet form – to attract shoppers within store aisles. Aila, for example, mounts iPads in aisles to offer price scanning, product information, etc., while Ksubaka provides “playSpot” kiosks with gamification features on tablets advertising products. Ksubaka works with brands such as Coca-Cola, Nescafe, Dove, Colgate, and Kellogg’s in stores throughout Asia.

Inventory Management – Startups that help stores track inventory and optimize merchandising, generally using cloud-based software. Some, such as Celect and Blue Yonder, also use artificial intelligence to provide predictive merchandising analytics.

Music Management – Startups that help stores manage their in-store music playlists.

Omnichannel Analytics – Platforms integrating in-store and e-commerce analytics for a more seamless shopper experience. For example, ShoppinPal helps retailers digitize their store and payment management and integrate inventory across brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels. OneView Commerce aims to better engage multi-channel shoppers.

Payment Platforms – Software that handles payments for consumers at retailers. Since payment platforms is a massive category, we restricted inclusion to companies that only process payments and focus on retail stores.

Point-of-Sale Reviews and Marketing – Startups that provide digital add-ons to the checkout process for customers in-stores. TruRating and Wyzerr solicit satisfaction ratings from shoppers at the checkout counter. MessageWrap (Handstand Innovations) adds visual advertising to checkout conveyor belts at stores like Target and Safeway. FlexReceipts and Ecrebo can add personalized offers and incentives to shoppers’ receipts, aiming to attract return visits.

Smart dressing rooms – Oak Labs created an interactive, touchscreen mirror that lets shoppers request new items, adjust fitting room lighting, and see outfit recommendations. The mirror can sense which products the shopper brought into the room using RFID technology, and then present related products, save the items to shoppers’ online accounts, or display related items. Oak has worked with Polo Ralph Lauren.

Store Management Software – Broad platforms that help retailers manage merchandise, process payments, manage employees, etc., allowing for the handling of many of the operations of the store from one application. These startups include some of the most well-funded in the category, including Revel with $129M, Lightspeed POS with $126M, and Shopkeep POS with $97M.

Visual Shelf Monitoring – Startups that help consumer packaged goods brands monitor the presentation of their merchandise on store shelves and track the results of in-store promotions and visual displays. Some rely on in-store cameras and artificial intelligence features, while others leverage crowdsourced intelligence from shoppers and store associates.

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Smart Cars: The Next 10 Years


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Artificial Intelligence: Market Overview


Venture Scanner:

Deep Learning/Machine Learning (General): Companies that build computer algorithms that operate based on their learnings from existing data. Examples include predictive data models and software platforms that analyze behavioral data.

Deep Learning/Machine Learning (Applications): Companies that utilize computer algorithms that operate based on existing data in vertically specific use cases. Examples include using machine learning technology to detect banking fraud or to identify the top retail leads.

Natural Language Processing (General): Companies that build algorithms that process human language input and convert it into understandable representations. Examples include automated narrative generation and mining text into data.

Natural Language Processing (Speech Recognition): Companies that process sound clips of human speech, identify the exact words, and derive meaning from them. Examples include software that detects voice commands and translates them into actionable data.

Computer Vision/Image Recognition (General): Companies that build technology that process and analyze images to derive information and recognize objects from them. Examples include visual search platforms and image tagging APIs for developers.

Computer Vision/Image Recognition (Applications): Companies that utilize technology that process images in vertically specific use cases. Examples include software that recognizes faces or enables one to search for a retail item by taking a picture.

Gesture Control: Companies that enable one to interact and communicate with computers through their gestures. Examples include software that enables one to control video game avatars through body motion, or to operate computers and television through hand gestures alone.

Virtual Personal Assistants: Software agents that perform everyday tasks and services for an individual based on feedback and commands. Examples include customer service agents on websites and personal assistant apps that help one with managing calendar events, etc.

Smart Robots: Robots that can learn from their experience and act autonomously based on the conditions of their environment. Examples include home robots that could react to people’s emotions in their interactions and retail robots that help customers find items in stores.

Recommendation Engines and Collaborative Filtering: Software that predicts the preferences and interests of users for items such as movies or restaurants, and delivers personalized recommendations to them. Examples include music recommendation apps and restaurant recommendation websites that deliver their recommendations based on one’s past selections.

Context Aware Computing: Software that automatically becomes aware of its environment and its context of use, such as location, orientation, lighting and adapts its behavior accordingly. Examples include apps that light up when detecting darkness in the environment.

Speech to Speech Translation: Software which recognizes and translates human speech in one language into another language automatically and instantly. Examples include software that translates video chats and webinars into multiple languages automatically and in real-time.

