Just two months into the initiative, in August 2019, the Startup Network had accepted just 40 members. Now, one year later, the Network is home to more than 150 members. More than growing in numbers, the Network represents an increasingly diverse group of companies that provide RILA members with myriad solutions to both long and short-term challenges.
Over the past year, the Startup Network has grown and evolved along with the changing retail environment. When we first developed the initiative, we knew that retailers were increasingly looking toward innovation to meet their needs, solve problems, and prepare for future success. We didn’t anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it would have on business operations, consumer behavior, supply chains, and more. In a matter of days and weeks, companies were forced to make rapid decisions and investments to meet the moment, crucial to which, was the ability to leverage many of the relationships facilitated via the Startup Network. The RIC hosted four live COVID-19 technology showcases featuring Startup Network members, to give retailers real-time exposure to technology designed to help them navigate this unique time. Though we never foresaw this intense need, the Network was built precisely to serve it. The showcases are now available for on-demand streaming here and are highlighted in the RIC’s COVID Response Technologies table here.
Perhaps most importantly, the Startup Network was designed with lean budgets in mind. For startups, it’s an incredible opportunity to gain free exposure among retail leaders that can lead to real partnerships and growth. Startups have become an important part of the programming at many of our large events, including RILA’s LINK Supply Chain Conference and Retail Asset Protection Conference. At each of these events, Startup Network members qualify for customized exhibitor packages and the opportunity to apply for a Startup Innovation Award, both high-value opportunities to connect directly with retailers and showcase their solutions.
Joining the network is a simple online application that confirms the business size and age, as well as the technology focus and direct correlation to RILA executive communities. This application process allows our team to better match startups with opportunities to showcase to the right retail executive groups, thus better facilitating potential partnerships. For example, for an October 2019 Asset Protection Leaders Council Meeting, not long after the Walmart shooting in El Paso, TX , RILA’s internal asset protection lead called on the RIC to help source startups focused on active shooter scenarios to participate in an innovation showcase during the meeting. Leveraging the Startup Network, we were able to identify several startups that focused on active shooter situations from different lenses including: MindGlow, AmberBox, Fighting Chance Solutions, Defendry, and RiskBand.
Retailers can now browse the Startup Network portfolio, which is updated regularly to highlight additional Network members, and soon, RILA community executives will be able to view solution pitches on their own time via the RIC’s Insights on-demand library.
We credit much of the success of RILA’s Startup Network to the support of RILA’s RTech Investor Network, which is composed of venture capitalists, incubators, and accelerators with a focus on retail technologies, innovations, and the digital transformation. The Investor Network allows RILA's RIC to keep a pulse on the latest ideas and technologies. Additionally, we rely on the support of dedicated retail executives that participate on the RTech Council, RTech AP Advisory Council, RTech Supply Chain Advisory Council, and across all RILA committees.
As we celebrate our first year spent focused on building a new community of retail-focused startups, we look forward to the year ahead, during which we will be focused on fostering an inclusive community, recognizing a diverse group of founders that will accelerate a change in retail. Keep an eye out for more announcements to come!
If you are a startup or are connected with groundbreaking entrepreneurs, we encourage you to check out and share the RTech Startup Network and apply today! For more information about the RTech Startup Network or to get engaged with RILA’s Retail Innovation Center more broadly, feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com.
Technology & Innovation