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Avataar raises $45 million to improve consumer shopping experience with life-sized 3D product evaluation

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The vast majority of e-commerce customers prefer to preview the product before making the purchase. That’s the reason why the likes of Amazon have historically struggled to move fashion and home decor items online. A San Francisco and Bengaluru-based startup is attempting to solve this problem and has just raised a new funding round to scale its operations.

AI and computer vision startup Avataar said on Friday it has raised $45 million in its Series B funding. The round was led by Tiger Global, and existing investor Sequoia Capital India participated in it. The six-year-old startup has raised about $55.5 million, including some financed by the founder and chief executive in the early years, across all funding rounds.

Avataar helps direct-to-consumer brands and e-commerce marketplaces with shaping their consumer journeys with 3D rendition of products. The firms can integrate Avataar’s plug-and-play technology into their system, which then allows customers to visualize the products in its real-life size and feel in their living room using the phone’s camera.

The startup currently works with a number of firms including the top two e-commerce marketplaces across furniture, large appliances and other categories, said Sravanth Aluru, founder and chief executive of Avataar, in an interview with TechCrunch. He declined to share the names of the clients, citing confidentiality agreements. (Some firms such as Samsung and Pepperfry have publicly acknowledged collaboration with Avataar.)

In a demo, Aluru dragged and dropped several products – couches and desks – to his living room from a partner e-commerce marketplace’s app and changed the color and the SKUs without having to reposition the virtual items in the house. The items can also be interactive. A virtual rendition of a refrigerator allows users to open and close the door, for instance.

Brands don’t need to make any major changes to be able to adapt Avataar’s offerings. As long as the product images are in at least 1080p resolution, Aluru said, Avataar can stitch a virtual and 3D version from it. For consumers, too, if they are using an iPhone or an Android smartphone launched in recent years, there’s a good chance that their phone has the computational and graphical power to support viewing and interactive with virtual objects, he said.

“Given the camera is the homescreen, you see significantly higher engagement time and brands are witnessing more than 3.5x sales conversion,” he said. The startup relays the engagement information to the partner brands who then further personalize their offerings to better serve the customers.

Aluru said an increasingly growing number of companies are beginning to adapt the technology as they recognize the benefits it can deliver. This trend is projected to only grow from here.

Without revealing the brand names, he said some smartphone firms have used Avataar’s technology to carry virtual launches. “We are today integrated across most platforms. If you’re seeing 3D on a big large volume service, it’s likely powered by us,” he said.

The founding team of Avataar. From left to right: Mayank Tiwari (CBO), Sravanth Aluru (CEO), Prashanth Aluru (Board Director), Gaurav Baid (CPO). (Image credits: Avataar)

By 2025, nearly 75% of the global population and almost all people who use social and communication apps will be frequent AR users, said Snap in a recent report, for which it collaborated with Deloitte. The report said there are already over 100 million customers who shop using AR.

Aluru said the startup is gearing up to be at the forefront as metaverse makes inroads and engages with several key players in the space.

“The metaverse is already here, just not evenly distributed. Avataar.me is leading the way in bringing scale creation capabilities to the largest brands to enable commerce – an application with tremendous promise in AR/VR environments,” said Shailesh Lakhani, MD at Sequoia India, in a statement.

“Sravanth, Gaurav, and Mayank have been a delight to work with and Sequoia Capital India is excited to re-iterate its commitment in their Series B round.”

The digital and digitally influenced marketplace is projected to grow to $18 trillion by 2025, offering a monetization opportunity of over $50 billion over the next decade for the underlying platforms driving the 2D to 3D commerce shift, according to industry estimates.

“For the first time in history, we are now able to detect, understand, augment and manipulate consumers’ physical reality using a live camera feed. While our patented AI/CV capabilities are applicable to the overall metaverse evolution, we have started with an upfront focus on redefining consumers’ shopping experiences,” said Aluru.

“The platform will transform the consumer shopping experience at home on their mobile devices, through AR glasses/wearables, or even in a physical store exploring an infinite aisle of a digitally enabled catalogue.”

Evan Feinberg, Partner at Tiger Global, said in a statement: “Consumers continue to look for a better eCommerce experience, and the innovative technology created by Avataar provides a powerful plug and play solution for its customers to meet this demand. As the digital world shifts from 2D to 3D, Avataar and its talented management team are well positioned in this fast-growing market.”

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform

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Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs

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A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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