The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Adore Me‘s new Adore Me Tech division will build on the direct-to-consumer lingerie and intimates company’s Adore Me Operating Platform.
With nearly 100 technical engineers based out of Adore Me’s Bucharest and New York City offices, Adore Me says it has always considered itself a data-driven technology brand alongside its roots in intimate apparel.
To stay on top of shopping habits and fashion trends, Adore Me introduced a suite of proprietary software and technology used to expand into new markets, new products, and new business models.
Currently, the Adore Me Operating Platform includes an ecosystem of 15 internal tools that fuel solutions for current and short-term business challenges, but the team says it has partnerships developed to expand even further.
Examples of these proprietary tools include a scale-up procurement inventory management system, a product ordering tool and advanced shipping notifications, an algorithm-based try-at-home subscription box, an advanced product creation tool used by Adore Me designers, and a self-serve platform that serves as a home base for influencer campaigns.
“We hypothesize that as the world around us continues to change, we’ll need to change the way we approach our planning, automation, and policies,” said Romain Liot, co-founder and chief operating officer of Adore Me. “The right framework will be our catalyst in business growth, and the Adore Me Operating Platform is a huge step in the right direction.”
Fractal, a global provider of artificial intelligence and advanced analytics solutions to companies in consumer packaged goods, retail, insurance, health care, life sciences, finance and technology, has secured $360 million in funding led by private equity firm TPG Capital Asia.
The transaction includes a combination of primary investment and secondary share purchase from funds advised by private equity firm Apax, who will remain a shareholder in Fractal. The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of 2022, and brings Fractal’s total capital raised to $685 million.
Fractal co-founding CEO Srikanth Velamakanni told TechCrunch in an interview that the company is now valued at north of $1 billion, and said an initial public offering is in the works.
Fractal offers managed services that can turn volumes of text, images, videos, and speech into structured data for analysis. With a workforce of over 3,500 employees spread across 16 locations including the U.S., India, the U.K., Australia, Singapore and Ukraine, Fractal delivers products including enterprise revenue growth management tool Samya.ai, AI-based decision making platform Consumer Hub and conversational AI platform Senseforth.ai. The company also functions as a consultancy to help clients improve AI-driven functions across the enterprise.
The company works with several Fortune 500 clients, with a typical customer generating at least $10 billion in revenue.
According to Fractal’s other co-founder and CEO, Pranay Agrawal, the investment from TPG will accelerate its ability to scale and meet the rising demand for AI-driven insights.
Fractal anticipates revenue in the fiscal year 2022 will reach $250 million, a 37 percent increase from the $165 million with which the company expects to end the period between March 2021 to March 2022.
As part of the transaction, TPG’s Puneet Bhatia and Vivek Mohan will join Fractal’s board of directors. All current directors including Gavin Patterson, Apax partners Rohan Haldea and Shashank Singh, and Gulu Mirchandani will continue to serve on the company’s board. Both TPG and Apax will be minority shareholders in the company.
At CES on Wednesday, Ottonomy unveiled Ottobots, a fleet of fully autonomous indoor/outdoor delivery robots designed for the retail and restaurant industries.
“We are excited to unveil Ottobots at our first CES,” said Ritukar Vijay, CEO of Ottonomy, which recently partnered with CVG Airport and Presto to launch its autonomous delivery robots in North America. “The pandemic has provided Ottobots a catalyst enabling a series of partnerships that allowed us to launch fully autonomous delivery for indoor deliveries, curbside deliveries and last-mile deliveries.”
The company says Ottobot is the world’s first fully autonomous delivery robot at an airport, delivering retail and food items at Cincinnati’s CVG Airport. Ottobot has also partnered with Los Angeles based Crave, for last-mile food delivery for its restaurant customers. In December, Presto, a restaurant automation technologies provider, said its partner restaurant guests will be able to order using Presto’s technology and have the food delivered via Ottonomy’s robots. Ottonomy said its technology is being evaluated by one of the world’s largest retailers.
Ottonomy began running robot delivery pilots during the pandemic in 2020, using those insights to fine-tune the user experience.
