With Its Latest Acquisition, Walmart’s Tech Incubator Is Trying to Transform the Way You Shop
The purchase of Spatialand is one of several ambitious retail technology initiatives Store No. 8 has undertaken since launching less than a year ago.
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Nearly a year ago, Walmart launched its startup incubator Store No. 8 with the aim of reshaping the retail experience through technology like virtual reality and drones. On Tuesday, the company announced a move that could bring it considerably closer to that goal.
Store No. 8 acquired Spatialand, a small Los Angeles-based virtual reality software business founded by Kim Cooper. It will relaunch the venture with Cooper and Store No. 8 consultant Jeremy Welt as co-founders. Kate Finnegan, the co-founder and principal of the incubator will join as CEO. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"The team will develop and explore new products and uses of VR through immersive retail environments that can be incorporated by all facets of Walmart, online and offline," Finnegan wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. Finnegan did not give details on the business's plans, writing that it will operate in stealth for the time being.
Store No. 8 launched in March 2017 and has since created Code Eight, the personal shopping service led by Rent the Runway founder Jenny Fleiss. The incubator also plans to build a facility without checkout lines or cashiers, akin to Amazon's Go store. The project is dubbed Project Kepler and run by Jet.com co-founder Mike Hanrahan, according to Recode.
"At the core we are about what the customer journey is and how do we make that experience magical," Finnegan told Inc. in January. "Tech enables that, and it might mean we build the tech ourselves, or we will leverage [another company's] tech to do that." For example, she said, Walmart could one day build in-store virtual reality kiosks where customers could view and shop for any item in the company's inventory.
Despite its growth over the last year, Store No. 8 is still in its infancy and Finnegan is continuing to look for new entrepreneurs and avenues for innovation. "In true startup fashion, if you click to contact us, that email goes directly to me," she said last month. "I respond to every single one of them because you never know where the next idea is going to come from."