CXI offers “Tinder for startups” at retail pitch competition


Just one day before the start of Dx3, Canada’s largest digital retail conference, The Working Group (TWG), Mercedes-Benz, and Compass Group joined forces to host the first annual Retail Experience Innovation Competition (CXI).

Hosted in the Distillery District, CXI was a decidedly more intimate affair, by design. A private event, CXI did not even advertise the pitching startups to invitees – potential attendees had to show up to see the goods. Curated by TWG, however, the six presenting startups – Candid, Chargespot, Nudge Rewards, Sampler, Spently, and teaBOT – were all chosen to address the innovation need facing large corporations across Canada.

“This is tinder for startups and corporations.”
– Marie Chevrier, Sampler

“In the digital age where opportunities come and go quickly, collaboration with nimble startups is essential to win the race for the best retail customer experience,” said Ralph Ostertag, Chief Information Officer, Mercedes-Benz Canada, Mexico and Latin America.

To that end, the pitch event focused less on proving business opportunities, and more on how startups could immediately improve the customer experience of the companies in the room – an important distinction considering pilot projects with Compass and Mercedes-Benz were part of the awards package. Several of the pitching companies that BetaKit spoke to were clear that the additional effort to match the right startups with the right corporate partners made CXI stand out from the typical pitch event.

“We got a lot of great coaching from TWG and insight on the type of companies we were pitching towards,” said Marie Chevrier, CEO and founder of Sampler. “These are new companies to us, so it’s important to understand the key challenges that they face.”

Sampler wasn’t in the winning circle, as teaBOT and Candid took home the two cash prizes of $12,000 and $6,000, respectively, while Nudge Rewards took home not only the People’s Choice Award (worth $2,000), but also both pilot projects with Compass and Mercedes-Benz. Still, Chevrier indicated that the follow-up networking with the associated companies on hand could prove just as fruitful.

“This is tinder for startups and corporations,” Chevrier said.

Nudge Rewards CXI

For the winning startups, it’s important to look at what exactly made them stand out to not only the crowd, but the judging panel, which included noted Stanford Professor of Marketing Baba Shiv. teaBOT Marketing Manager Nolan Schachter told BetaKit that the company completely changed its pitch approach to ensure they understood how its grab-and-go tea stands could improve the retail customer experience. But the context couldn’t have been any more apt for Nudge Rewards, which produces team performance software to help retailers hit KPIs like net promoter score.

Jordan Ekers, Nudge’s VP of Business Development, said during his pitch that “we’re in a period now where we have customers that are more knowledgeable than the sales staff.” For Nudge, the solution is to drive employee behaviours that can responding to customers’ shifting needs – an appealing proposition for large-scale brands across all verticals.

“We understand that to grow and maintain our market dominance over the long term, it’s all about driving great consumer experiences, through innovation,” said Humza Teherany, Chief Innovation Officer, Compass Group Canada. “Young startups offer the agility and creative thinking that larger organizations require to unplug innovation bottlenecks along with access to new energy, talent and enthusiasm.”

Disclosure: TWG is a sponsor of BetaKit’s CanCon podcast. Why aren’t you listening to it right now?

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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