As More Grocers Embrace Tech, Swiftly Snags $15M to Launch in Seattle

Xconomy Seattle — 

[Updated 9/12/19 1:10 p.m. See below.Swiftly, a Seattle-based startup developing software to provide discounts and rewards for buying goods at grocery stores, exited stealth mode this week with an announcement it has raised more than $15 million in outside investment.

The company, which has been keeping many details about its business under wraps, launched in early 2018 as PrestoQ but has since rebranded as Swiftly. It didn’t provide many details about how it will use the new funding, but says in an email to Xconomy only that it plans to continue scaling the business. [Updated with information from a Swiftly spokesperson.]

Swiftly’s mobile apps for Apple and Android devices let users check out as they shop, rather than all once. Users scan barcodes of items before placing them in their carts or baskets. The app searches for any available coupons for scanned items, and automatically applies the discounts.

After they’ve finished working through their shopping lists, users pay for orders via Swiftly’s app and avoid waiting in the main checkout line, the startup says. Users complete purchases by going to a designated Swiftly zone near the exit, where a store clerk takes a picture to verify shoppers have paid for the items in their carts or baskets, a company spokesperson says. [Updated with information from a Swiftly spokesperson.]

The startup says its apps also let users find information on stores’ loyalty programs, and sign up for “subscriptions” to have items delivered to their homes periodically.

E-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) offers a similar feature, which it calls “Subscribe & Save,” for toothpaste, trash bags, and other items customers frequently reorder. Amazon’s other forays into the grocery business include its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods and cashier-less Amazon Go stores.

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and its bulk retailing business Sam’s Club have also been stepping up their technology-enabled programs and delivery options in recent years, including with a tech hub in Austin, TX and free shipping for Sam’s Club members.

Other companies use similar technologies to provide consumers discounts or refunds at anything from restaurants to bars to other retailers. Some banks offer the service, and startups like Austin-based Dosh are building businesses around it.

Swiftly says it’s working with Zion Market, which operates a handful of stores in California and Georgia, according to the organization’s website. In a news release, Moses Hwang, Zion Market’s chief operating officer, says that by allowing users to browse a store’s item selection using mobile devices, they’re more likely to purchase items they may not have found while strolling the aisles.

Swiftly’s founders are Karen Ho, Daniel Kim, Henry Kim, and Sean Turner, according to the release. Turner is based in Seattle, while his three co-founders are based in California, according to the spokesperson. [Updated with information from a Swiftly spokesperson.]

The chairman of Swiftly’s board of diretors is Tad Dickson, the startup says. He was previously CEO and chariman of Harris Teeter Supermarkets, a large chain that’s now owned by Kroger (NYSE: KR).

Swiftly named two institutional investors that participated in the funding round: Novel Private Equity and Mendacre. Several individual investors also took part in the round, Swiftly says.