The death of retail is greatly exaggerated.
XRC Labs hosted demo day for its fourth cohort, which includes ten innovative startups that are changing the face of retail. Since launching two years ago, the program has backed 36 startups and 70% of the past graduates have gone on to raise additional funds. The accelerator was conceived jointly by Kurt Salmon, now part of Accenture, and the Parsons School of Design to drive positive transformation for retail and consumer goods industries through a design-centric innovation ecosystem. Over the last 14 weeks, the summer cohort enjoyed state of the office space on 5th Avenue in Union Square, world class mentorship, access to capital, direct introductions that have led to partnerships with some of the leading brands, and operational support, all in addition to $100,000 in investment.
“The XRC Cohort Four companies represent the best in class in the key disruptive trends in the retail and consumer goods industry (store to consumer, store as experience, store as platform, store as service, store as plant). From facial recognition technology to on-demand manufacturing, XRC companies are partnering with leading edge retailers and brands to bring about transformation to an industry that needs to keep pace with the rapid changes experienced by their customers in every day life,” said Pano Anthos, Founder and Managing Director of XRC Labs. The program maintains strong focus on diversity among the founders: across the four cohorts, over 60% of founders are female and 40% are minorities. Founders hail from Chile, China, Canada, Lebanon, Israel, Wales, in addition to cities across the US.
“All of our startups either provide solutions that allow brands and retailers to engage with consumers more meaningfully or improve a shopper’s experience,” Leslie Cohen, Executive Director, XRC Labs, explains. Additionally, several of the startups in Cohort Four focus on social impact. “We are proud that three of our ten startups have a focus on social responsibility, from sustainability to designing for underrepresented consumers,” Cohen shared with AlleyWatch.
XRC startups have already partnered with some of the biggest names in retail like Coach, Equinox, Theory, Adidas, Athleta, Reebok, Ralph Lauren, John Varvatos, Anna Sui, and Lord & Taylor. Corporate partners backing the program include Intel, Lowe’s, TJX, GAP, NRF, Shoptalk, and Best Buy. Chris Haynes, a Retail Industry Architect at Intel, remarked, “XRC gives us an ear to the track of upcoming trends and technologies that are transforming consumer experiences in retail and supply chain.”
It’s not just window shopping – these sponsor companies derive direct value from their partnership with the program. “Startups are needed by retailers now more than ever given the unprecedented amount of disruption the industry is facing. Accenture is excited to be part of XRC’s demo day which is critical to helping us connect relevant startups with our clients,” said Jill Standish, head of global retail for Accenture.
Without further ado, let’s learn more about the 10 startups that hit the stage at demo day.
Founded by Steve Zeneri in New York City, Convey is taking on the $18 billion resale industry by activating brands to accept and resell lightly-used clothing for instant store credit. Convey guarantees a resale price so that there is zero risk to the brand. In fact, brands can earn an additional 40% in gross revenue when items are resold. Convey handles the resale of the item and it also takes care of all logistics involved.
In an age where sustainability in fashion is a topic at the forefront, both the brands and consumers can be confident with Convey that the lifecycle of an item is being maximized. Asked about his experience during the program, Zeneri said, “XRC granted me access to world class mentors, top brands, and a group of like-minded individuals that I can now turn to, both inside and outside of the office.”
Founded by Anna Palmer (Harvard Law) and Brian Kalma (Gilt and Zappos), Wondermile serves as a marketing and discovery platform for retailers, connecting consumers to products that are immediately available in their local area. Consumers have a multitude of choices when it comes to buying products and the ability to get a product into a consumer’s hands quickly is an important part of the buying decision. Through Wondermile, brick and mortar retailers can capitalize on a customer’s immediate intent through a seamless integration and the startup also offers last mile delivery as well. Wondermile brings localization and proximity to drive foot traffic to stores to increase sales.
Founded by Anica John (JD) in San Francisco, Kid Things allows you to shop for your kids via text messages. Kid Things provides a tailored concierge service for parents of newborns through preschoolers, helping them to source and select apparel and baby gear straight from their phones. Kid Things then utilizes the data it collects to further personalize recommendations. Transactions are even completed via text on the phone. When asked about her time in the program, John, whose previous startup was backed by YC, explained, ”Joining XRC has been an amazing experience for Kid Things. The industry knowledge in the mentor network has been invaluable.”
