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Austin-based Pensa Systems Raises $10M More To Make Retail More Efficient With AI

Pensa Systems, an Austin startup with its eye on “eliminating” a trillion dollar blind spot for the retail industry, has raised $10 million in additional seed funding.

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In January, the startup raised a $5 million seed round and previously it had raised $2.2 million, so its current venture raised since it was founded in 2016 now totals $17.2 million. Existing investors Signia Venture Partners and ATX Venture Partners led the latest financing, which also included participation from Commerce Ventures, Capital Factory, RevTech Ventures, and retail industry veterans David Ritter and James McCann.

As part of the financing, Chris Shonk, managing director at ATX Venture Partners, will join Pensa’s board of directors.

“There’s a lot to be excited about with Pensa,” Shonk said. “We get really excited when we see artificial intelligence being used to shake up a big, stalwart industry – and deliver the insights needed to help it advance.”

How It Works

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 is 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.

“Unlike other solutions such as ground robots, sensors, manual scans, the Pensa system is uniquely effective at understanding real product and shelf conditions and how shelves are managed,” wrote Pensa CEO and co-founder Richard Schwartz, via email. “It can rapidly scan shelves, collecting data faster, more frequently, with greater accuracy and at a lower cost per location than any other approach, whether manual or automated.”

Pensa Systems CEO and co-founder Richard Schwartz

He said the company will use its new funds to speed up delivery and commercial deployment of its system with retailers and consumer brands.

Schwartz would not name specifics but said Pensa is “working with a select set of some of the largest national retailers and global consumer products manufacturers, working in multiple store formats and product categories.”

The company is currently expanding its initial market segment of in-store retail inventory for fast-moving consumer goods.

“In general, the need for automated inventory applications is across the entire retail supply chain, from warehouses to distribution centers and e-commerce fulfillment centers then on to the actual retail storefronts,” Schwartz wrote. “Beyond that, our core approach of using an autonomous camera to move around, see around, and understand what it sees has even broader applications for visually learning and flagging ongoing situations and potential problems, learning as a person would over time.”

Blog Roll Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Photo credit: Pensa Systems

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