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Neatsy wants to reduce sneaker returns with 3D foot scans

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U.S.-based startup Neatsy AI is using the iPhone’s depth-sensing FaceID selfie camera as a foot scanner to capture 3D models for predicting a comfortable sneaker fit.

Its app, currently soft launched for iOS but due to launch officially next month, asks the user a few basic questions about sneaker fit preference before walking through a set of steps to capture a 3D scan of their feet using the iPhone’s front-facing camera. The scan is used to offer personalized fit predictions for a selection of sneakers offered for sale in-app — displaying an individualized fit score (out of five) in green text next to each sneaker model.

Shopping for shoes online can lead to high return rates once buyers actually get to slip on their chosen pair, since shoe sizing isn’t standardized across different brands. That’s the problem Neatsy wants its AI to tackle by incorporating another more individual fit signal into the process.

The startup, which was founded in March 2019, has raised $400K in pre-seed funding from angel investors to get its iOS app to market. The app is currently available in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Canada and Russia. 

Neatsy analyzes app users’ foot scans using a machine learning model it’s devised to predict a comfy fit across a range of major sneaker brands — currently including Puma, Nike, Jordan Air and Adidas — based on scanning the insoles of sneakers, per CEO and founder Artem Semyanov.

He says they’re also factoring in the material shoes are made of and will be honing the algorithm on an ongoing basis based on fit feedback from users. (The startup says it’s secured a US patent for its 3D scanning tech for shoe recommendations.)

The team tested the algorithm’s efficiency via some commercial pilots this summer — and say they were able to demonstrate a 2.7x reduction in sneaker return rates based on size, and a 1.9x decrease in returns overall, for a focus group with 140 respondents.

Handling returns is clearly a major cost for online retailers — Neatsy estimates that sneaker returns specifically rack up $30BN annually for ecommerce outlets, factoring in logistics costs and other factors like damaged boxes and missing sneakers.

“All in all, shoe ecommerce returns vary among products and shops between 30% and 50%. The most common reasons for this category are fit & size mismatch,” says Semyanov, who headed up the machine learning team at Prism Labs prior to founding Neatsy.

“According to Zappos, customers who purchase its most expensive footwear ultimately return ~50% of everything they buy. 70% online shoppers make returns each year. Statista estimates return deliveries will cost businesses $550 billion by 2020,” he tells us responding to questions via email.

“A 2019 survey from UPS found that, for 73% of shoppers, the overall returns experience impacts how likely they are to purchase from a given retailer again, and 68% say the experience impacts their overall perceptions of the retailer. That’s the drama here!

“Retailers are forced to accept steep costs of returns because otherwise, customers won’t buy. Vs us who want to treat the main reasons of returns rather than treating the symptoms.”

While ecommerce giants like Amazon address this issue by focusing on logistics to reducing friction in the delivery process, speeding up deliveries and returns so customers spend less time waiting to get the right stuff, scores of startups have been trying to tackle size and fit with a variety of digital (and/or less high tech) tools over the past five+ years — from 3D body models to ‘smart’ sizing suits or even brand- and garment-specific sizing tape (Nudea‘s fit tape for bras) — though no one has managed to come up with a single solution that works for everything and everyone. And a number of these startups have deadpooled or been acquired by ecommerce platforms without a whole lot to show for it.

While Neatsy is attempting to tackle what plenty of other founders have tried to do on the fit front, it is at least targeting a specific niche (sneakers) — a relatively narrow focus that may help it hone a useful tool.

It’s also able to lean on mainstream availability of the iPhone’s sensing hardware to get a leg up. (Whereas a custom shoe design startup that’s been around for longer, Solely Original, has offered custom fit by charging a premium to send out an individual fit kit.)

But even zeroing in on sneaker comfort, Neatsy’s foot scanning process does require the user to correctly navigate quite a number of steps (see the full flow in the below video). Plus you need to have a pair of single-block colored socks handy (stripy sock lovers are in trouble). So it’s not a two second process, though the scan only has to be done once.

At the time of writing we hadn’t been able to test Neatsy’s scanning process for ourselves as it requires an iPhones with a FaceID depth-sensing camera. On this writer’s 2nd-gen iPhone SE, the app allowed me to swipe through each step of the scan instruction flow but then hung at what should have been the commencement of scanning — displaying a green outline template of a left foot against a black screen.

This is a bug the team said they’ll be fixing so the scanner gets turned off entirely for iPhone models that don’t have the necessary hardware. (Its App Store listing states its compatible with iPhone SE (2nd generation), though doesn’t specify the foot scan feature isn’t.) 