To support its North American rollout plan over the next 18 months, Ottonomy formed a strategic partnership with ARO, a global provider in robotic management, operations and support. ARO will support Ottonomy during its rollout, including implementation, daily operations, robotic fleet management, and complete robot lifecycle management. Ottonomy also joined Newlab at Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, where it will run additional pilots.
Seoul Robotics, an AI-powered 3D computer vision company, has introduced Endeavor, the latest iteration of its plug-and-play multi-sensor LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) perception system with applications for retail analytics, security, transportation and more. The company has developed its own proprietary software, which is compatible with nearly all commercially available LiDAR and 3D data sensors.
This deployment kit is equipped with Sensr, the company’s proprietary perception software that uses deep learning to analyze and understand 3D data, as well as LiDAR sensors and a Graphical Processing Unit. Endeavor can connect up to eight 32-beam rotating sensors at one time, capturing a surface area of up to 50,000 square meters.
Endeavor delivers object detection, tracking and classification that can help bring autonomous vehicles to new industries, the company says. The flexible solution can mix and match different makes and models of LiDAR, even 3D sensors from different brands. This versatility allows the system to be configured to a customer’s specific needs, making it an all-purpose solution for a range of applications, including retail analytics, smart cities, intelligent transportation systems, crowd monitoring, security and more.
Seoul Robotics wants to shorten deployment time and make the technology more accessible to industries that often face bandwidth and cost constraints, and as such offers centralized computing hardware with multiple network ports so the system does not require any additional hardware to attach multiple sensors.
The technology doesn’t rely on providing an external power supply to LiDAR sensors, making it potentially more cost-effective for both indoor and outdoor applications.
Endeavor is said to reduce raw sensor data bandwidth by over 95 percent, according to the company, enabling it to be deployed in both rural and urban environments regardless of broadband capabilities.
The Sensr 3D perception software can detect more than 500 objects at one time within a four-centimeter radius, up to 200 meters, and predict up to three seconds in advance. It is equipped with weather-filtering AI, enabling it to detect and track fast-moving, partially obstructed or clustered objects even in heavy snow or rain. The sensor-agnostic perception software is available worldwide and is currently deployed by organizations including Tier 1 original equipment manufacturers and multiple departments of transportation, among many others.
Infiniq unveiled new autonomous driving and retail innovation technology at CES 2022, including a new data collection vehicle, an AI-based data service platform, a self-checkout solution and even an “AI store.”
The data collection vehicle is equipped with multi-sensors, including vision cameras, LiDAR and infrared/thermal imaging to collect high-quality data for autonomous driving, using sensor fusion technology to process the data and increase accuracy.
AI-based data service platform MyCrowd is designed to builds high-quality datasets, applying AI technology to data processes, providing one-stop services for 2D/3D data mapping, personal information anonymization, 3D annotation and data quality verification.
At the event, Infiniq also debuted its data anonymization service, called Wellid, which processes visual data so it cannot be recognized. Sensitive personal information such as faces and number plates can be anonymized, which is crucial to comply for brands needing to comply with global privacy regulations such as GDPR, the AI Act, CCPA, and CPRA.
The self-checkout solution and CES 2022 Innovation Award winner AI Counter scans products without barcodes or consistent shapes (such as bread, fruits and vegetables) and even completes calculations through its own app. AI Counter is optimized for retail services, with Infiniq saying it is currently attracting attention from global retailers for its possibilities, including 24-hour stores, unmanned stores and self-checkout counters.
The AI store, Mealy, is a retail concept that can be operated unmanned 24/7, using vision AI technology, according to Infiniq. During CES 2022, attendees could walk through an interactive grocery store experience on the floor while AI Counter tallied up their purchases and an abnormal behavior detection system monitored the behavior of shoppers.
Supply chain management
Logility, a supply chain visibility and management platform, has partnered with Planalytics to better identify, quantify and apply weather-driven demand calculations to business planning and forecasting.
The partnership helps Logility customers layer in Planalytics’ predictive demand metrics to better understand impacts across their customer base and proactively capitalize on sales opportunities created by favorable weather while mitigating risks when demand is negatively impacted.
Logility customers can leverage Planalytics weather-driven demand analytics to factor in the weather’s influence on top line revenue and product/category sales across specific time periods and locations. This provides businesses with demand analytics to plan and optimize operations more effectively, and ideally keeping organizations one step ahead of shifting supply and demand trends.
