7 startups compete for spotlight at Tech Trends event

Brain of the Store AI platform takes top prize

As an early-stage retail investor and a member of NRF’s newly formed Innovation Advisory Committee, I’m constantly meeting with the latest technology companies and introducing them to the retail community. And last week, I saw pitches from seven technology companies I can confidently say are positioned to transform retail as we know it.

At Tech Trends in Retail, co-hosted by NRF and RevTech Ventures and held at the Neighborhood Goods flagship store in Plano, Texas, an elite group of startups made their case to an audience of nearly 200 investors and retailers.

At stake was a spot in the Innovation Lab at NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show. The Innovation Lab is an invite-only, exclusive showcase of the most visionary new retail technologies — including hands-on demonstrations and the chance to connect face to face with retailers, vendors and industry experts from almost 100 countries.

The competition was fierce, but one company came out on top. I’d like to give a big congratulations to Brain of the Store!

  • What’s Brain of the Store? It’s a spatial artificial intelligence platform that analyzes store and shopper movement in real time to provide visibility into customer and staff behavior. It also coaches retailers on how to use those insights to directly improve the customer experience.
  • How’s it different? Unlike existing analytic systems, Brain of the Store’s platform leverages a retailer’s existing store infrastructure like security cameras to identify hidden patterns.
  • Who’s on the team? Led by seasoned retail veteran and engineer George Shaw, the impressive technology team brings deep industry experience from RetailNext, Intel, One Kings Lane, Gap and more.
  • What’s next? In the coming year, Brain of the Store will develop its real-time data pipeline and deployment capabilities to better address retailer needs and improve scalability. The company will also explore how it can expand its machine-learning capabilities for retailers, including type of visit (planned versus unplanned) and window display conversion.
  • What does a place in the NRF Innovation Lab mean for the business? “Being among the group of innovative startups that is changing retail provides us with valuable industry exposure in an ideal context,” Shaw says. “The Innovation Lab also provides an ideal platform to share our transformative, scalable solution with a range of bricks-and-mortar retailers who have no visibility into the shopper and staff activity in their fleets.”

In addition to the startup pitch competition, Tech Trends in Retail featured a fireside chat with Neighborhood Goods founder and CEO Matt Alexander. Neighborhood Goods is an immersive space featuring direct-to-consumer brands, food, drink and cultural events. It’s a department store-meets-community center — and the company has already caught the attention of high-profile investors like Forerunner Ventures.

Neighborhood Goods has just announced an $11 million Series A, which prompted questions about where the company will go next. Alexander also addressed how Neighborhood Goods integrates technology into its business model. “I think we in the retail industry are guilty often of not necessarily asking the question of ‘Why would I deploy this technology?’” he said, noting there are very few screens in Neighborhood Goods stores. Rather than incorporate a lot of consumer-facing technology, the company pays close attention to anonymized data around store traffic, dwell time and customer demographics.

We appreciate all who attended Tech Trends in Retail 2019, and extend special thanks to our sponsor American Express. NRF’s Innovation Advisory Committee is always looking for more opportunities to connect the retail and investment communities with early-stage companies that are driving the industry to new heights.

PS: Have you registered for NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show yet? Better get to it!

David Matthews is the co-founder and managing director of RevTech Ventures, and a member of NRF’s Innovation Advisory Committee.

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