Delays at the grocery checkout line set William Chomley on a retail innovation course. Like most of us who are short on time, a quick stop at the supermarket took longer than he liked. He began ideating on a better way to shop – reinventing the checkout process.
William Chomley, Founder and CEO of IMAGR, joins me in the mobile studio from his home base in New Zealand. He’s been working on his retail innovation concept for three years. It’s been an uphill trek, but the company is now ready to put the product to the test.
When Will’s retail innovation idea sparked, he jumped in head first. Quitting his finance job, he focused on a solution using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. It was simple: put RFID tags on products and eliminate the checkout line. But it wasn’t that easy. He ran into roadblocks, cost to implement and technology limitations to name a few. His business failed.
Will didn’t give up on his idea. He reworked it – went back to the drawing board. This time he did the product/market fit research. This involved a lot of talking and listening to retailers, researchers and investors. His new design incorporated computer vision, a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). A computer with computer vision “sees” and processes information much like the human eye, then performs tasks accordingly.
With a new design plan, Will pitched to investor after investor. Rejection brought him nearly to the “end of his tether”. Over 150 investors later, he finally got the funding in 2016. Through all, he held three jobs to keep afloat. Persistent and undaunted, Will kept going through tough times and held fast to his vision.
The SmartCart will undergo trial testing this year. It’s a shopping cart equipped with small cameras to capture product data as the shopper places a product in the cart. The cart system is synced to the shopper’s mobile phone. Through an app, the shopper sets up the payment method prior to shopping.
Looking back, Will has three points of advice for entrepreneurs.
- Do product/market fit as soon as possible.
- Make sure what you’ve created is what customers want.
- Ensure it’s commercially viable at a price buyers will accept?
- “Get in front of as many people as you can.”
- He learned through the experience of facing numerous investors
- The rejections/failures helped refine his product and pitch.
- Look for “smart money.”
- Seek investors experienced in your area of innovation who can guide/advise.
- Be picky about who you bring into your business
The best place to track Will’s retail innovation: www.imagr.co
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