Shopping cart

Meet Caper, the AI ​​self-service shopping cart – TechCrunch

Amazon’s boogie man all retailers are scrambling to find ways to fight back. But the cost and effort required to install cameras on the entire ceiling or in every shelf could prevent stores from entering the era of autonomous shopping. Caper wants to make eliminating paylines as easy as replacing their shopping carts while providing a more familiar experience for customers.

The startup makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card reader, but it’s finalizing technology to automatically scan the items you drop in using three image recognition cameras and a motion sensor. weight. The company says people are already buying 18% more per visit after stores are equipped with its carts.

Caper’s Cart

Today, Caper reveals he’s raised a total of $3 million, including a $2.15 million seed round led by prestigious First Round Capital and joined by food-focused angels like the Instacart co-founder Max Mullen, Plated co-founder Nick Taranto, Jet’s Jetblack Jenny Fleiss and Y Combinator, shopping concierge co-founder. Hardware Club, FundersClub, Sidekick Ventures, Precursor Ventures, Cogito Ventures and Redo Ventures also invested. Caper is now in two New York-area retailers, though he plans to use the money to expand and develop a smart shopping cart for smaller stores.

“If you walked into a grocery store 100 years ago versus today, nothing has really changed,” says Lindon Gao, co-founder and CEO of Caper. “It doesn’t make sense that you can order a taxi with your phone or go and book a hotel with your phone, but you can’t use your phone to make a payment and leave the store. You still have to wait in line.

Autonomous retail is going to be a race; $50 million funded Standard Cognition, ex-Pandora CTO Will Glaser’s Grabango, and startups like Zippin and Inokyo are all building ceiling and shelf camera systems to help retailers track the Amazon Go’s expanding cashierless store empire. But Caper’s cart-based plug-and-play system might be able to leapfrog competitors if it’s easier for stores to set up shop.

Caper combines image recognition and a weight sensor to identify items without a barcode scanner

Inventing the smart cart

“I don’t have an altruistic reason, but I really want to make a dent in the universe, and I think retail is seriously under-innovated,” Gao remarked candidly. Most founders try to tell a “superhero origin story” about why they’re the right person for the job. For Gao, chasing after self-driving retail is just good business. He created his first gaming business startup when he was 14 years old. The jewelry company he started at age 19 is still in business. He then became an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, but “I always felt like I was more of a startup guy.”

Caper was actually a kingpin from its previous entry into the space called QueueHop that made cashierless clothing security tags that unlocked when you paid. But during Y Combinator, he discovered how difficult it would be to scale a product that requires a complete overhaul of a merchant’s workflow. So Gao wandered around New York talking to 150 merchants and finding out what they really wanted. The cart was the answer.

Lindon Gao, co-founder and CEO of Caper

Caper’s Shopping Cart V1 allows users to scan the barcodes of their items and pay on the shopping cart with a credit card swipe or Apple/Android Pay tap and their receipt is emailed to them. But each time they scan, the cart actually takes 120 photos and precisely weighs the items to train Caper’s machine vision algorithms to what Gao compares to how Tesla is moving toward self-driving.

Soon, Caper wants to go entirely scanless, and sections of its two pilot stores are already using the technology. The cart’s cameras use image recognition combined with a weight sensor to identify what you’re throwing into your cart. You shop as usual, but pay and leave without queuing. Caper pulls a store’s existing security feed to help detect shoplifting, which could be a bigger risk than with ceiling and shelf camera systems, but Gao says it doesn’t. hasn’t been a problem yet. He wouldn’t reveal the price of the carts, but said “they aren’t much more expensive than a standard cart. To equip a store, it should be comparable to the price of setting up a traditional self-service payment system. The stores purchase the carts directly and pay for a technology subscription, but receive free hardware upgrades. They’ll have to hope Caper stays alive.

“Do you want guacamole with these chips? »

Caper hopes to provide three big benefits to merchants. First, they’ll be able to reallocate cashier work to help customers buy more and keep shelves stocked, though eventually this technology is likely to eliminate many jobs. Second, the ease and affordability of the transition means businesses will be able to recoup their investment and increase revenue as buyers buy more. And third, Caper wants to share the data its carts collect (about routes through the store, which shelves customers walk past and more) with its retail partners so they can optimize their layouts.

Caper’s screen tracks the items you add to cart and may show discounts and recommendations

A big advantage over its ceiling and shelf camera competitors is that Caper’s shopping cart can promote deals on close or related items. In the future, it plans to add recommendations based on what’s in your cart to help you fulfill recipes. “Did you throw chips in the basket?” Here’s where to find guacamole on sale. A smaller, portable smart cart could expand Caper’s appeal beyond grocers (think small stores), though making it light enough to carry around will be a challenge.

Gao says that with merchants already seeing sales growth from carts, what keeps him awake at night is managing Caper’s supply chain, as the product requires a ton of different component manufacturers. The startup needs to move fast if it wants to be what introduces Main Street to self-driving retail. But no matter what gadgets are on board, Caper needs to keep in mind the real stress its tech will be under. Gao concludes: “We are basically building a robot here. Carts should be durable. They must withstand heat, vibrations, rain, people slamming them. We build our cart like a tank.