E-Retail Startup Pointy Raises $12M, Helps Small Shops Be Found Online

Mark Cummins wondered why online search engines could help you locate a landmark halfway around the world in a second but couldn’t tell him whether the corner store had a craft beer he liked.

That’s what led him to co-found Pointy, which makes a hardware device that enables small retailers to easily upload inventory onto their websites—thereby making the products more easily found in online searches. “It seemed crazy to us that people had to wait two days for Amazon to deliver a product that could be 100 yards away in a local store,” Cummins says.

Pointy’s device is now being used by retailers throughout the United States and in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. To fuel future growth, the e-commerce startup announced today that it has raised $12 million in a Series B round of financing led by Polaris Partners and Vulcan Capital. Pointy’s total funding to date is $19 million; it raised $6 million in a Series A round in September 2017.

Cummins says Pointy’s customers are typically mom and pop-style stores or retailers that have up to five locations. “They might have a website but it’s not displaying all of their inventory online,” he says. “Finding all the names and images and keeping stock information up to date, that’s really a full-time job and local retailers don’t have the resources to do that.”

While Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) seems to dominate e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers still account for an estimated 90 percent of sales. Pointy cites data from IHL Group that found that around 24 percent of Amazon’s retail revenue comes from customers who first tried to buy a product in the store. That finding, Pointy says, illustrates how important it can be for shoppers to be able to easily find small retailers online. Retailers pay $499 for each device to be installed; there are no monthly subscription fees.

Pointy’s device connects to a store’s bar code scanner and automatically uploads the products to the store’s website. Those store pages are then optimized for search engines, which allows products to be found by shoppers. Cummins says the startup works with retailers of all goods, except apparel. “They don’t bar code clothing in the same way and it’s hard to get imagery for clothing because it changes so quickly,” he says.

Cummins, who previously sold his visual search engine startup Plink to Google in 2010, started Pointy in 2014 with co-founder Charles Bibby. In addition to the new funding, Pointy also recently announced partnerships with major makers of point-of-sale technologies such as Square (NYSE: SQ), Clover, and Lightspeed, which allow retailers to geo-tag products online. Last month, Pointy began to work with Google and the search company’s “See What’s in Store” feature, which allows local retailers to display inventory on Google and be visible on Google Maps.

“We have an affection for our local retailers and don’t want to see them crushed by Amazon,” Cummins says.

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