Planalytics will integrate directly into the Logility Digital Supply Chain Platform, ultimately increasing forecast accuracy, optimizing inventories and reducing lost sales.
Atmosphere, a platform that delivers streaming TV entertainment for businesses, has announced an $80 million Series C funding round, led by Sageview Capital with participation from existing investors, Valor Equity Partners and S3 Ventures, as well as a $20 million debt facility provided by Bridge Bank.
In total, the company has now raised over $140 million. The new funding will be used to gain additional distribution scale worldwide, while continuing to enhance and build the company’s operations across content, marketing and ad sales.
Atmosphere’s announcement comes as the company says it doubled its customer footprint over the past year, streaming more than 250,000 hours per day in aggregate and reaching more than 20 million unique viewers each month.
Currently, the company’s free ad-supported streaming platform provides short-form, audio-optional programming across 64 channels to more than 18,000 restaurants, retailers, bars, gyms, doctor offices and other venues worldwide. Through dynamic contextual, geographic and demographic targeting, Atmosphere aims to help businesses reach the right audience when they are most open to an advertiser’s message, juxtaposed to premium, curated and time-tested entertainment content.
Atmosphere provides hardware and programming to businesses for a one-time $99 activation fee, then monetizes content through its proprietary advertising platform and paid digital signage program which allow venues to run their own advertising between content. The company’s vertically integrated distribution model is designed to enable the brand to own the customer relationship, device, content channels, product delivery and ad tech.
Optimized for viewing in public spaces, Atmosphere’s content encompasses viral video compilations, extreme sports, lifestyle, art, ambient nature and entertainment. The content includes both owned-and-operated channels such as Chive TV, Happy TV, and Atmosphere News, as well as those created with partners including Red Bull, X Games and America’s Funniest Videos.
As part of this latest round, Dean Nelson, senior partner at Sageview, will join the company’s board of directors and Roberto Avila, principal at Sageview, will join as a board observer.
Ampla Technologies, a provider of tech-enabled financing solutions for emerging consumer brands, has closed a $40 million Series A funding round, co-led by VMG Partners and Forerunner Ventures, with participation from existing investor Core Innovation Capital.
This announcement brings the company’s total funding to $380 million in equity and debt financing, which will enable Ampla to further reach small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) in the consumer brands space, strategically increasing its talent pipeline and enabling the rollout of new products. Additionally, the company plans to increase its headcount by 100 percent over the next three to six months, from 35 to 70 employees.
And Anthony Santomo, founder and CEO of Ampla, believes that traditional banks are not set up to service today’s entrepreneurs, in that they can often require cumbersome paper-based underwriting and reporting, as well as years of business history, personal guarantees, and upside in the form of warrants. Additionally, he said that although some solutions structure merchant cash advances (MCAs) that offer quick access to capital, they often result in annualized percentage rates (APRs) that are two to four times that of a credit card, unbeknownst to the business taking the financing option.
Ampla aims to level the playing field and provide a viable capital solution for the modern commerce brand by providing transparent interest rates, larger credit limits and non-dilutive capital.
This partnership with VMG Partners and Forerunner Ventures will further Ampla’s mission of providing an array of financial solutions to SMBs, the company said.
Founded in 2019, nearly 30 percent of Ampla’s customer base is made up of companies founded by people of color. Ampla also frequently partners with female-founded companies, which account for more than 40 percent of its customer base.
Similarly, for the last decade, Forerunner Ventures built its name around expertise in e-commerce, with successful investments in top DTC companies like Glossier, Warby Parker and Hims and wholesale marketplace Faire. More recently, Forerunner Ventures uses its expertise in consumer-focused businesses to push into B2B opportunities.
CommentSold, a digital commerce solution helping SMBs get started with live and social selling, has acquired marketing message customization and scheduling tool Vizzlie. Merchants on the CommentSold platform will now be able to personalize and schedule posts on Facebook and Instagram to build deeper relationships with their customers and alert them about upcoming live-selling sessions, new product arrivals, promotions and more.
