8 companies inventing the future of retail

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8 companies inventing the future of retail

By Mike Troy - 10/14/2015

Eight start-up companies comprising the inaugural class of the newly formed XRC Labs accelerator are looking to have a big impact on the retail industry.

New York-based XRC Labs unveiled the inaugural class of start-up companies participating in its 10-week accelerator program Tuesday evening, Oct. 13 at an event near its headquarters at the Parsons Schools of Design.

The companies (see details below) range from those with unique new consumer products to those offering advanced technology solutions and are reflective of XRC’s three-pronged approach to the world of start-up accelerators.

“We focus exclusively on the largest and toughest market to crack on the planet which is retail and consumer goods,” said XRC Labs director Angelia Muller. “We also take the position that design leads technology which is why we have a close partnership with the Parsons School of Design. The mantra has been mobile first, but we believe a shift has taken place and now design is first. Lastly, we are stage-agnostic. It’s not just about funding, but gaining traction with the toughest, most demanding potential customers.”

In addition to Parsons, XRC Labs was formed in conjunction with Harvard’s i-lab and global management consulting firm Kurt Salmon for the purpose of establishing an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors to rapidly design, launch and iterate retail and consumer technologies, products and services, supported by partners and advisors in the retail and consumer goods industry.

The inaugural group of companies at XCR Labs, an acronym of sorts for “accelerating retail and consumer goods innovation,” will undergo a 10-week development and mentorship program that culminates with “demo day” on January 11, 2016. Demo day is when the eight companies are given five minutes to pitch their product or solution to angel investors, venture capitalists, retailers and other sponsor companies.

As an accelerator, unlike an incubator, XRC Labs already has some skin in the game. Both models help companies grow by offering services, tools and amenities. However, as Muller explained, accelerators, unlike incubators, are considered early stage investors. For example, XRC Labs provides participating companies $50,000 in exchange for a 5% to 6% equity stake.

“Accelerators, unlike incubators, usually have a structured program with a tight timeline that leads up to demo day and the presentation to investors,” Muller said. “What makes XRC Labs different from other accelerators is that we are the first that truly integrates both extremes of the retail and consumer goods worlds: truly innovative product-focused startups and heavily technological software designed to improve the future of the industry, both internally and externally.

Between now and the Jan. 11 demo day in New York, Chain Store Age's sister publication Retailing Today will feature each of the companies participating in the inaugural class. Until then, here’s a brief look at the companies, their founders and the product/solution they are bringing to market:

Eastern Kingdom is a luxury athletic handbag brand based in New York and founded in December 2014 by Carmen Chen Wu. CEO Aaron Luo leads the company as CEO and is focused on designing products for customers with an active lifestyle, a taste for luxury designs and appreciation for style that blends the lines between fashion and fitness.

FINDMINE is a machine learning and e-commerce technology company that employs Saas technology to automate and personalize merchandising for retailers and shoppers. Founded by Michelle Bacharach in July 2014, the company is focused on bringing innovation to the manual process of curating window displays, endcaps, and online lookbooks.

Forrge is an on demand workforce solution founded in February 2014 by Stacey Ferreira to serves retailers needs for qualified workers.

Gleem & Co. is an online luxury marketplace and consignment jeweler focused on making it easy for owners of high-end jewelry to sell their possessions. The company was founded in May 2014 by Nikki Lawrence.

Natalia Inc. is a technology inspired apparel company that blends 3D printing, supply chain and fashion to create seamless and sustainable clothes designed for modern women. The company was founded by Natalia Allen in May 2013.

Okmyoutfit is an on demand personal shopping and styling service. The company was founded in November 2013 by Diana Melencio.

R.F.M. is focused on personalization, customization and data science to offer timeless apparel and a new paradigm of fit. The company was founded in December 2014 by Kevin Flammia.

Urbacraft is a toy and consumer products company. Founded by Ayssar Arida, the company provides a digital and physical platform for mass customizable construction toys that allow anyone to imagine, manufacture, and sell their own designs.