Marks & Spencer (M&S) has invested in Texel, a Russian 3D scanning company.
Texel is the developer of two body scanners, the Portal BX and Portal MX. The 3D scanning technology has been successfully deployed in shopping malls and stores in several countries including Russia and Spain. Their scanning system is underpinned by software developed by Texel making the “Texel Portal … unique because any 3D sensors can be mounted on its frame.”
The resulting photorealistic avatars are intended to be used by customers during shopping and to make clothing recommendations. Over 100 body measurements are taken along with data recording customer style preferences. Texel has generated a library of over 90,000 color body scans and claims this represents one of the world’s largest databases of such information.
Paschal Little, Head of Clothing & Home Technology at M&S, said, “Texel’s technology opens up many exciting routes for us. Retail is changing and changing faster than ever before. Investing in businesses like Texel puts us at the sharp end of that change and gives us the tools to test and trial new ways to inspire our customers.”
M&S hopes Texel’s technology will complement Optitex, a software tool used by designers at the company to digitally visual patterns without the need for cutting or sewing fabric.
Sergey Klimentyev, Texel Inc co-founder, said, “Texel is building products designed to simplify, personalise and enrich the offline and online shopping experience and helps to reduce online returns and increase conversion.”
Founders Factory tech investment fund
Texel will join the retail accelerator programme via the a joint venture with M&S called, Founders Factory Retail.
Founders Factory is a global accelerator and incubator with an annual goal of creating 13 new startups. Investors in the company include L’Oreal, easyJet, Guardian Media Group, Aviva, Holtzbrinck, CSC and M&S. The accelerator division has a target of 35 startup investments per year. To date the Founders Factory portfolio includes acceleration of 95 startups and incubation of 22 startups.
Founders Factory investments include Straight Teeth Direct, a consumer teledentristy platform, a company using 3D scanning and 3D printing to produce dental aligners. Zoa Robotics is also in the Founders Factory portfolio, the UK company is developing its Zeta robot for industrial site inspection.
The specific terms of the Texel investment were not disclosed, however the Founders Factory website indicates that incubator investment is £150,000, and £30,000 for accelerator investment. Each offer comes with additional non-financial support, for example access to a VC and Angel investor network.
Isabela Chick, Managing Director of Retail, Founders Factory said, “The breadth of the businesses backed by M&S so far – from solving the challenge of on-the-go mobile phone charging (ChargedUp) to improving the way we feed our pets (Rocketo) – is testament to M&S’s commitment to partnering with startups across all their business units to transform their offer to their customers, and we will see benefits to the startups and to M&S through these collaborations.”