Founded by Eduardo Rivara, Mariano Costanzo (OLX), and Kostya Kostyushko (OLX) in Santiago, Chile, Facenote provides facial recognition software for brick and mortar retail locations. In today’s era of personalization, instant customer recognition is critical and Facenote’s solution allows you to do it seamlessly. Its software requires only 8 seconds to train and it analyzes 68+ points per face.
You may be thinking that privacy is a concern with an application like this. Facenote has already addressed this by having all customers opt in by providing a selfie initially, typically combined with a special offer. Retail store associates are now able to provide tailored recommendations at a store level based on their preferences, purchasing behavior, style, and more. The best part of it all – the location only needs a camera; forget all that expensive hardware.
Cherry Pick AI
Founded by Melissa Munnerlyn and Justin Stewart, Cherry Pick AI helps convert social media comments to sales. Based off of user’s comments, Cherry Pick AI’s technology utilizes machine learning to allow brands to deliver personalized content directly to a consumer’s inbox. Creating this immediate and relevant dialogue results in improved conversion. Rather than using a social listening tool to serve a retargeted ad, a brand can now create a compelling offer and tailored message to the consumer in seconds.
Founded by Lucy Jones, a graduate of Parsons and highly-regarded designer (MoMA, Forbes 30 Under 30), FFORA (Fashion For All) is a fashion lifestyle brand that caters to the over 30 million US citizens with physical disabilities. Jones includes individuals with disabilities throughout the entire design and development process, and her first collection features handbags and accessories that combine both function and style for wheelchair users. This segment of the market has $544B in disposable income in the US alone and over $1T globally according to Fifth Quadrant Analytics.
Founded by Mariano deGuzman (Harvard, World Bank), Kevin Sladek (SAY Media, Yale), and founding advisor Theodore Lauzen (UPenn Law and Wharton MBA), Nimbly provides a solution to inefficient knitwear supply chains by providing an on-demand, 3D-knitting platform. There are no order minimums, and Nimbly can produce standard and custom fit knit products in less than an hour, all in the USA. On demand production reduces inventory costs, lead times, and ultimately improves the bottom line. “For those with big ideas to transform the face of fashion and retail, XRC is a place for us disrupters to rapidly go from dreaming to planning, executing and deal closing in a short 14 weeks,” deGuzman said of the program. This is a big idea attacking a big market – $1.3B in the US alone according to IndexBox.
Founded by Abigail Holtz (Google) and Chad Remesch, Affinity’s technology connects retailers more deeply with their customers by creating a dialogue with their shoppers. Consumers take a style quiz and based on this information, retailers are able to deliver cross-platform personalized recommendations via email, SMS, and the web. Customizing the experience results in higher retention and increased spend (5-10%) per shopper. Holtz found XRC an invaluable piece in the journey of building Affinity, explaining, “XRC is deeply connected to the retail industry and has been instrumental in getting Affinity in front of many top retail companies.”
Founded by Takus Lo (Citibank, JP Morgan), Stephen Cheung (UBS AG, JPMorgan Chase), and Alvin Yeung (HSBC), TradeMonday is an AI-powered SaaS platform that allows ecommerce merchants and retailers to easily identity their highest sales margins for multichannel sellers using platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba. This rich market intelligence can be synthesized using a combination of factors including platform and geographies. TradeMonday also assists with strategic offloading strategy in cases of excess inventory and unlicensed seller monitoring as well as new sales opportunity discovery.
Feather & Bone
Founded by Shubhangini Prakash (BNP Paribas, Silicon Valley Bank), Feather & Bone offers healthy, simple, and portable beauty and wellness products. Its first product, Face Gems, is a facial cleaner made with only three natural ingredients, packaged specifically for the consumer on the go. Shaped as a tablet and approximately the size of a quarter, Face Gem contains no parabens or other harmful chemicals. Each order comes with 60 tablets and users just add water to the tablet, forming a paste to be applied to the face as a cleanser. The days of checking in a bag only for the purposes of accommodating your facial regiment are over thanks to Feather & Bone.