Simbe Robotics frees up workers to do what humans do best—interact with customers.

In the US, with the jobless rate at 3.7%, we are near full employment. Same in the UK at about 3.8%. This makes hiring a challenge for many companies in many sectors. In retail, not only is hiring hard, but turnover is very high. Among hourly workers, retailers report turnover higher than 80%. These factors mean most retailers have many unfilled positions. Important job functions go unmet.

With the continued growth of online shopping, retailers face additional pressures to make certain they keep items in stock, their displays are properly merchandised, and they have enough sales capacity to keep lines short and experiences pleasant.

Unfortunately, the data shows retailers are not doing well at these tasks. According to IHL Group, worldwide, out-of-stock items result in more than $448 billion dollars of lost annual sales. An additional $472 billion is lost each year due to planogram ineffectiveness, SKUs missing from the most effective shelves, empty shelf space and missing or wrong promo tags. And out-of-stocks are not just a revenue problem, they are a loyalty problem, giving shoppers one more reason to shop online instead. Retailers have to do better.

One reason this challenge remains unmet is these are tasks humans don’t like doing. Few people enjoy relentlessly walking store aisles to tally up missing items or check prices.

Welcome, Simbe Robotics.

Simbe manufactures an autonomous inventory-auditing robot and SaaS analytics system for grocery, drug, clothing and superstore retailers called “Tally.” Using both computer vision and RFID scanning technology, Tally drives up and down store aisles multiple times a day, avoids people and other obstacles, identifies out-of-stock items, mis-priced SKUs and reports on planogram compliance. Tally automatically alerts store employees when out-of-stocks and price tag errors/discrepancies appear and integrates with retailers’ inventory management systems. They deliver highly detailed analytics about the state of merchandise execution on shelf and shopping trends as they are happening — no more lack of visibility and waiting for untimely or incomplete data. The robots return to their charging stations autonomously and are incredibly low-maintenance.

Even prior to their Series A round, Simbe generated great customer traction. They have deployed robots in over 12 of the top 250 global retailers, including Schnucks, Giant Eagle, Decathlon Sporting Goods, Groupe Casino, and more. It is highly unusual for a robotics company to demonstrate such impressive product-market-fit on just seed funding. But, that is what Brad, Shah, Jeff and their focused team have achieved. We were sufficiently impressed that we are leading their Series A round and are incredibly excited to support them on this journey.

In the long-term, robots will be all over society, performing many of the lower level repeatable tasks humans dislike. As automation is more broadly adopted, just as is happening here, humans will be able to focus on higher-level tasks which drive more value to customers and to enterprises. However, building robots capable of flawlessly executing these tasks is a great challenge. Despite the incredible efforts focused on self-driving cars, for example, we are quite far from commercialization. In the short-term, however, the tasks for retail are a perfect application for mobile automation and Simbe is leading that effort and is beloved by their early customers. You will soon get to see Tally in action at a store near you.

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