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Simbe, a robotics company that develops robots to help retailers gather in-stock and shelf data, has brought in $28 million in Series B funding.
Eclipse, a venture firm specializing in the digital transformation of essential physical industries that impact daily life, led the round. The company brings knowledge and expertise to help Simbe prepare for its next growth phase. Now that Simbe’s robots have been out in the world and tested, the company is interested in focusing on expanding globally.
“As far as our sphere of interest for potential investment partners, we were drawn to those that we felt had a deep appreciation for deep technology and transforming traditional industries,” Brad Bogolea, Simbe’s founder and CEO told The Robot Report.
“One of the pieces that really attracted us to Eclipse was that since their founding as a top tier firm, they’ve had this unwavering mission of really leveraging technology to transform the traditional industries that are really critical to our lives that that’s manufacturing, health care, energy supply chain, and retail,” Bogolea said.
Moving forward, Simbe hopes to leverage Eclipse’s extensive network to expand its team. The company believes that with Eclipse’s huge amount of resources at its disposal, it will be able to more easily scale.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our focus was really on cultivating a number of key launch partners for the solution. Now that we have a number of proof points out in the market, this is all really about expanding our global footprints,” Bogolea said.
Keeping retailers up to date
Simbe’s flagship robot is the Tally robot, a fully autonomous in-store product auditing system that travels up and down aisles to determine exact product location data and identify out-of-stock items. Tally is currently operating in over 500 stores according to Bogolea.
Tally removes the need for stores to send human employees to monitor every shelf in the store to check for out-of-stock items and is constantly working to gather data. Tally uses proprietary AI, computer vision, RFID, and edge computing technology to bring retailers more accurate data and real-time insights.
Not only is Tally much more accurate than human workers, with the robot typically finding up to 25 times more issues in stores than manual auditing, according to Bogolea, it’s also constantly checking and rechecking this data. This provides retailers with more data about what is going on in their stores than they would ever have access to with manual data, and the company hopes it can keep providing new sources of data with Tally.
“Retailers have invested heavily in point of sale technology and supply chain technology, this is sort of closing this data gap that has always existed. Now that retailers are operationalizing this new data set, its really about what else we can unlock with this data as we think about fusing it with other sources,” Bogolea said.
Simbe wants Tally to be the primary source of information within a store, sort of like a mission control for the store, which means looking at everything from price tags on shelves to the items on the shelves. In the future, however, Tally could have even more capabilities, like checking on fresh items, like fruits and vegetables, to ensure quality.
In December 2021, the company received a patent for tracking fruit and vegetable freshness. While the company hasn’t officially made these capabilities part of Tally or released a robot specifically for tracking fruit and vegetable freshness, it’s still a capability that Simbe is exploring.
“Today in stores, we’re capturing the vast majority of products, and areas like fresh are categories that we continue to look at more and more,” Bogolea said. “We’re really interested in being the source of truth for what’s happening to any product or inventory or merchandise within the store, so that’s definitely a continued area of interest for us.”
The company is also expanding the types of retail environments Tally can work in. Just this year, Tally was updated to be better able to handle warehouse club format stores, where restaurants and other shoppers can buy items in bulk. These stores typically have more items on the floor or in pallets, presenting new challenges for the robot’s inventory-taking technology.
“We announced a large partnership with BJs Wholesale,” Bogolea said. “So we had to tailor Tally to those types of stores where you might have product on pallets versus products on shelves. In addition, we’re helping them with their inventory operations. So excess inventory is stored above in the second and third bay, so we’re actually able to see 25 feet high.”
Simbe’s last funding round was announced in 2019 and totaled $26 million. To date, the company has raised a total of $54 million. Tally 3.0, the latest iteration of the robot, was released in 2020, it included advancements in camera systems and 2D and 3D imaging.