Successfully competing against Amazon in one of their core strengths takes a mix of gumption and, perhaps, even a bit of naïveté. But that is exactly what Chicago-based Lystr wants to do. The Kickstarter hopeful is taking an agnostic view of keeping the pantry full, while offering consumers an easy way to track their diminishing supply of olive oil, milk or pretty much any other household necessity.

Lystr focuses on one part of the family grocery supply chain by offering a voice-activated smart device that allows members to build grocery lists either by verbal queues or scanning the barcode of a can, bottle, jar or package. Lystr keeps track of the items and makes them available to family members on the go. The associated app works on any smartphone which makes for easy access for anyone in the household to access when shopping.

“I got started with the project after I got my MBA in 2015,” Kara Scanlin, the Lystr CEO and cofounder told Venturebeat. “My background is in financial services and a little bit of risk management. I was never entrepreneurial or intending to go that route, but this was a problem for me — maintaining a grocery list. I couldn’t figure out why I was using a scrap of paper and felt like this mundane process of maintaining a grocery list could be easy to automate.” The differentiation, Scanlin said, was that Lystr was not tied to one shopping delivery service or store like Amazon. She went on to say that people shop at five or six different stores, so the devices offers an agnostic approach to list making and fulfillment.

The project was launched in October and has set a goal of $50,000 of which it has raised a bit over $10.5 k to date.

The IoT-driven virtual shopping list space offers more than Amazon Echo/Alexa as competition. Hiku, for one, offers a similar virtual shopping assistant, and has distribution deals in place with Walmart and Peapod. And then there are Pon and PivotList that are apps that use the smartphone’s capabilities as the IoT shopping appliance, offering a similar virtual shopping assistant, and have distribution deals in place with Walmart and Peapod.

Creating differential for Lystr will be crucial to its success is raising Kickstarter money and beyond. For example, partnering with a local grocery chain and creating a white label solution tailored to an individual store would follow Amazon’s Dash Button strategy. Also, allowing different members of a household to personalize their lists could be wise. For example, if someone is on a diet, Lystr can recommend certain product substitutions such as low-fat yogurt for those watching their weight.

Lystr has until Nov. 2 to hit its crowdfunding goal. Those who pledge $99 will receive discounted models of the device; it is expected to retail for $119.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (, the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.

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