21st September 2017 – Pointy, the tech startup that brings the contents of local retailers online through their unique “Pointy box” hardware, has today announced a $6 million Series A funding round to accelerate their mission of bringing the world’s local retailers online.
The round is being led by Frontline Ventures alongside Vulcan Capital, Draper Associates and a number of notable angel investors. The company had previously raised a $1.2m seed round in 2015. The company is led by Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, who have previously founded successful startups.
Pointy provides local stores with an automatic way to list all of their products online. Their unique “Pointy box” device connects to a store’s barcode scanner and automatically puts scanned items on a website for the store. The store pages are optimized for search engines, so that when local customers search for products, they find results from local stores. The Pointy devices are already in use by local retailers across 48 states, and the store pages have appeared in search results tens of millions of times.
Local retailers are an enormous part of the economy, with total sales of more than $3 trillion per year. For all the press about e-commerce, more than 90% of retail spending still goes through the country’s one million local retailers. But with consumer behaviour changing rapidly, local retailers are under intense pressure to keep up with technical change. For a typical local store, that can be an enormous challenge. Big e-commerce sites are doing things online that local stores simply can’t match, but Pointy helps even the playing field. Pointy is a tool in the armoury of local stores as they face every growing pressure from the likes of Amazon.
CEO and co-founder Mark Cummins explains: “For many local retailers, keeping up with technology can feel like too much. They have full time jobs to do already, they don’t have the time or expertise to create digital stores as well. But consumers increasingly expect to find everything on their smartphones. If someone takes out their phone to search for a product they want to buy, they’re likely to see a result from Amazon, even if a local store 50 feet away has the product in stock. It’s a frustrating for retailers and consumers alike. Pointy is solving that problem in a way that’s effortless for retailers.”
Says CTO Bibby, “The big difference with Pointy is that we do absolutely everything for the retailer. We did a lot of hard things behind the scenes to make it an experience that ‘just works’. It’s inexpensive, takes five minutes to install, and doesn’t require any integration with existing POS systems. After the Pointy box is plugged in we do all the work of sourcing product information and optimizing the retailer websites for search engines. It really makes it effortless.”
The two founders met each other while completing their PhDs in Robotics at Oxford. After graduating Cummins co-founded Plink, a visual search engine company that was acquired by Google in 2010, representing Google’s first acquisition of a UK startup. The acquisition became part of Google’s Visual Search team, designing computer vision and AI systems now used in many of Google’s core products. Bibby meanwhile has worked on numerous large-scale robotics and hardware projects, including designing security systems for the 2012 Olympics. He designed the first Pointy Box device when on a sailing boat, having just proposed to his now wife.
Commenting on the raise, lead investor and Partner at Frontline Ventures Will Prendergast said, “Pointy is the first big innovation for local retailers in years. There is a clear consumer desire to search products available in local stores but today it’s not possible. Pointy have created a zero friction way of capturing that information which benefits both the store owners and consumers. It’s amazing to see the demand being unlocked: one toy store owner got hundreds of phone calls for a rare Lego set after joining Pointy, and a liquor store had customers driving from miles around for an unusual craft beer. I believe Pointy will lead to new consumer purchasing behaviour in the coming years. Mark and Charles have built an incredible team and ground-breaking technology, we’re excited to be backing them.”
Retailers across the country have already been using Pointy with great results. “I notice since we use Pointy that younger kids are coming in, so it’s hitting the younger base” says James Giuliani of The Diamond Collar pet store in Brooklyn, NY.
Herman Hernandez of Greenpoint Toy Center has also noticed Pointy increasing footfall to his store: “The real surprise for me was when the first customer came in to buy a specific toy we had. They said they had been looking all over town for this particular toy, and that Google had led him to my Pointy page. That was priceless.”
Pointy was founded by Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby in 2014. The company’s device makes it effortless for a retailer to get their entire inventory online and attract customers to their brick-and-mortar location. The company is based in Dublin, Ireland.
Retailers simply plug in a Pointy device, and the complete contents of their shop are displayed online automatically. The entire process involves less than five minutes work. When a shopper is searching online for something the store sells, Pointy helps the shopper find the local store, where they can buy in person. It’s an alternative to e-commerce that’s simple and effective for local retailers. Pointy is used by retailers in 48 states across the US, as well as in the UK and Ireland. Pointy’s local store pages have appeared in search results tens of millions of times.