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Drone In Aisle One: Pensa Systems Raises $5M To Make Retail More Efficient

Here at Crunchbase News, we love covering companies that are poised to disrupt industries that are stuck with age-old inefficient processes.

So when I stumbled upon the news that an Austin startup with its eye on “eliminating” a trillion dollar blind spot for the retail industry had raised some money, I paid attention. Especially when said startup is doing it with the use of AI-powered autonomous drones.

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Specifically, Pensa Systems raised a $5 million early-stage round just eight months after it raised $2.2 million in a seed round. Signia Venture Partners led the new round, which also included participation from new investor Commerce Ventures as well as existing investors ZX Ventures, ATX Seed Ventures, Capital Factory, Revtech Ventures, and others. As part of the financing, Ed Cluss, partner at Signia Venture Partners, will join Pensa’s board of directors.

Pensa says that its system “automatically and systematically tracks in-store inventory using advanced computer vision, patent-pending artificial intelligence and autonomous drones to see and understand what is on store shelves.” The goal behind it to help retailers and brands avoid having out-of-stock items unnecessarily and thus increase their revenue.

Pensa operates as a data subscription service. The company describes its drones as “small and safe,” and designed to operate after hours or selectively during store hours “when areas are free.” The drones, according to Pensa, are able to see and understand shelf conditions in real time, “acting as remote eyes to a system in the cloud.” Then, the company’s AI analyzes that data over time so that it can predict low stock before the items actually are gone from the shelves.

In a press release, the company said the funding would go toward getting more store trials with large retailers and CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brands globally. It’s already completed “multiple successful live trials” with some major consumer brands and retailers, including Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), which actually also became a strategic investor through its ZX Ventures growth and innovation unit.

“Pensa is doing breakthrough work with AI and drones, bringing data to bear on a significant and costly problem for retail—the lack of consistent on-shelf inventory visibility,” said Cluss, in a prepared statement. “Data and technology are critical to retail’s future, and we are excited to help Pensa bring their vision to reality.”

Patrick O’Riordan, a vice president at ZX Ventures, said his firm explored a variety of solutions to the problem of out-of-stock products and found Pensa’s approach to be “truly novel.”

Photo courtesy of Pensa Systems

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