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Grabango, a cashierless technology startup founded by Pandora’s Will Glaser, today announced the launch of a “no-line” payment experience at a Giant Eagle supermarket in Pittsburgh. The GetGo store in Fox Chapel will be the first to launch with Grabango when it comes online starting Tuesday, and the companies say it will be able to process up to millions of transactions at once.
Platforms like Amazon Go piqued public interest in contactless brick-and-mortar payments, but the pandemic is accelerating adoption as retailers scramble to deliver touchless experiences. Earlier this month, rival Standard Cognition inked a deal with Circle K on a cashless convenience store in Phoenix, Arizona. And facial recognition terminals like PopID, which don’t require physically touching buttons, are gaining traction among businesses looking to eliminate spread vectors.
Grabango announced it has raised an additional $14.7 million in venture capital amidst this surge in interest. The round brings the company’s total raised to date to $32 million following a $12 million round in July 2019 that was led by Propel Venture Partners, with participation from Ridge Ventures, Abstract Ventures, Commerce Ventures, and Founders Fund.
Grabango’s product, which the company claims doesn’t use facial recognition or deliver data to third parties, is highly scalable. It’s designed to work in stores with more than 100,000 square feet of floor space and can track hundreds of shoppers at once. (Current store deployments range from 2,000 to 50,000 square feet.) Moreover, the system can keep tabs on “hundreds of thousands” of SKUs to inventory stock, and it integrates with existing point-of-sale systems and store operations platforms.
Glaser says the goal is high fault tolerance, which is why the bulk of processing is performed on-premises by a dedicated PC that doesn’t require an internet connection. Grabango’s proprietary item-tracking cameras are both lightweight and inexpensive to manufacture, reducing the cost of install. Stores benefit from greater vision coverage, which helps Grabango generate three-dimensional floor plans and reduce the chance a purchase isn’t recognized as the result of occlusion.
“Grabango employs … proprietary hardware that visually fades into the store’s ceiling. Other providers use off-the-shelf camera technology that results in a much less natural [and less] comfortable shopping environment,” chief business officer Andrew Radlow told VentureBeat via email. “The size of the store does not impact the system’s accuracy, as the system scales linearly. We designed the Grabango system to be truly dynamic and able to cover the entire shopper space, irrespective of how large.”
The system’s machine learning algorithms can recognize objects with a claimed 99.9% accuracy. And unlike Amazon Go, which requires customers to download an app and log into an account before they begin picking things off of shelves, Grabango-powered stores retain their existing cashier setups. Shoppers can check out conventionally with cash, a credit card, a debit card, or SNAP benefits, or they can opt into a cashierless experience with Grabango’s app. In that case, checkout is automatic — customers can walk out by scanning a QR Code to confirm that they’ve finished shopping.
“We are unaware that any other technology competitor has an end-to-end redundant system architecture,” Radlow said. “In the event of an error, customers can easily request a refund from the receipt page on the Grabango app. Customers identify the item in their receipt, select a reason code for requesting the refund, and Grabango customer support will process the request.”
Grabango is currently targeting the U.S., where Glaser said the company’s focus will remain for the foreseeable future. The optimistic plan is to capture the top 30 grocers and top 10 convenience store chains in the U.S. as clients in the coming years. To do so, Grabango has to go head to head with a bevy of new startups, including Zippin and Trigo Vision. It’s well on its way — since Grabango’s incorporation five years ago, the startup has amassed 29 patents related to checkout-free technologies and signed on clients it claims together serve over 600 million shoppers per year.
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