AUSTIN, Texas – Pensa Systems, which is developing autonomous perception systems for tracking retail inventory, announced today it has raised $10 million in additional seed funding.
The funding was led by existing investors Signia Venture Partners and ATX Venture Partners, with participation by Commerce Ventures, Capital Factory, and Revtech Ventures, alongside new investment from retail industry veterans David Ritter and James McCann. Both McCann and Ritter have joined the company’s advisory board, and ATX Managing Director Chris Shonk has joined Pensa’s board of directors.
Pensa said the new funds will be used to accelerate delivery and deployment of the company’s retail inventory visibility system, which uses computer vision, artificial intelligence and small autonomous drones to “see and understand what’s on store shelves.” The system aims to help brands and retailers minimize stockouts, optimize product planning, and increase revenue. Pensa said its system can detect stockouts with 98%-plus shelf accuracy, and is scalable across store locations due to a flexible, simple and low-cost-per-store deployment model.
Pensa debuted its system in January at the National Retail Federation 2019 conference, and has completed pilots with major retailers and global brands, including Anheuser-Busch InBev. Since then, the company expanded into multiple commercial deployments, where it said it validated the system’s effectiveness with multiple brands and retailers, across multiple store formats and product categories. The system’s ability to learn and visually recognize individual items on each shelf has demonstrated up to 40% more accuracy in stockout detection compared to the industry best practice of “gunning the holes” looking for gaps on the shelf, Pensa said.
“It is now clear that the combination of AI and vision technology will have an enormous impact on retail store operations,” said McCann, who has worked in grocery retail businesses including Ahold-Delhaize, Tesco, and Carrefour. “Having looked at the different start-ups in this area, I believe that Pensa’s combination of industry-leading accuracy and much lower capex requirement will make them the winning options for most retailers.”
Ritter, a former partner and leader of retail-store operations practice at McKinsey & Company, said he has worked with the world’s largest retailers on different strategies to improve store operations. “I’ve never seen anything that comes close to Pensa’s shelf inventory approach,” said Ritter. “Combining Ai, computer vision and drones to automate delivery of actionable data – it’s a game changer for brands and retailers alike.”
Allied Market Research reported that the retail automation market was valued at $11.24 billion in 2018, with a predicted market of $23.58 billion by 2026. Automation in retail operations that help optimize inventory, purchase or sales services are expected to drive the growth of the market, the firm states, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 9.6% from this year through 2026.