First Look: Walmart’s tech incubator has a sleek, industrial feel
Walmart upped the cool factor when designing its first-ever technology incubator.
The lab, called Walmart Tech ATX , is located in a renovated warehouse in Austin, Texas, considered a hotbed of tech talent. The building, houses tech professionals from both Walmart and Microsoft, with the team focused heavily on the development of emerging predictive technologies.
The building carries the sleek, industrial feel of its former warehouse design, the original location of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater. The space also features a mural by local artist Mike “Truth” Johnston. The mural design blends the heritage of both Walmart and the city of Austin, with iconic images like Sam Walton’s red pickup truck, the Austin skyline and the Alamo Drafthouse.
The space is decorated with an eclectic color palette and furniture from Walmart’s online store as well as its online brands, Hayneedle and Jet.com. The office features high desks and chairs, as well as pockets of seating space for different teams, creating a warm, comfortable environment resembling a living room rather than a traditional office.
The designer behind the vision is Katey Barron, director, IT program management at Walmart Technology. Barron joined the discount giant in 2012, as a temporary worker in Walmart’s then-new Innovation Lab. (This concept has since evolved into Walmart’s tech incubator Store No. 8.) At the time, she was responsible for company leadership tours of the futuristic technologies that could help empower associates and make different areas of the business more efficient, like machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Over time, Barron realized she had an interest in the startups that were presenting their technologies to Walmart, experience that earned her a position helping to renovate Walmart’s David Glass Technology Center, and design Exchange, a co-working space for select startups in Bentonville, as well as Walmart Tech ATX.
“My passion for design comes from wanting to serve startups and give them what they need – and really, I’ve just always loved furniture,” Barron said. “At Walmart Tech, these associates genuinely enjoy being around each other and diving into the work they do. We wanted to make it a space they could be comfortable in, proud of and enjoy coming to work every day.”
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