Shark Tank!

Which Killer App Survived the Retail Shark Tank?

Inspiring ideas that produce “aha” moments are out there but difficult to find, which is why RIS sponsored a shark-tank competition at the recent Retail Executive Summit. The competition was a must-attend session at the summit: For competitors, it was a high-profile platform to showcase their solutions, and for audience members, it filled a critical need to learn about emerging, out-of-the-box solutions.

The competition pitted three startups against each other in a format designed to win approval from a three-judge panel and capture a $2,500 prize, which in a surprising development that occurred minutes before announcing the winner was matched by one of the judges. The total that ultimately went to the winner was $5,000 thanks to the match.

The surprising offer to double the RIS prize money with an additional $2,500 was made by David Matthews, a seed investor with the firm REVTECH. Matthews was one of three judges in the contest and an expert in the startup world.

The three contestants were Anquiro, a competitive intelligence solution, MallMotion, a geolocation mobile app, and TruRating, a shopper feedback solution that gathers customer satisfaction data at the POS during check out.

Each competitor made a 10-minute pitch to the judges (as well as the nearly 100 retailers in the audience) and then were called back for a second round of questions before final votes were cast. The goal of each shark-tank pitch was to explain why the solution was unique, why it filled an important need, and how it improved a retailer’s business performance.

The executives making the pitches were Mike Saint, CEO of Anquiro, Jay Chatterjee, CEO and co-founder of MallMotion, and Alan Outlaw, president North America for TruRating.

Contest judges were Vicki Cantrell, retail strategist and veteran shark-tank judge, David Matthews, managing director of startup accelerator and seed investor REVTECH (who made the $2,500 matching offer), and Eugene Roman, CTO of Canadian Tire.

The startup competition was a key part of the RES conference, held at the Four Seasons Troon North Resort in Scottsdale. It was scheduled as the closing session on the first full day of the agenda, Thursday June 15th, and led into an evening reception.

After the competitors finished their presentations and rounds of questioning, retailers in the audience cast their votes digitally to provide the judges with guidance. Then the judges cast the final votes and a winner was selected. However, it was kept secret until the announcement was made at the reception.

The three judges were unanimous in their choice and selected TruRating as the winner of the 2017 RIS StartUp Competition.

Retail Tech StartUp contest winner TruRating holding award check with Alan Outlaw (center) of TruRating, Dave Mathews (left) of REVTECH, and Joe Skorupa (right), of RIS News.
RIS Retail Tech StartUp contest winner TruRating holding award check. Alan Outlaw (center) of TruRating, with Dave Mathews (left) of REVTECH, who matched the top prize with an additional $2,500 match, and Joe Skorupa (right), of RIS News.

Georgina Nelson, founder and CEO of TruRating, was scheduled to make the pitch at the contest, but at the last minute was called away to Singapore to secure another round of funds for the company. When reached after winning the contest, Nelson said: “High fives were heard ringing across the world and I felt the ground shake from the applause in Singapore. It’s just the best news. I heard the whole conference was fantastic and it sounds like we have many leads to follow up on.”

As part of the winning package, TruRating will be featured in RIS throughout the year to monitor its progress and report on its impact with retailers.

While TruRating walked away with the contest’s big prize, all three startup competitors received high-profile recognition at the conference in front of a large gathering of elite retailers and an invaluable chance to network with future clients. As Mike Saint of startup Anquiro expressed it before the winner was announced, “Whether I get the top prize or not I already feel like a winner.”

For more coverage of the 2017 Retail Executive Summit click here.

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