"This was the perfect platform for us to work on. We're a startup working on a finance problem which typically big companies don't want to open up to. As part of the accelerator we were treated in such a way that the working of our solution would have been a success for them (Target) too. It was a win-win situation for everyone," said Subrahmanya Rao, Founder and CEO of Discover Dollar.
Rao adds that being a part of Target's accelerator program has opened up new avenues for the firm in terms of customer acquisition. "Working with Target has also helped create a trust factor in our potential customers," he says. Discover Dollar is now in discussions with CXOs of other large retailers to put its product to use to save them dollars.
In its third instalment, Target's startup accelerator program broadened its search to encompass startups in the IoT, 3D graphics and finance related space. The focus is still on finding innovative companies that can help solve real business problems that the US retailer faces, but was not restricted to just e-commerce.
"We recognize that great ideas can come from anywhere and that we need to learn from all of them, so we've very open and externally focused. Innovation is not just coming from startups, there's a lot of efforts from within, but we know that the startup ecosystem is definitely a part of this. We are sitting in Bangalore and it would be a shame if we weren't doing this," said Navneet Kapoor, President and MD, Target India.
On Thursday, the five startups that were part of the accelerator program (including Discover Dollar) graduated, having worked with various teams at Target over 16 weeks. Among them were Find Me A Shoe, a startup that helps customers find the right footwear virtually; TimeFlex, an IoT startup that built a sensor laden device that helps retail outlets monitor various parameters and improve energy efficiency; BugClipper, a tool to help report bugs and share feedback by sharing screenshots and screen recordings and House of Blue Beans, a 3D visualization firm that can help create product images on the cloud.
While the selection criteria for all the startups was address a specific issue or improve efficiency of a process at Target, the accelerator program doesn't restrict these firms from finding customers elsewhere. The 3D visualization startup House of Blue Beans for example counts online furniture retailer UrbanLadder and is planning to reach out to multiple home decor companies.
"We've not been restrictive, as you can see there's a wide audience out there including retailers other VCs. We've tried to be open and aligned with the notion of what a startup should be, we're not trying to clamp down on their freedom and innovation," added Kapoor.
Target helps these startups validate their offerings by allowing them to work with teams that are potential users of these products themselves. Further the company helps these startups align themselves to serve global markets as well as adopt processes that other partnering companies would look for.
"The fact that they have a problem and it's a very big problem serves as a validation that we're doing something right. It's a problem that's been there for several years, but they don't see it as a problem because Target is such a huge organization. It's probably a way for them to have a leaner process to do it and a faster way to do it," said Keshav Vijay, Head of Sales and Marketing at House of Blue Beans. (EoM)
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