As the 13-week Target + Techstars retail accelerator comes to an end, half of the 10 participating startups are leaving with formal agreements with Target for pilot projects, and others are still in talks, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Two overseas startups that participated in the program announced at its Demo Day last week that they are moving their headquarters to the Twin Cities, where Target is also based.
One of those companies, StoryXpress, which was established in Gurgaon, India and has an office in Illinois, developed a tool aimed for retailers to convert images, text and video into promotional ads. The other, SpotCrowd, was established in Belgium and has an office in New York City, uses crowdsourcing to catch shoplifters at retail stores.
This year, the retailer is getting new energy and ideas from companies that range from those who specialize in producing meal delivery kits to product videos.
In one partnership, with St. Paul-based Local Crate, Target will begin selling meal kits at 10 Target stores in the Twin Cities this week. Early next year, the big-box retailer will also team up with Bybe, which embeds alcohol rebates into retailer apps. Target.com will also try out clothing recommendations powered through Savitude as well as cosmetics recommendations from Kokko, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's report.
These startups working with Target, selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants from across the world, have spent the last several months working with retail mentors and exploring investor-pitching opportunities.
The first Techstars + Target accelerator was held last year and the second this past summer. After the first go-round, a number of startups also opted to move to Minneapolis, according to the report. Last year, Target + Techstars companies collectively raised $32 million after the program, and eight of the 10 companies went on to work with Target on pilots or in some other way.
The accelerator is now just one of many looking to cultivate businesses that have the potential to disrupt the industry and help retail stalwarts like Target. Late last year, Amazon announced a $100 million Alexa Fund called the Alexa Accelerator to boost conversational commerce startups and in March, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and professional services company Accenture teamed up to launch the (R)Tech Center for Innovation just weeks before Walmart debuted its retail technology startup incubator Store No 8. In June, Ikea launched "Ikea Bootcamp,"which allows participants to access IKEA’s prototype shop, test labs and innovation development resources.
By moving closer to Target itself, StoryXpress and SpotCrowd can continue the relationships with the retailer, while Target has moved to use their services. And the startups weren't the only ones getting an education in the process, according to Target CEO Brian Cornell, who said he admired the founders’ ability to act on their ideas and make swift improvements as they worked to expand their business. "There was a lot I could teach these entrepreneurs, but one of the biggest lessons they taught me was speed," Cornell said in a blog post last year. "The juxtaposition of our operation and theirs was stark. Startups are measuring time in terms of months-worth-of-funding. I saw, first hand, that we moved too slowly, too often."