Target welcomes new class to accelerator program
The newest batch of start-ups are making their way to Minneapolis for the second annual Target + Techstars retail accelerator program.
After receiving applications from more than 3,000 technology start-ups — 70% of which had a co-founder who is either female or comes from an ethnically diverse background — Target whittled the list down to 10 finalists for this year’s tech accelerator. Companies range from online advertising to rebates to clothing alterations, and hail from Minneapolis to as far as Belgium.
During the next 13 weeks, these 10 companies will be mentored on how to validate their ideas and turn them into concepts that can impact the retail industry, according to Target.
Here are this year’s 10 finalists:
Air Tailor: Based in New York, Air Tailor delivers clothing alterations on demand via text.
Bybe: This company simplifies digital alcohol promotions for retailers by embedding beer, wine and spirits rebates inside retail applications and websites.
Find Me A Shoe: A startup from Target’s India Accelerator Program, Find Me a Shoe is a footwear recommendation app that assists users in finding their best-fitting shoe.
Kokko: This female-led company provides color matching technology that acts as a shopper’s personal, unbiased makeup adviser, according to founder Nina Bhatti.
Local Crate: This Minneapolis-based company features weekly meal kits comprised of recipes and pre-portioned, locally sourced ingredients.
Savitude: A SaaS-based product that resides on retailer websites, Savitude integrated IBM Watson’s visual recognition technology to help users find apparel that best suits their body type.
Shopturn: In effort to improve the returns process, ShopTurn is an on-demand return service that enables shoppers to return items to brick-and-mortar retailers — directly from their home.
SpotCrowd: This New York-based company provides a machine learning-based online security platform that connects existing retail security cameras, making it easier for retailers to catch shoplifters.
StoryXpress: Hailing from India, StoryXpress helps retailers convert images, text and video clips into promotional video ads.
Upsie: This Minneapolis-based company offers an app that enables shoppers to digitally buy warranties for their electronics, accessories and appliances.
While on site at Target headquarters, the startups will have access to a range of more than 120 mentors who will provide feedback, answer questions and offer advice to foster the startups' growth and development. Among those who signed up to advise this year’s group include Target’s CEO Brian Cornell, chief merchandising officer Mark Tritton and chief human resources officer Stephanie Lundquist.
Like last year’s inaugural program, Target’s 2017 accelerator is run in collaboration with experts at Techstars. The session will end with a Demo Day in October. Here, participating startups will present their work to a Twin Cities audience of Target team members and the greater tech community.
“Target’s long history of creativity and invention is rooted in our ability to spot breakthrough ideas that can make Target better for guests,” said Pam Tomczik, VP corporate development. “The goal of the Target + Techstars retail accelerator is to uncover, validate and scale those ideas by helping startups bring new products and experiences to retail.”
Walmart opens massive online center
Walmart is bringing 1,500 jobs to Florida as it continues to expand its e-commerce fulfillment network.
The discounter on Tuesday opened an e-commerce fulfillment center in Davenport, Fla. At 2.2. million sq. ft., the state-of-the-art facility is equivalent in size to about 20 football fields and features 33 miles of shelving and dock doors that can withstand wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. It will house millions of items dedicated to fulfilling online orders and will enable faster shipping directly to customers or to stores for free pickup, Walmart said.
The facility is the sixth addition to the next-generation fulfillment network that Walmart is building to support its e-commerce business. The new 50-acre campus is part of a $450 million investment the retailer previously announced it is making in Florida between 2017 and 2018.
“This campus is just the latest example of Walmart’s commitment to offering customers fast shipping on items they need every day,” said Nate Faust, senior VP, Walmart U.S. e-commerce supply chain. “We’re excited not only about the economic impact our facility has had, and will continue to have, in the community, but also how it will help us empower our customers to shop when and how they want.”
The opening comes at a time of growth in e-commerce for Walmart. In the first quarter of this year, the retailer experienced 63% growth in U.S. e-commerce sales, the majority coming from organic growth in Walmart.com. Since the beginning of the year, Walmart.com has rolled out a number of new features, including free two-day shipping with no membership fees, an extra discount for picking up orders in stores and the ability to easily reorder online or make store purchases within the Walmart app.
Pizza giant launches aggressive hiring spree
Pizza Hut is making big moves to improve the accuracy and reliability of its delivery experience.
The subsidiary of Yum! Brands plans to hire nearly 3,000 new drivers a month through the end of the year. The hiring effort, which will include full and part-time positions, will add approximately 14,000 new drivers across its delivery fleet, according to the company.
To make its drivers more efficient, Pizza Hut developed a "delivery network algorithm.” Designed to improve the accuracy and reliability of Pizza Hut deliveries, the system — which the company dubbed “DNA,” for short — predicts how long a delivery will take by accounting for variable factors such as weather, construction, traffic and other irregularities in the delivery pattern. The new technology will be available in all 6,300 U.S. Pizza Hut restaurant locations.
Further streamlining its delivery services, the pizza giant also re-hauled its online mapping and location services. This effort will improve the chain’s ability to accurately locate customers and identify the most convenient restaurant locations for both faster delivery and carry-out options.
"Our drivers are vitally important to our business," said Artie Starrs, president, Pizza Hut, U.S. "Our plan is to keep drivers busy, efficient, and on the road in an effort to best serve our customers. We are only scratching the surface in the territory of services and flexibility that we can offer to those looking to drive."
The delivery-based initiatives come only months after Yum! announced that is plans to invest $130 million in the struggling pizza chain. These investments will focus on upgrading equipment, improving restaurant technology and boosting advertising spending through 2018, according to CNBC.