While the current version of Neatsy’s app is a direct to consumer ecommerce play, targeting select sneaker models at app savvy Gen Z/Millennials, it’s clearly intended as a shopfront for retailers to check out the technology.

When as ask about this Semyanov confirms its longer term ambition is for its custom fit model to become a standard piece of the ecommerce puzzle.

“Neatsy app is our fastest way to show the world our vision of what the future online shop should be,” he tells TechCrunch. “It attracts users to shops and we get revenue share when users buy sneakers via us. The app serves as a new low-return sales channel for a retailer and as a way to see the economic effect on returns by themselves.

“Speaking long term we think that our future is B2B and all ecommerce shops would eventually have a fitting tech, we bet it will be ours. It will be the same as having a credit card payment integration in your online shop.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/20/neatsy-wants-to-reduce-sneaker-returns-with-3d-foot-scans/

Automotive

End-to-end operators are the next generation of consumer business

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At Battery, a central part of our consumer investing practice involves tracking the evolution of where and how consumers find and purchase goods and services. From our annual Battery Marketplace Index, we’ve seen seismic shifts in how consumer purchasing behavior has changed over the years, starting with the move to the web and, more recently, to mobile and on-demand via smartphones.

The evolution looks like this in a nutshell: In the early days, listing sites like Craigslist, Angie’s List* and Yelp effectively put the Yellow Pages online — you could find a new restaurant or plumber on the web, but the process of contacting them was largely still offline. As consumers grew more comfortable with the web, marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Expedia and Wayfair* emerged, enabling historically offline transactions to occur online.

More recently, and spurred in large part by mobile, on-demand use cases, managed marketplaces like Uber, DoorDash, Instacart and StockX* have taken online consumer purchasing a step further. They play a greater role in the operations of the marketplace, from automatically matching demand with supply, to verifying the supply side for quality, to dynamic pricing.

The key purpose of being end-to-end is to deliver an even better value proposition to consumers relative to incumbent alternatives.

Each stage of this evolution unlocked billions of dollars in value, and many of the names listed above remain the largest consumer internet companies today.

At their core, these companies are facilitators, matching consumer demand with existing supply of a product or service. While there is no doubt these companies play a hugely valuable role in our lives, we increasingly believe that simply facilitating a transaction or service isn’t enough. Particularly in industries where supply is scarce, or in old-guard industries where innovation in the underlying product or service is slow, a digitized marketplace — even when managed — can produce underwhelming experiences for consumers.

In these instances, starting from the ground up is what is really required to deliver an optimal consumer experience. Back in 2014, Chris Dixon wrote a bit about this phenomenon in his post on “Full stack startups.” Fast forward several years, and more startups than ever are “full stack” or as we call it, “end-to-end operators.”

These businesses are fundamentally reimagining their product experience by owning the entire value chain, from end to end, thereby creating a step-functionally better experience for consumers. Owning more in the stack of operations gives these companies better control over quality, customer service, delivery, pricing and more — which gives consumers a better, faster and cheaper experience.

It’s worth noting that these end-to-end models typically require more capital to reach scale, as greater upfront investment is necessary to get them off the ground than other, more narrowly focused marketplacesBut in our experience, the additional capital required is often outweighed by the value captured from owning the entire experience.

End-to-end operators span many verticals

Many of these businesses have reached meaningful scale across industries:

All of these companies have recognized they can deliver more value to consumers by “owning” every aspect of the underlying product or service — from the bike to the workout content in Peloton’s case, or the bank account to the credit card in Chime’s case. They have reinvented and reimagined the entire consumer experience, from end to end.

What does success for end-to-end operator businesses look like?

As investors, we’ve had the privilege of meeting with many of these next-generation end-to-end operators over the years and found that those with the greatest success tend to exhibit the five key elements below:

1. Going after very large markets

The end-to-end approach makes the most sense when disrupting very large markets. In the graphic above, notice that most of these companies play in the largest, but notoriously archaic industries like banking, insurance, real estate, healthcare, etc. Incumbents in these industries are very large and entrenched, but they are legacy players, making them slow to adopt new technology. For the most part, they have failed to meet the needs of our digital-native, mobile-savvy generation and their experiences lag behind consumer expectations of today (evidenced by low, or sometimes even negative, NPS scores). Rebuilding the experience from the ground up is sometimes the only way to satisfy today’s consumers in these massive markets.

2. Step-functionally better consumer experience versus the status quo

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/22/end-to-end-operators-are-the-next-generation-of-consumer-business/

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D2C Brand Wakefit.Co Offers Rs 15 Crore ESOPs Buyback Options To Its Employees

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  • The announcement comes after Wakefit.co recently raised Rs 185 crore in funding from Verlinvest and Sequoia Capital India.
  • Wakefit is an online D2C store that provides quality sleep and home-solutions products at affordable prices.
  • To date, The company has raised over Rs 250 crore in funding.

