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Simbe brings its robots to more stores

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Jul 25, 2023
Illustration of a robot with a dollar sign screen on its face

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Simbe Robotics plans to bring its autonomous shelf-scanning retail robot to more retailers with freshly-raised capital, CEO Brad Bogolea tells Axios.

Why it matters: Solving the excess inventory challenge calls for automation, with inventory robot startups emerging and amassing funding.

Driving the news: This month, San Francisco-based Simbe raised $28 million in a Series B round led by Eclipse.

State of play: Simbe joins a host of inventory robot startups that have recently notched fundraises. In the past month alone...

  • B Garage, a San Jose, Calif.-based drone inventory startup, raised $20 million.
  • Verity, a Swiss drone-delivery firm, snagged $11 million.
  • Dexory, a London startup that uses robots and AI to provide inventory management data from warehouses, raised $19 million.

How it works: Simbe's robot, dubbed Tally, moves through store aisles three to four times a day to retrieve product location data, which helps retailers identify out-of-stock items, and misplaced or mispriced products.

  • “With a mobile platform, it keeps up very well with changes within the environments, whereas fixed infrastructure will often need to be reset,” says Bogolea.

What’s next: Simbe, which launched its robots across BJ’s Wholesale Club chains this spring, is also partnering with retailers like Schnucks Markets, SpartanNash, Wakefern and Carrefour.

  • The company focuses on larger grocers, ones with 50 to 100 stores or more.
  • Simbe plans to move into other store formats and categories, such as general-merchandise retailers, as well as drug, value, and convenience stores, Bogolea says.
  • Simbe hopes to leverage its data to represent downstream monetization opportunities for both the retailers and the company, he adds.

What they’re saying: “The store shelf is kind of a data gap,” Bogolea says.

  • Determining if a product needs to be restocked, is in the wrong store, or is stolen is key to managing inventory well, he adds.
  • “You really need true instrumentation at the shelf level to unlock this value,” he says.
  • Through leveraging its system, Bogolea says grocers can use the data to boost sales, improve margins and help employees to solve problems quickly.

Catch up fast: In 2019, the company raised $26 million in a Series A led by Venrock with participation from Future Shape, Valo Ventures and Activant Capital.

  • At the same time, the company also inked a financing agreement with SoftBank Robotics to augment its robot.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Simbe does not collect data on customers and to clarify that some of its retail partnerships are underway.

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