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Nike Just Does It With Purchase Of AI-Driven Startup Celect

NIKE announced yesterday its purchase of Boston-based Celect, a retail predictive analytics and demand sensing startup, in its first acquisition of the year.

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Nike COO Eric Sprunk in a press release said the acquisition was part of the shoe giant’s efforts to “be insight-driven, data optimized and hyper-focused on consumer behavior” so it could “serve consumers more personally at scale.”

Founded in 2013 by MIT professors Devavrat Shah and Vivek Farias, Celect has raised a total of $30.2 million over four rounds, according to its Crunchbase profile. Its latest round was a $15 million Series C announced last December that was led by NGP Capital (Nokia Growth Partners) and Fung Capital. The company’s AI-driven analytics platform aims to give retailers the ability to better predict and meet inventory needs. On its website, Celect says it works specifically to “increase full-price sell-through, reduce out-of-stocks and decrease markdowns.”

The Celect team will be folded into Nike’s global operations team and its co-founders will continue to work as MIT professors and consult with the company on an ongoing basis.

Indeed, with sneaker culture driving demand for its products, it’s no surprise that Nike wants to make sure it can meet that demand, especially that coming from online buyers. In June, Nike announced that its full-year revenue was up 7 percent to $39.1 billion on a reported basis and up 11 percent “on a currency-neutral basis, as strategic investments in innovation and digital drove global consumer demand…”

Earlier this year, Digiday reported how Nike’s two tech acquisitions (of 3D scanning company Invertex and data analytics startup Zodiac) in 2018 were aimed at helping its direct-to-consumer business.

And if we need any further evidence that online sneaker buying is hot these days, look no further than StockX, a secondary marketplace for high-end sneakers, and its recent $110 million raise at a post-money valuation of over $1 billion.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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