On EQT Ventures’ investment in Standard Cognition, creating the store of the future
In the commencement speech This is Water, delivered to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace gives a brutally honest insight into the “boredom, routine and petty frustration” that makes up an “average adult day”.
Nowhere is that more obvious than when you’re standing in a long line at your local supermarket! So, it’s no surprise that many of us are now shifting to shopping online and having our groceries delivered.
But not everything can and will be delivered by online shopping. The constraints of geography — from the very large (think Midwest US) to the very small (like an airport or office micromarket) — dictate that in some places it will likely never be relevant or indeed possible to get delivery in. So, unfortunately, checkout queues are here to stay.
Or are they?
One thing we can all agree on is that it is unlikely the store of the future will have the same-old long lines or cumbersome self-checkout machines we’re used to today. It seems obvious that, if possible, this should be automated. This is a huge technical challenge but one that will eventually happen whether we like it or not. It’s not a case of if, but rather when.
And when it’s finally here, you’ll be able to enjoy a seamless and efficient shopping experience made possible by autonomous checkout. Put simply, the “grab and go” shopping model will become the norm. Walk in, take things, walk out. Once you’ve experienced it — you’re hooked. Whether that’s in convenience stores, where the revolution will start, or in large grocery outlets, there will be no going back afterwards.
And this version of the future — the “when” — is actually here today, just not evenly distributed (think Amazon Go).
This is why EQT Ventures is super excited to be backing Standard Cognition — one of the most promising companies powering the next autonomous revolution. So, why are we so excited about it and what’s behind the company’s pretty high valuation?
When I first met Jordan Fisher, Standard’s CEO, and the rest of the founding team, I was blown away by their domain expertise and ambition. Quite simply, they’ve put together one of the very best computer vision, AI and data teams out there. This is a co-founding team that is committed to being the world’s leading provider of autonomous retail technology and changing the entire retail purchasing process along the way.
Already light years ahead with their technology, Standard Cognition’s team has obsessively built an AI-enabled camera system that doesn’t rely on facial recognition (meaning no privacy concerns). The team’s leagues ahead of any other player in the space when it comes to their tech and foresight.
By having a relentless focus on camera-based AI, Standard Cognition can enable so much more than just automated check-out. This, by itself, is already a $20–40bn opportunity. But Standard Cognition can transform other in-store operations such as on-shelf availability, which is more than a trillion dollar opportunity alone. Imagine walking past a store and in real-time being told that the product you’ve just run out of at home is on the shelf, so you just walk in and get it. The possibilities here are endless.
Simply put, the more you dig, the bigger the opportunity becomes. Once the EQT Ventures team truly understood this, the market opportunity size and how much further ahead of the curve the company was, it was clear this was an investment we couldn’t pass on.
With deployments already being rolled out to signed customers across North America, Europe and Asia, this global transformation is happening right now, making it only a question of time until Standard Cognition becomes THE standard for how we shop globally.