AiFi, a startup that makes cashierless, autonomous retail environments, announced today that it has raised a new round of funding from new investors Qualcomm Ventures and Plum Alley as well as existing investors such as Cervin Ventures and TransLink Capital.
The amount of new funding was not disclosed, but the AiFi press announcement said the total amount raised by the company was now $30 million. As of last Friday, Crunchbase had AiFi’s funding at $15 million and listed Qualcomm Ventures as an investor for an undisclosed sum from back in August. So if we’re reading this correctly, it appears that the new round is $15 million.
But equally interesting as the funding is the investor, Qualcomm Ventures, the venture arm of mobile technology giant Qualcomm. The canned quote from Qualcomm in the press release said
“As intelligence continues to move from the cloud to the wireless edge and demand for contactless shopping grows, we are excited to be investing in AiFi,” said Carlos Kokron, VP Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and Managing Director, Americas at Qualcomm Ventures. “We were very impressed with AiFi’s innovative edge-computing solutions and look forward to their technology helping accelerate the deployment of 5G.”
That a Qualcomm entity would invest in AiFi isn’t too surprising. AiFi’s stores rely on a lot of wireless technology, and the startup’s pitch is that it creates a faster retail experience by producing shopping receipts in real time. But Qualcomm is also moving more into computer vision, which is a cornerstone of cashierless checkout. In July, Qualcomm announced a chip cluster that adds machine learning and AI to mid-tier cameras. So investing in a company that gets that tech into more locations makes sense.
In addition to retrofitting existing stores, AiFi makes self-contained, autonomous, shipping container-sized nano-stores. The company says it will be deploying them to 330 locations around the world in 2021, and that it has partnerships with a number of top grocers across the U.S., Europe and Australia.
The pandemic has spurred interest in contactless technologies such as cashierless checkout. Caper just announced a countertop cashierless system for convenience stores. Grabango publicly launched its integration with Giant Eagle’s GetGo Market. Mastercard launched a cashierless checkout partnership with Accel Robotics. And AWM is powering a new cashierless market for a California apartment building.
For its part, AiFi said it will use the new funding to continue to develop its technology.