Bengaluru-based online D2C brand Wakefit.co, on January 22, announced that it is offering an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) buyback option to its employees’ worth Rs 15 crore.

The announcement comes after Wakefit.co recently raised Rs 185 crore in its Series B funding round led by investment management firm Verlinvest and Sequoia India Capital. With that investment, Wakefit valuation reached Rs 1,900 crore (or about $260 million).

In December 2018, Wakefit had raised Rs 65 crore in its Series A funding round led by Sequoia Capital. To date, the company has raised over Rs 250 crore in funding.

According to the company, The new ESOP buyback plan would benefit 15-20 employees, providing meaningful wealth creation opportunities for them. Further, the scheme will allocate 6-7% of the company’s shares to the employees’ part of the school.

Founded in 2016 by Ankit Garg and Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Wakefit (Wakefit Innovations Pvt. Ltd.) is an online D2C store that provides quality sleep and home-solutions products to customers at affordable prices. The company currently manufactures its products in-house across three locations and has 22 warehouses across the country. It had recently opened its experience centers in four cities, including Gurugram, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, and Lucknow.

Commenting on the latest development, Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Co-founder & Director, Wakefit.co, said, “Our workforce has stood together to set us on course to reach Rs 450 crore by FY2021, and we felt it was only fair that we make senior members of our team part of this growth journey. We hope that the ESOPS buyback option will continue to add value to our employees’ lives and keep them motivated as we venture into a new year poised with exciting challenges.”

Also Read: Food Aggregator Swiggy Introduces ESOP Liquidity Program To Reward Its Employees

“We hope that the ESOPs buyback option will continue to add value to our employees’ lives and keep them motivated, as we venture into a new year poised with exciting challenges,” said Chaitanya Ramalingegowda.

The company said that it will also add another 50-60 employees’ into the existing pool, benefiting early employees for their commitment and hard work.

It further said that it aims to increase its workforce from March 2020 by 400% to 3,000 employees by March 2021. It has already started training programmes for machine operators, carpenters, and other customer experience executives.

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Source: https://indianstartupnews.com/news/d2c-brand-wakefit-co-offers-rs-15-crore-esops-buyback-options-to-its-employees/

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AI

Google launches suite of AI-powered solutions for retailers

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Google today announced the launch of Product Discovery Solutions for Retail, a suite of services deigned to enhance retailers’ ecommerce capabilities and help them deliver personalized customer experiences. Product Discovery Solutions for Retail brings together AI algorithms and a search service, Cloud Search for Retail, that leverages Google Search technology to power retailers’ product-finding tools.

The pandemic and corresponding rise in online shopping threaten to push supply chains to the breaking point. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon was forced to restrict the amount of inventory suppliers could send to its warehouses. Ecommerce order volume has increased by 50% compared with 2019, and shipment times for products like furniture more than doubled in March. Moreover, overall U.S. digital sales have jumped by 30%, expediting the online shopping transition by as much as two years.

Product Discovery Solutions for Retail, which is generally available to all companies as of today, aims to address the challenges with AI and machine learning. To that end, it includes access to Google’s Recommendations AI, which uses machine learning to dynamically adapt to customer behavior and changes in variables like assortment, pricing, and special offers.

Recommendations AI, which launched in beta in July and is now generally available, ostensibly excels at handling recommendations in scenarios with long-tail products and cold-start users and items. Thanks to “context-hungry” deep learning models developed in partnership with Google Brain and Google Research, it’s able to draw insights across tens of millions of items and constantly iterate on those insights in real time.

From a graphical interface, businesses using Recommendations AI can integrate, configure, monitor, and launch recommendations while connecting data by using existing integrations with Merchant Center, Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 360, Cloud Storage, and BigQuery. Recommendations AI can incorporate unstructured metadata like product name, description, category, images, product longevity, and more while customizing recommendations to deliver desired outcomes, such as engagement, revenue, or conversions. And it lets Google Cloud customers apply rules to fine-tune what shoppers see and diversify which products are shown, filtering by product availability and custom tags.

Product Discovery Solutions for Retail also includes access to Google’s Vision API Product Search, which allows shoppers to search for products with an image and receive a ranked list of visually and semantically similar items. Google says Vision Product Search taps machine learning-powered object recognition and lookup to provide real-time results of similar, or complementary, items from retailers’ product catalog.

