Smart shopping trolley start-up seeks to raise $25 million

Auckland smart-trolley startup Imagr is seeking to raise US$25 million through a private investor pool to expand the business internationally.

Founder and chief executive William Chomley said demand had soared for the firm’s autonomous checkout system after the Covid-19 pandemic.

This month the company will kick off its Series A capital raise for the equivalent to $35m, seeking global investors to hold a stake in the company. The round will close early May, and Chomley said the business would “go out to targeted investors”.

“There is strong [investor] interest in this retail area, some of our competitors have raised circa $100m so there is certainly the potential that one party could take the lot or it could be split amongst a couple of parties around the world,” Chomley told the Herald.

Imagr had already received interest from investors in United States, Europe, Asia and Asia-Pacific region over the past six months.

Early last year Imagr raised $14m. Freshly raised capital would be spent on hiring staff – the company has plans to double the size of its team – and setting up a base in Europe and expanding its Japanese presence.

“We’ll mainly be looking at [spending on] aspects of operationising the product itself, team growth, market expansion, additional sales activities, yes there is some aspects of manufacturing, but again we have distribution on top of that, and a little bit of support.”

It would also further invest in research and development as it releases the next version of hardware and software later in the quarter, Chomley said.

Imagr plans to almost double its team of 58 staff by November next year, with 7-8 additional staff spread across its Osaka office and through the establishment of a Tokyo base, and 5 to 10 for a team in Europe.

Imagr had recently signed a deal with a “couple of customers in Europe” but Chomley was unable to share details of the organisations. “In terms of setting up a base there, we have seen a huge amount of demand out of Europe, and the Asia region.”

Japanese retail chain H2O Retailing is Imagr’s biggest customer, using its smart shopping technology, which involves cameras on a “SmartCart” trolley and artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically identify items that a customer pulls off the shelves or puts back.

Once an item is put into the SmartCart, it appears in the virtual trolley smartphone app on a mobile device, with a running tally of goods.

When walking out of the store, purchases are automatically billed to your credit card (the only hold-up being alcohol, which requires a manual check).

The company plans to be live in eight supermarkets by the end of the year.

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