Video Automatic Content Recognition: Software that compares a sampling of video content with a source content file to identify the content through its unique characteristics. Examples include software that detects copyrighted material in user-uploaded videos by comparing them against copyrighted material.




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The Rise of Robots: Market Overview


CB Insights:

  • Social: Startups here are building consumer-focused companion and entertainment robots. The most well-funded startup on this list is Anki, with $157M in equity funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Two Sigma Ventures, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. China-based humanoid robotics startup UBTECH raised a $100M Series B round in Q3’16 and joined the Unicorn Club with a $1B valuation. More recently, UK-based Olly, which focused on building a personal, interactive robot, raised $10M in Series A funding from Alliance Capital Ventures and China-based Lightning Capital. Social robots differ from service robots (listed below), which perform household chores.
  • Bionics/Rehab: Startups in this sector include those building exoskeletons, a type of body armor that aids in movement, as well as aiding patients with rehabilitation services. One of the more well-funded companies is California-based AlterG, which has raised over $35M in equity funding so far from investors including Oxford Finance, Silicon Valley Bank, and Versant Ventures, and has developed a wearable bionic leg.
  • Surgical: This category includes startups building robotics surgery-assistance technology. Auris Surgical Robots is one of the most well-funded robotics companies, having raised over $230M in growth equity from investors including Lux Capital, Highland Capital Partners, and Mithril Capital Management. This year, they also made a public-to-private acquisition of Hansen Medical, a medical robotics startup that was previously funded by VCs including Skyline Ventures, Prospect Venture Partners, and De Novo Ventures.
  • Industrial: Our industrial robotics category includes manufacturing, warehouse, packaging, sorting, inspection, and quality testing robotics. Industrial robotics is the most crowded category, as we mentioned in our market map of 80+ robotics startups. Pittsburgh-based Seegrid raised a $14M round this year, followed by $12M corporate minority round from Pittsburgh-based supermarket Giant Eagle. Other startups that raised equity funds this year include Japan-based Life Robotics and China-based Quotient Kinematics Machine.
  • Drones/UAVs: This category includes drones for inspection and delivery. Some of the most well-funded drone startups are 3D Robotics, which built the site scanning drone Solo for site inspections, and China-based DJI Innovations, which caters to industries including agriculture and filmmaking.
  • Education: Robots in this category are focused on teaching children how to code. California-based Wonder Workshop raised $20M in Series B in Q3’16 from VCs including CRV, Learn Capital, and Madrona Venture Group. With $40M in equity funding, it is the most well-funded educational robotics startup, with backing from VCs from China (TCL Capital) and Hong Kong (Bright Success Capital) as well.
  • Service (Consumer): Startups here include those developing consumer-focused service robots that perform household chores like cleaning and cooking. It also includes China-based personal transportation robot Ninebot (which acquired US-based Segway), and robotic infant seat maker 4Moms (which raised over $40M in Series F in Q3’14 from investors including Bain Capital Ventures and Castanea Partners).
  • Service (Medical): This category includes hospital cleaning robot Xenex Disinfection Services, and Pennsylvania-based Aethon, which has developed a transportation robot for hospitals.
  • Service (Other): This category includes Intel Capital-backed Savioke, which has developed a service robot for the hospitality industry; robotic restaurant Spyce Kitchen, which raised $2.6M this year from Rough Draft Ventures; and ground delivery robot Marble, which was seed-funded this year by Eclipse Ventures, Lemnos Labs and Promus Ventures.
  • Security: Rapyuta Robotics is building a “multi-robotic system” with machines that can interact with each other to prevent crime. It is backed by corporate venture capital group Fuji Startup Ventures in Japan, and recently raised $10M in Series A from Japan-based asset management firm SBI Investment. Another startup, California-based Knightscope, raised $5M in Series B funding in Q4’15.
  • VC-backed exits: This category only includes 1st exits since 2012. Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012. The same year, the SoftBank Group acquired a majority stake in France’s Aldebaran Robotics. A detailed timeline of major robotics M&A can be found here.
  • Most active VCs: The most active VC in robotics since 2012 has been High-Tech Gruenderfonds. The Germany-based VC has backed more than 5 unique companies during this period, including rehabilitation robot Reactive Robotics and industrial robots REVOBOTIK and Bionic Robotics. Eclipse Ventures is the 2nd most active VC on our list, having backed companies like Modbot, Rise Robotics, and Clearpath Robotics.

See also

How to build a robot that “sees” with $100 and TensorFlow

Architecture of the object-recognizing robot. Image courtesy of Lukas Biewald.