Beyond Recommendations AI and Vision API Product Search, Product Discovery Solutions for Retail ships with Cloud Search for Retail. Cloud Search for Retail, which is currently in private preview, pulls from Google’s understanding of user intent and context to provide retail product search functionality that can be embedded into websites and mobile apps.

“As the shift to online continues, smarter and more personalized shopping experiences will be even more critical for retailers to rise above their competition,” Google Cloud retail and consumer VP Carrie Tharp said in a statement. “Retailers are in dire need of agile operating models powered by cloud infrastructure and technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to meet today’s industry demands. We’re proud to partner with retailers around the world and bring forward our Product Discovery offerings to help them succeed.”

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/19/google-launches-suite-of-ai-powered-solutions-for-retailers/

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Infinite Fleet Launches Security Token Offering (STO) on STOKR, Led by…

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Exordium, the publisher of upcoming sci-fi massively multiplayer online (MMO) strategy game Infinite Fleet, today announced the launch of its public security token offering (STO) for select countries that will grant every participant equity in the company and a share in future profits.

The public offering is set to take place immediately on STOKR, an innovative STO platform that provides turn-key solutions for small and medium-sized ventures to obtain access to capital markets, according to EU capital market laws.

The offering round is priced at $0.50 per “EXOeu” token – the security token issued by Exordium (Luxembourg) S.C.S. representing a share in the Exordium parent company. The round is being led by Tether International Limited (“Tether International”), a member of the Tether group of companies, the largest stablecoin issuer in the world. Tether International has invested US$1 million in EXOeu tokens.

“As a former MMORPG game developer myself, I see great potential in the application of crypto assets to multiplayer online games,” said Paolo Ardoino, CTO at Tether International Limited. “It is a perfect match of two rapidly growing digital sectors with tremendous upside. Samson Mow and his team are veterans with proven track records in both fields, with a clear vision of what they want to achieve.”

Infinite Fleet is an online strategy game in which players command fleets of customizable spaceships and play cooperatively to fend off an alien threat, leaving their legacy in the game’s lore via its unique directed narrative feature. The game draws inspiration from space real-time strategy (RTS) and MMO classics like Homeworld and EVE Online, while integrating a crypto asset to power its in-game peer-to-peer economy.

The EXOeu token for the offering is issued via Blockstream AMP, a platform for the tokenization of securities built on the Liquid sidechain of Bitcoin, which has been directly integrated with STOKR.

This funding model allows for the democratization of venture capital access to the general public. Investors will be able to invest directly through the STOKR platform using various currencies such as the euro (EUR), bitcoin (BTC), and Tether (USDt), starting from as little as US$100-equivalent.

“Security tokens like EXOeu are changing the way companies fundraise,” said Arnab Naskar, Co-Founder & Business Lead at STOKR. “Unlike Kickstarter, investors in security tokens receive real financial rights in the company in which they are investing. STOKR is designed to support companies to reach out to their user base and access fundraising from a wider network. With the Ethereum gas fee skyrocketing at the moment, platforms like Blockstream AMP are ideal for issuing tokenized securities.”

Infinite Fleet has previously raised US$3.1 million in a private funding round, backed by several pioneers in the blockchain space such as Litecoin creator Charlie Lee and Keiser Report host Max Keiser.

Infinite Fleet’s development team is led by veteran AAA game developers that have worked on franchises such as Age of Empires, Homeworld, Company of Heroes, Dawn of War, and other top rated games that have collectively grossed over US$1.2 billion globally. The game’s closed alpha is expected to be released in the upcoming weeks.

You can participate in Infinite Fleet’s public security token offering at https://stokr.io/infinite-fleet.

About Exordium Limited

Exordium Limited is a video game publisher founded by a battle-tested team of AAA game developers, producers, and technology early movers. Exordium seeks to be at the forefront of the convergence between online gaming and crypto assets, with a focus on operating and distributing games that are innovative and socially immersive. The team behind Exordium has a wide array of experience and has previously operated games such as Vainglory and Warhammer 40,000: Carnage.

About STOKR

STOKR S.A., headquartered in Luxembourg, provides turn-key solutions to small and medium sized ventures to access capital markets, according to EU capital market laws. From technology support to payment gateways, and investment structuring to wallet registration – STOKR enables opportunities for both issuers and investors to have the most secure, advanced, and user-friendly investment experience. STOKR is led by a diverse team, operating from Luxembourg and Germany. STOKR focuses on supporting projects which are committed to making a positive impact, as well as creating a community of educated investors who are empowered to make better investment decisions.

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Source: https://www.prweb.com/releases/infinite_fleet_launches_security_token_offering_sto_on_stokr_led_by_us1m_investment_from_tether_international_limited/prweb17661500.htm

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