The autonomous retail start-up closed its latest funding round, led by Seaya Ventures and Iberis Capital, fuelling growth and global expansion.
Sensei, a Lisbon-based computer vision startup, providing autonomous store technology to deliver ubiquitous check-out-free purchasing systems, has secured a seed round of $6.5M USD (€5.4M). The funding is led by Seaya Ventures and Iberis Capital, with participation from 200M Fund managed by BPF, and existing investor LeadX Capital.
This round is the largest Seed round raised by a company in Portugal to date, and brings the total raised by Sensei to $7 million. Sensei is also the first European autonomous retail technology vendor to raise capital.
Bringing retail into the future
This injection of funding will be used to scale the company’s ability to expand R&D, meet increasing demand, accelerate new store launches and roll out its solution to consolidate market leadership in Europe.
Sensei’s technology offers a proprietary technology platform that—using a blend of cameras, sensors and AI algorithms—can automate stores, both new and existing, to provide a fast, convenient, seamless shopping experience.
Sensei’s proprietary “computer vision-first” solution can retrofit easily in existing establishments and allows retailers to offer a seamless, pleasant and more efficient shopping experience to their customers, that is completely check-out free. At the same time, retailers are able to manage their inventory in real-time and get access to unique data insights about their customers and how they interact with their store and products.
Vasco Portugal, Sensei’s CEO and Co-founder, said: “We’re thrilled to have secured this investment with new and existing investors, and have big ambitions to use it to change the way the world shops with autonomous stores.”
“Sensei’s technology will help level the playing field for retailers to compete against digital giants such as Amazon. We aim to enhance the familiar and enjoyable customer shopping experience, making it seamless, convenient and safe.”
Empowering safer, seamless retail is key to improving customer experience
Through an integrated system of sensors and AI algorithms, Sensei enables a new era of omnichannel stores—able to capture in-store product data and shoppers’ activities to offer a wealth of analytics and a frictionless shopping experience. Retailers can avoid stock-outs, customer queues, and can redeploy staff to customer support, providing enhanced care and relationship building.
McKinsey believes the stores of the future will improve customer experience and employee engagement, and will be managed more seamlessly with technology. There is clear demand for frictionless payment methods, but the majority of shoppers are yet to be offered these in-store.
As a way of helping retailers bounce back from the effects of the pandemic, autonomous retail will give confidence and comfort to shoppers, whilst allowing them to enjoy browsing and shopping again. Retailers will also gain essential, detailed store intelligence.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to join the Sensei team in their journey to completely transform the way we shop at a physical store, and we are looking forward to supporting them through our experience of scaling high-growth international businesses. We are delighted to invest in a business that is part of the digitalisation of commerce, a trend that is currently clearly being accelerated,” said Aris Xenofontos, Principal at Seaya Ventures.
Luis Quaresma, Partner at Iberis Capital, added: “Sensei brings tremendous efficiencies and cost-savings to the retail industry, while providing a much needed seamless checkout experience for consumers. We are thrilled to back Sensei's outstanding team and support them in accelerating the impressive momentum they have already achieved in such a short time.”
“Sensei’s vision is to be a worldwide leader in autonomous retail, empowering all retailers to make shopping in-store seamless, pleasant and more efficient” adds Joana Rafael, Sensei’s COO and Co-Founder.
Sensei works with all sizes of grocery, convenience, grab-and-go stores, forecourts and other retail formats and is actively pursuing expansion into European markets including the UK, France, Germany and Spain.
Sensei was founded by a well-rounded team of entrepreneurs with a strong scientific background, Vasco Portugal (CEO, ex-MIT), Joana Rafael (COO, retail and entrepreneurial experience), Nuno Moutinho (CTO, Computer Vision PhD and Aerospace engineer) and Paulo Carreira (CSO, Professor and PhD in Computer Science), who together have a combined entrepreneurial, retail and technological experience.