Architecture of the object-recognizing robot. Image courtesy of Lukas Biewald.

This is the first Adidas shoe made almost entirely by robots



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Disrupting Hotels: Airbnb by the Numbers


Source: Raconteur

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Forrester’s Top Emerging Technologies To Watch: 2017-2021



As a refresh to my 2014 blog and report, here are the next 15 emerging technologies Forrester thinks you need to follow closely. We organize this year’s list into three groups — systems of engagement technologies will help you become customer-led, systems of insight technologies will help you become insights-driven, and supporting technologies will help you become fast and connected.

Why these 15? You might have noticed a few glaring omissions. Certainly blockchain has garnered a lot of attention; and 3D printing is on most of our competitors’ lists. The answer goes back to being customer led, insights driven, fast, and connected. Those of you that follow our research will recognize these as the four principles of customer obsessed operations. The technologies we selected will have the biggest impact on your ability to win, serve and retain customers whose expectations of service through technology are  only going up. Furthermore, our list focuses on those technologies that will have the biggest business impact in the next five years. We think blockchain’s big impact outside of financial services, for example, is further out so it didn’t make our list, even though it is important. Maybe by 2018, when I update our list next.

Since I don’t have room here for details about all of our technologies, I’ll focus on five that we think have the potential to change the world. That’s ⅓ of our list by the way – which means a lot of change is coming; it’s time to make your technology bets.

  • IoT software and solutions bring customer engagement potential within reach. Theses software platforms and solutions act as a bridge between highly specialized sensor, actuator, compute, and networking technology for real-world objects and related business software. This technology gives firms visibility into and control of customer and operational realities. By 2021, technology for specific use cases will be mature, but protocol diversity, immature standards and the need for organizational changes will still stymie or delay many firms. …
  • Intelligent agents coupled with AI/cogntive technologies will automate engagement and solve tasks. Intelligent agents represent a set of AI-powered solutions that understand users’ behavior and are discerning enough to interpret needs and make decisions on  their behalf. By 2021, we think that automation, supported by intelligent software agents drivng by an evolution in AI and cogntive technology will have eliminated an net 6% of US jobs. But the loss won’t be uniform. There will be an 11% loss of jobs that are vulnerable and a 5% creation of jobs in industries that stand to benefit. …
  • Augmented reality overlays digital information and experiences on the physical world using combinations of cameras and displays. While we cover both VR and AR, we find that while a lot of attention has been placed on VR, AR has more play, for enteprises in the short term and eventually for consumers as well. By 2021, we will be fully into a transition period between separated and tightly blended physical and digital experiences in our work and lives. …
  • Hybrid wireless technology will eventually ereate connected cverything. Hybrid wireless technologies are the interfaces and software that allow devices to simultaneously leverage and translate between two or more different wireless providers, protocols, and frequency bands, such as light, radio, Wi-Fi, cellular, and Sigfox. By 2021, a virtual network infrastructure will emerge to weave together wireless technologies that globally connect IoT and customer engagement platforms. 
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48 Startups Disrupting the Warehouse


CB Insights:

  • Warehouse & inventory management software – These companies offer software-as-a-service platforms, generally cloud-based, for warehouse management and inventory tracking functions. Temando leads with $50M in funding, and works with Asos, Trademe, Krispy Kreme, and more. UK-based Peoplevox ($6M in funding) pairs its SaaS platform with warehouse-optimization consultants.
  • Warehouse robots – Automated and remotely controlled robots for order picking and inventory management. Seegrid, with $63M in funding, makes automated vision-guided vehicles for companies like BMW, Volvo, Walgreens, 3M, Honeywell, and the USPS.
  • Worker wearables – GetVU, Atheer, and XOEye produce augmented reality smart glasses to aid warehouse workers, and Kinetic makes wearables that attach to workers’ belts to analyze movements and help prevent injuries.
  • Packing – QubeVu uses 3D-dimensioning technology to optimize packaging, and GrabItoffers patented electroadhesion technology that helps improve grasping technology for item sorting, handling, and packing.
  • Indoor asset tracking – These companies offer software, bar code readers, and RFID tags, focusing on improving the tracking of goods and equipment in warehouses.
  • Outsourced warehousing & fulfillment – Startups like Delhivery ($125M in funding) and Ecom Express ($149M in funding) handle fulfillment processes for e-commerce companies that may not have their own warehouse space. These startups manage the warehousing of goods, as well as order shipments.
  • On-demand warehouse space – Flexe ($20.6M in funding) offers an online marketplace connecting retailers that need warehouse space with warehouses that have extra capacity.


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