June 7 of 2021

Why We Invested in Grabango: A new era of convenience @ existing convenience stores

San Francisco, California
Brian Walsh

A new definition of “convenience” has entered the retail market around the world. Lines, scanning and paper receipts are all quickly becoming a thing of the past. In its place is a seamless “grab-and-go” experience that makes the old way feel exceptionally inconvenient.

As the convenience retail sector races to bring the new elements of “convenience” to market, there are two exceptionally difficult challenges:

  1. Achieving high accuracy product identification; and
  2. Achieving cost-effectiveness for existing stores (retrofit) vs. new stores

The technology required to offer a seamless grab-and-go experience typically includes state-of-the-art computer vision and machine learning capabilities along with process architectures that enable super high accuracy in identifying products with sub-optimal and continually changing external conditions such as lighting, number of simultaneous shoppers, etc. It is a daunting endeavor of managing continual change and a high degree of complexity while achieving very high and consistent product identification accuracy.

For new stores that can be purpose-built and have the advantage of making trade offs during the construction phase, sensors, such as pressure or other sensors on the shelves, can be used to help the computer vision and machine learning algorithms to perform better. Even with this option of leveraging more sensors, the technical challenge is formidable.

But, for the massive footprint of existing stores where the new “grab-and-go” experience needs to be implemented without any significant changes to the store, including the use of shelf sensors, the technical challenge gets, very simply: crazy difficult.

To bring the grab-and-go experience to existing stores, the constraints are significantly different from new stores, including:

  1. Low tech cost: New stores can offset high technology costs in other areas. That’s not the case with existing stores.
  2. Quick and simple installationNew stores can absorb disruption because it does not yet have customers. That’s not the case with existing stores.
  3. Adapt to the routinely changing products: New stores can adopt simpler, more controlled, planograms to help the tech work. That’s not the case with existing stores.
  4. Enhance all customers’ experienceNew stores can cater to specific customers, such as requiring smartphones to enter via gates. That’s not the case with existing stores.

For these reasons, the retrofit grab and go solution is a significant challenge and this is why WIND Ventures is so excited to participate in Grabango’s Series B financing. Grabango has historically flown under the radar compared to many of its competitors, but the team and what they have accomplished to meet this retrofit store challenge is really astounding and exciting.

With this Series B investment, Grabango will continue to scale across many leading brands and continue to perfect its very thoughtfully developed technology and customer value proposition. The timing is perfect. With solutions like Grabango, we can predict that this new definition for “convenience” will be here sooner than anyone thinks.

WIND Ventures will also be supporting the company’s global expansion into new markets, including Latin America.