Target last week announced a partnership with start-up accelerator Techstars to create a new retail accelerator based in Minneapolis.
Techstars and Target will be accepting applications from start-ups working on solutions that could apply to retail, from supply chain forecasting tools to robotics.
The start-ups that are accepted will benefit from funding as well as access to mentor support from Target executives, and to Techstars’ network of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and other partners.
Retail innovations from the likes of Target — think its collaboration with top fashion designers, which was daring and new years ago and is now a staple of discount fashion — or Wal-Mart were once conceived within the closed confines of corporate headquarters.
Today, though, tech innovations often spring from accelerators like Techstars, which offer small companies support that includes funding, mentorship, and sometimes office space.
While its full of promise, the approach has to include a certain amount of patience from the funders and supporters because plenty of start-ups fall flat before they ever really get off the ground.
Start-ups accepted into Techstars' incubation programs are privy to three-month programs in Boston, Chicago, London, New York, and Seattle (and now Minneapolis). Target will be in a position to make investments and even acquisitions through the partnership.
The move is an indication of Target’s seriousness about innovation and of its desire to marry it with its existing power center in Minneapolis rather than leaving it to Silicon Valley.
“We know that technology will continue to revolutionize retail, and that Target’s future will be built on innovation,” says Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, said on the retailer’s blog.
Carl has also hinted at a Target concept store that could include robots. But the partnership with Techstars is likely to lead to even more crucial solutions that aren’t nearly so customer-facing or flashy. Brick-and-mortar retailers have stumbled when it comes to omnichannel efforts like ship-from-store or store pickup for online orders, largely because it’s been difficult to change up their massive supply chain operations.
The arrival of Techstars to Minneapolis will also likely help stir the city’s existing small but strong tech hub, known as “Silicon Prairie.”