You know that feeling when you spend a productive and efficient 45 minutes loading your shopping cart with the groceries you carefully included on your shopping list only to turn a corner and see the checkout lines backed up and so choking the main aisles that you can’t even get your cart through the crowd?
A new Maine startup wants to solve that problem by developing smart shopping carts that act not only as convenient wheeled contraptions to hold your groceries, but also as the point-of-sale terminal, eliminating the need to ever wait in a check-out line again.
The company, called Blynk Technology, has flown under the radar since it was founded this spring. But it gained some exposure this week when Co-founder Allegra McNeally pitched the company’s smart shopping cart product, which it calls Apricart, at the inaugural Startup South Portland pitch contest, and won.
Win at Startup South Portland
McNeally’s successful pitch came with $750 and a spot in the grand finale event, which takes place on Oct. 4 at a yet-to-be-determined location in South Portland.
Two other startup founders pitched at the inaugural event. Luke Thomas, founder of Friday Feedback, won second place, $250, and a spot in the final event. The third contestant was Richard Reynolds of GTFO Escape Room, one of several “Escape Room” companies in southern Maine.
There will be two more semifinal pitch events, Sept. 20 and 27. The competition is open to small businesses (defined as those with less than $100,000 in annual revenue, whether incorporated or not) based in South Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, and Westbrook. For more information, check out the city’s website. Sponsors include People’s United Bank, Opticliff Law, the City of South Portland, the South Portland Economic Development Committee, and Southern Maine Community College.
McNeally and her husband, Shahzad Kirmani, founded Blynk Technology this past spring. It is a spin-off of an existing company the husband-and-wife team run called VisionMaster Inc., which designs and develops 3D non-contact sensor systems for electronics manufacturers. They have an office in Peloton Labs, a co-working space in Portland’s West End.
“We have been looking at other applications for our technology and last year started focusing on the pain point of the check out lane in retail B&M stores,” McNeally wrote in an email to Maine Startups Insider. “For a number of reasons, it made sense to spin off this division.”
While the current checkout lines at grocery stores utilize very localized and 2D technology to scan each item you want to buy, the technology behind Apricart would allow 3D machine-vision technology embedded in the shopping cart to “scan” each item as you put it in your cart.
“It basically recognizes what you’re putting in your cart,” Kirmani said.
The company, which has a patent pending on some of the underlying technology, is not ready to discuss where it is in terms of prototypes or corporate partnerships. Kirmani said he doesn’t know of any other technology companies working on this type of solution, but admits that startups or intrapreneurs at major grocery stores could be working under the radar.
McNeally will pitch Apricart again at the Startup South Portland finals on Oct. 4.