Investing in the future of retail with Standard Cognition: Bringing real time computer vision to all brick-and-mortar stores

Standard Cognition is building the retail experience of the future, where you just walk out to pay for whatever you’re carrying out of a store. It’s seamless, checkout-less shopping for consumers and retailers all over the country.

We’re proud to announce that we just joined Charles River Ventures and Y Combinator in backing the company through an initial $5 million round.

In their first proof of concept, they use cameras to identify who walks in, what goods they’re carrying and what they ultimately purchase. All of these processes are handled on-site at the local store using computer vision techniques Standard Cognition is developing.

The most interesting innovations happen when technology cost curves hit magic levels where they become possible in new packages for the first time. Realtime computer vision with off-the-shelf GPUs has just reached that level now, and we are excited that this team is bringing it to reality today.

The team has not only founded a company together before, it has three PhDs in mathematics and nuclear science and its CEO Jordan Fisher led a team at the Securities and Exchange Commission developing quantitative tools that could make sense of the agency’s data.

For retailers, this will lead to reduced prices, no lines, better stocked shelves and fewer misplaced items. Every year, retailers lose $45 billion to theft, so even before the holy grail of checkout-without-lines, Standard Cognition can make a huge dent in anti-theft in a way existing solutions have only dreamed.

Technology cost curves unlocking new capability is only half of it. To bring amazing tech to market, you also have to have a strong business motivation to do it, and frankly we’re there today. Traditional American retailers face an oncoming crisis as e-commerce continues to take mindshare and revenue directly from brick-and-mortar retail. Standard Cognition is such a powerfully better customer experience that this is the kind of thing that goes from cool to must-have in very short order.

Instacart’s Lead Product Designer on Creating A Design System


Jordan Staniscia tried — and claims he failed — multiple times to create a single, re-usable design system for all of Instacart’s visuals, icons and interactions over many years at the company. 

We at Initialized Capital frequently get asked about how startups should create style guides that define the brand identities of their companies, and so we asked Staniscia to share some lessons with portfolio companies this week. 

So, first off, what is a “design system”? 

Staniscia prefers to use the word “system” because it implies that this is something re-usable; it’s a framework. Design systems are, in Josh Clark of Big Medium’s words, “containers for institutional knowledge.” 

It sits between the design and engineering teams as a common language that helps them stay on the same page. Otherwise, designers will end up in a situation where they have to explain their product vision over and over again and engineers will have a hard time ensuring they’re building an efficient system. 

How to Use Your Alexa to Control Your Home Devices, Water Your Plants or Even Feed Your Cat

By day I'm a general partner at Initialized Capital helping founders and investing in startups. But I've never given up my hunger to build things and hack on projects in my spare time. So in that spirit, I wanted to share a quick tutorial:

In this tutorial, we'll walk through the basics of how to set up an Alexa Skill to control a Raspberry Pi or Arduino. Instead of having to water your plants with a button or turn off your lights with an app you just tell Alexa what to do and it will relay to your device. There’s a whole host of robot minions you can build (more tutorials coming soon!) but with this one I’ll demonstrate the very basic functionality and how to bridge Arduino and Raspberry Pi with Alexa. The tutorial is intended for engineers and should take about an hour.

Why Initialized Capital Invested in Open Listings

Buying a home has gotten easier, faster & more attainable with software

Homebuyers don’t want an agent. They want a home. Here I am in my home, thanks to Open Listings.

In 2015, I needed help buying a home in San Francisco and turned to the founders of Open Listings. It was quick and painless. I knew what I wanted, and they were able to get me that home on my terms.

A few months ago, we caught up with them again in LA to talk about their business, and it became quickly obvious that they had made a lot of progress. What these founders have done since graduating Y Combinator in the Winter of 2015 is remarkable. They’ve built a product that delights customers — they closed over 64 homes last month alone — and saved buyers millions. (Open Listings splits 50% of the commission with homebuyer, which is $8,000 on average).

It’s a win-win situation for their buying agents as well. The key? Efficiency.

Traditional agents normally spend 80% of their time looking for new clients or driving potential buyers around. Since buyers come to Open Listings directly and browse homes on their own time, agents only have to focus on getting offers accepted. This allows them to pass the savings along.

With housing prices steadily increasing, this commission refund is real money for the young families, first-time homeowners & immigrants that turn to Open Listings. As house hunting becomes more digital, software efficiency should save buyers time and help make home buying more affordable. We continue to be excited by founders who show relentless discipline and commitment to making something people love. They’ve done the hardest part, and now it’s time to focus on growth. The Initialized team is thrilled to roll up our sleeves and dive in.

It certainly doesn’t hurt when one of us is already a very happy customer.

Go ahead, start househunting!