- The third year of the Target + Techstars retail accelerator program got started this week at Target's headquarters in Minneapolis, according to a post on the retailer’s blog.
- The 13-week training and mentorship program gives 10 retail-specific startups the opportunity to meet with over 100 mentors, including 50 from the ranks of Target team members, such as CEO Brian Cornell and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Minsok Pak.
- The 10 companies in this year’s Target +Techstarclass are: Clickivated, which allows users to interact with products in videos; Cooklist, which provides recipes and automatic grocery shopping; Flashfood, which aims to reduce food waste; ProcessBolt, which innovates vendor risk assessments; Runerra, which creates a hyperlocal, peer-to-peer way to consolidate errands; Satisfi Labs, which creates AI solutions for customer communications; Sozie, which connects consumers with similar body shapes and style preferences via an app; Staffless, which uses unstaffed technology to create a members-only lounge with a retail component; To the Market, which connects businesses and consumers to ethically-made premium products created by vulnerable communities sourced globally; and Type W, which automates the collection of sales and inventory data.
At some point during their journeys to size, significance and technical sophistication, large retailers have learned they need to cultivate the development of small supply and service companies. Target’s current efforts got underway about three years ago when the retailer formed a partnership with Techstars, a company that specializes in running tech startup accelerator programs that build networks of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors.
While some might see it as a "nice" thing to do, the competitive stakes are exceedingly high for Target. Walmart is advancing in tech on many fronts, including robots, mobile upgrades, automation and e-commerce. The Bentonville behemoth even has its own technology startup incubator called Store No. 8, named in honor of where founder Sam Walton conducted retail experimentation. Walmart is even said to be considering a low-cost or free video streaming service to compete with Amazon’s Prime Video, a core consumer attraction of the larger Prime program. Amazon is all but the definition of retail tech innovation. It recently ran Alexa Dev Days with Intel to expand the virtual assistant’s ecosystem, and previously launched an offshoot of its $100 million Alexa Fund called the Alexa Accelerator to advance voice technology.
Target is now working with about half of previous Target + Techstars participants, including Inspectorio, which is innovating the retail inspection process; BYBE, which allowed the retailer to include adult beverage rebates in its Cartwheel program; and Local Crate, which provides meal kits to almost 200 stores.
"The 20 companies that have been in the program previously have now raised more than $50 million over the last two years collectively and have had a lot of success in piloting, partnering and changing the retail industry," Ryan Broshar, managing director of Techstars Retail told Dallas Innovates.
Target also has a Takeoff accelerator program for wellness-focused businesses, has spun off a "mini" accelerator for beauty companies and has an accelerator in Bangalore, India. Two international startups, StoryXpress from Gurgaon, India, and SpotCrowd from Belgium, have moved their headquarters to the Twin Cities to be closer to Target.