“Speed Shopper is not eligible”
are the 5 words Joe Laszlo of Grocery Shop chose to end the first paragraph of his reply to our inquiry about why we weren’t selected to pitch our company at the 2019 Grocery Shop conference. He reserved the 2nd paragraph for soliciting admission tickets and sponsorship fees. So why do we find this so vexatious?
Let’s take a step back and analyze the course of events that led up to this email. In March of 2019, we attended Shop Talk which is a conference held by the exact same people. We applied to pitch Speed Shopper at the Grocery Shop conference which takes place in Las Vegas this coming September. We received an email from Grocery Shop stating
“Thank you for applying for the Grocery Shop Startup Pitch contest. We received a significant number of applications, and with very few spots available, we are unable to accommodate your request to participate.”
Interested in why we were not selected, we contacted Anil Aggarwal, CEO of Grocery Shop via LinkedIn message and Simran Aggarwal, President of Grocery Shop via email and asked what about our company wasn’t ideal for their competition. They never responded, but that afternoon we received an email from Joe Laszlo who is Vice President of Content.
He stated via email that Speed Shopper was not eligible to pitch because it was a
“consumer-facing mobile app”
His full statement about why we were ineligible was
“Startup Pitch is intended for retail technology companies — startups selling to retailers and brands, to improve the way their operations run. Think companies with technologies that radically change or improve merchandising, shopper marketing, conversational commerce, inventory management, etc. As a consumer-facing mobile app, Speed Shopper is not eligible.” — Joe Laszlo
It was now clear to us that Mr. Laszlo didn’t quite grasp the full concept of what Speed Shopperis. Sensing that he was unaware of the multitude of services we provide, we replied with a three paragraph detailed email explaining how we were much more than just a “consumer-facing mobile app”. We explained how we offer the services that Mr. Laszlo claimed to have been looking for in companies eligible to pitch. We ended our email with the question, “Would you not agree?”
We sent the email on April 19th. On May 6th when we still hadn’t heard back from Mr. Laszlo we contacted Zia Wigder, Chief Global Contact Officer and Co-Founder of Grocery Shop. She reached out to Joe Laszlo and he subsequently replied back to our email stating
“I didn’t realize you were expecting a response to this email until my colleague Zia informed me that you’d reached out to her.” — Joe Laszlo
What person takes the time to prepare a three paragraph detailed email ending with a question and expects no response???
He then goes on to say,
“I’ve re-read your message and taken a fresh look at your website. And I stand by my initial decision. Speed Shopper is not the kind of company we are looking for for Startup Pitch.” — Joe Laszlo
In a smug and dismissive manner, he essentially told us that he didn’t think our email was worthy of a response and we are still not eligible despite all of the facts that we sent him that prove otherwise. If we had simply not been selected because other companies were more qualified that would be easy to accept, but being told that we are ineligible to pitch at Grocery Shop when we meet every requirement stated as reasons why we weren’t considered is perplexing to say the least. His response caused us to question the integrity and purpose of the entire Grocery Shop conference and led to us doing research into the companies that had pitched at Grocery Shop in last year’s competition.
So What Kind of Company is Joe Laszlo Looking For
We began our research by looking at the two companies that actually won last year’s competition and all four of the companies that pitched in the category that we would have participated in if given the opportunity to pitch.
Grocery Shop Pitch Competition Judges Choice Winner
Toronto Canada based Simplista founded by Evan Silver (Member of XRC Labs based out of New York City)
“Get products to consumers in a fraction of the time with significant and trackable savings. It’s time to fully digitize your retail operation with Simplista, a cloud-based B2B product listing platform that can radically improve your business.”
Simplista appears to help retailers connect with their suppliers more efficiently to speed up the reception of inventory data.
Grocery Shop Pitch Competition Audience Choice Winner
Tastry founded by California resident Katerina Axelsson
“We deconstruct the elements that define your taste and use AI to find your perfect product match…every time.”
Tastry appears to be an app that helps you choose what type of wine you’d prefer based on completing a quiz. It is a customer facing app. That can be downloaded right now in Google Play and the App Store.
We can already see a contradiction in what Mr. Laszlo claims Grocery Shop is looking for in companies that pitch. Tastry is clearly a customer facing app, which is the sole reason given as to why Speed Shopper isn’t eligible to pitch. However, we’ve only examined last years winners. Let’s take a look at the other companies that were allowed to pitch.
Let’s focus on the companies that were in the category in which we were denied the opportunity to pitch in.
Touchize led by Jesper Deleuran from Copenhagen Denmark
“Touchize Commerce is browser-based and works on all mobile and touch devices. It can easily be integrated to all e-commerce platforms, quickly giving you a great-looking and easy-to-use mobile e-shop that really works. Touchize Commerce can be hosted both “In-Cloud” and “On-Site” depending on platform and merchants requirements.”
Touchize appears to be an e-commerce platform that allows retailers to enable mobile shopping or enhance their mobile shopping using Touchize’s mobile platform script. (White label mobile site for retailers)
Shelf.AI founded by Silvio Macedo of Portugal
“Shelf.ai is a shopping platform unlike any other. It can help your business reach more customers, complete more orders, and build stronger, more loyal customer bases.”