The company also announced that Vizzlie CEO Ryan Barnard will join CommentSold in a senior leadership position. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Vizzlie enables online retailers to easily customize and schedule posts and comments for their Facebook Groups and Pages and Instagram feeds. The tool’s template system helps merchants make text replacements for individualized posts and to follow up with customers via personalized emails or text messages, all of which can be created and scheduled ahead of time. Retailers can also use Vizzlie to collaborate and share graphics and templates with other members of their own team.
CommentSold enables live and social selling for online retailers across social media networks, merchants’ own websites and branded mobile apps that are powered by the platform provider. The platform helps retailers automate business functions such as invoicing, managing inventory, fulfilling orders and marketing, so they can focus on growing their businesses and customer relationships.
The company was named for “comment selling,” which refers to retailers posting on social networks and enabling shoppers to purchase items in real time by typing “sold” in the comments of a post. Led by entrepreneur Brandon Kruse and based in Huntsville, Ala., CommentSold currently powers e-commerce operations for more than 7,000 companies.
Vizzlie fits right in, providing its users with an on-ramp to start building an online presence. Thus far, more than 100,000 users have partnered with the company to communicate with millions of customers.
Merkle, a technology-enabled, data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company, unveiled two new app-free, contactless shopping products at CES 2022, with the debut of the in-store Scan & Know and on-delivery UnboxIt experiences.
Scan & Know helps shoppers learn more in store via amplified assistance and product recognition technology. Meanwhile, UnboxIt is a smart packaging content platform that is built to connect the brand with the shopper once they open their package.
The digital patent-pending products will be the newest additions to ShopNXT, Merkle’s collection of retail innovation products focused on helping brands create intelligent shopping experiences, increasing loyalty and sales
Scan & Know and UnboxIt are debuting during the event’s “Shop But Don’t Touch” panel discussion featuring Val Vacante, director of strategy, product innovation at Merkle. The session will explore how contactless technology and experiences are helping retailers and consumers establish a sense of safety around in-person shopping.
Shoppers using Scan & Know can scan any item in the store straight from their mobile device to instantly learn more about product details and prices, add items to wish lists and registries, and have products shipped direct to their door. With no apps, queuing, or additional hardware, Scan & Know can integrate into existing websites, customer profiles and loyalty programs, as well as with major e-commerce platforms such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce and Shopify.
UnboxIt allows retail brands to connect with shoppers upon arrival, increasing product registration, community engagement and customer satisfaction. Using their mobile device, consumers are quickly connected to instructions, content and other customer support programs via a shopper-friendly QR code on the outside of their package. The drag-and-drop, codeless technology enables retailers to update content in seconds, no matter when the product is sold or shipped.
Livepeer, a decentralized video transcoding network built on the Ethereum blockchain, raised a $20 million Series B-1 funding round. The new investors in this round include Alan Howard and Tiger Global, with participation from existing investors.
Coming five months after Livepeer’s Series B round, the raise underscores Livepeer’s continued growth, according to CEO Doug Petkanics, who says the company has seen strong organic growth in demand for transcoding, as well as growing awareness of the reliability, value and efficiency of Web3 infrastructure.
Livepeer plans to use the funds to capture more opportunities within the livestreaming infrastructure, an area that’s rapidly expanding due to the popularity of creator-driven streams, esports and live shopping.
In October, Livepeer expanded its video streaming offerings with the acquisition of MistServer, a content delivery technology designed to simplify the complexities of video streaming. The expanded Livepeer offerings enable developers to build on a cost-effective infrastructure and scale streaming applications across entertainment, events, gaming and e-commerce.
The MistServer acquisition aligns with Livepeer’s R&D work in AI-based smart video, peer-to-peer content delivery, and AI-enhanced content moderation, song detection and video fingerprinting. These expanded features will make the Livepeer platform even more powerful for developers, who benefit from the breadth of offerings on Livepeer’s roadmap into 2022 and beyond.
In July, Livepeer closed its $20M Series B. DCG led the round with participation from previous investor Northzone, as well as Coinbase Ventures, CoinFund, Mike Dudas’ 6th Man Ventures and Warberg Serres. Livepeer has raised a total of $48 million to date and now has 32 employees.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.