AddStructure, a startup star of last year’s Target + Techstars retail accelerator program, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from Best Buy, Techstars Ventures and other parties as it continues to develop a voice search platform for e-commerce sites that leverages machine learning technology, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Best Buy and Target are among the brands AddStructure has been working closely to test its white-label voice assistant platform, “Conversational Commerce by AddStructure,” which will be available in the third quarter.
Other investors included Dundee Venture Capital, Matchstick Ventures and Service Provider Capital, among others. The funding has already allowed AddStructure to bring on two new employees, though it still has fewer than 10 total.
Curiously, Target is not mentioned as one of the seed round investors, though AddStructure has already received at least $20,000, and possibly as much as $100,000, after being chosen as one of 10 start-ups to participate in the Target + Techstars retail accelerator program during the summer fo 2016. Target, through its partnership with Techstars, has played a huge role in bringing AddStructure and its technology to light. As we speak, AddStructure is presumed to be several months into a six-to-nine month pilot program with Target that was announced last fall, and is reportedly pretty far along in a pilot with Best Buy, too.
The funding has helped AddStructure add talent to its still-tiny team, and it sounds like more new hires will occur. The start-up will need it, as it's now at the center of a market space that seems to have exploded with activity in the last year. In recent months, Amazon has moved to greatly expand the ecosystem of its Alexa voice-driven assistant by making core technology available to developers, integrating Alexa with more devices beyond its own and even creating its own accelerator program to give a leg up to an army of conversational commerce start-ups.
Startups like Voysis, which just received some of its own funding, are already changing the conversational commerce model by looking to embed its voice agent directly into retailer web sites. That sounds at least a little bit like what AddStructure has in mind, though it's difficult at this early stage of both companies to draw specific similarities.
One of AddStructure's interesting points of differentiation has been its nature as a white-label solution that any retailer could adopt and make its own without having to do business with giants like Amazon and Google in order to get access to a voice search and shopping capability. It may still have that advantage, though its is becoming increasingly clear that Amazon isn't going to keep Alexa all to itself. It sees the benefits of being an enabler of the next revolution in e-commerce search and shopping. Having friends like Target and Best Buy should help AddStructure get to the next level of competition in this suddenly lively market, but it will need more retailers to take notice.