Shelf.AI appears to be a customer faced app that retailers use and perhaps white label their shopping list experience. It learns about the customers and stores their data.
Intraposition founded by Yaron Shavit of Israel
“IntraPosition’s innovative technology brings high accuracy indoor- positioning into the retail, healthcare and industry markets, enabling indoor-navigation, asset-tracking and workforce management.”
Intraposition appears to have a few products that they offer to retailers including a GPS type tracker that tracks all of its shoppers through the store and a tracker that guides its delivery pickers to the products. Essentially indoor navigation. It uses crowdsourcing to store data and build a database of item locations which can be used for marketing and other purposes.
So, What’s the difference between Speed Shopper and the types of companies that were “eligible” to pitch last year???
We really aren’t sure.
Of the companies that pitched last year in the category we are being denied the opportunity to pitch in…
Tastry is a customer-facing mobile app (So are we)
Touchize offers white label mobile app development (So do we)
Shelf.AI White label shopping list for retailers (So are we)
Intraposition — Indoor navigation that uses crowdsourcing to obtain item location data (We also use crowd sourced data to map out retail locations)
So Why Would Joe Laszlo Declare us Ineligible When We Clearly Should Be Eligible?
The short answer is that we don’t know, but consider this…
Last year Zia Wigder said,
“The percentage of grocery sales made online in the US is only 2%–3%, significantly lower than for other categories, such as apparel and electronics, where e-commerce accounts for about 20% of total sales. Grocery e-commerce penetration is likely to accelerate in coming years”and Wigder said that, “consumers could be spending 10%–20% of their grocery budget online in the next 10 years.”
Clearly Grocery Shop has the goal of influencing the technology that increases online sales of groceries. However comparing online sales of groceries compared to apparel and electronics is like comparing apples and oranges. A major problem with that statement is comparing those very different products sets the stage for the false premise that the huge gap is due to a lack of technological options.
The goods that are being sold in electronics and apparel brick and mortar locations are very different from what is being sold in grocery stores. People usually purchase groceries that they are going to need very quickly unlike the occasional shirt or laptop that isn’t usually needed right away.
Are We Being Excluded for Being Practical?
Short answer — Quite possibly
Grocery Shop expects companies to approach grocery stores and say what exactly? We have an unproven technological advancement that will enhance the user experience of 2-3 percent of your customers and we’d like you to pay us for it? These companies focused on the in-store shopping experience are still going to be forced to rely on a retailer to let them test a theory at their locations, which may not be something the retailer believes in enough to spend time and resources on.
Perhaps this doesn’t matter to the organizers of Grocery Shop because they are in the convention business and have very little incentive to bring about any meaningful opportunities for startups or retailers. They only need to convince people to pay them money for the perception of opportunityand that is their true business model.
At Speed Shopper we have chosen to include a customer-facing app to our products because that is how we prove the effectiveness of our service and show retailers that they won’t have to spend additional funds marketing our advanced tech to people who may or may not embrace it. We already have thousands of users globally due to how we have chosen to structure or products and are beyond being merely a concept needing to be tested. Our method decreases risk while proving effectiveness.
Is it Grocery Shop that is misguided as to What is Actually Needed to Advance the Agenda of Increasing the Use of Technology by Grocery Retailers and Consumers?
We answer that question with a resounding YES
Perhaps they are more concerned with selling sponsorships and charging bootstrapping startups in excess of $4000 for the “opportunity” to pitch and possibly win much needed funds. Perhaps the team at Shop Talk/Grocery Shop doesn’t really understand what is needed to advance their technological agenda as much as they understand how to get people to pay large sums of money for perceived “opportunities”. It appears more likely that their true agenda is to profit from the conferences without actually producing meaningful outcomes that enhances the user experience of shoppers.
We can’t definitively say what is behind what we have seen from the Shop Talk/Grocery Shop Team and it is worth noting that we previously wrote an article highlighting the positive things about our experience at Shop Talk and made a conscious effort not to discuss the negative things we observed such as the lack of meaningful opportunities for startups, retailers, and brands.
Grocery Shop/Shop Talk is very focused on replacing human interaction with AI and e-commerce in the name of “efficiency”. As they have stated,
“Groceryshop is designed to meet the needs of the industry as it undergoes widespread disruption. Over the next few years, new omnichannel offerings will emerge which will include new ways to order as well as more convenient delivery and pickup options. The result will be an increase in orders via digital platforms as well as significant changes in physical stores as they become a key part of order fulfillment. At the same time, new technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain will start to transform the supply chain.”
Yet their business model focuses on bringing people together for good ol’ fashioned human interaction. There are already technology based platforms that bring people together more efficiently and at a lower cost. For example, Linkedin is a platform that brings people together and facilitates networking among those who may normally not have access to each other.
Grocery Shop’s business model is based on the idea that face-to-face human interaction is valuable, yet the agenda they push is focused on eliminating human interaction in the name of “efficiency”.
At Grocery Shop the product they sell is opportunity via human interaction and it appears that technology is disrupting their business model as well.
It’s worth noting that many retailers and brands receive free admission and even have their travel expenses paid for while startups and smaller cash strapped companies pay thousands for the perceived opportunities.