Smart grocery cart startup Caper bags $10 million

Caper wants to deliver a major update to the self-checkout aisle without keeping its dreaded catchphrases, i.e. “Unknown item in the bagging area,” “Please place the item in the bag.”

The New York startup is tapping some of Silicon Valley’s more recognizable VC firms to fund their dreams for a shopping cart of the future that uses computer vision and other sensors to let shoppers quickly scan items as they drop them into their carts.

The company is announcing that they’ve closed a $10 million Series A led by Lux Capital. The round also saw participation from First Round Capital, Y Combinator, Hardware Club, FundersClub, Sidekick Fund and Red Apple Group.

Caper closed its $2.15 million seed round led by First Round earlier this year. The startup has now raised $13 million to date. The startup’s leadership plans to use the capital to bring their smart grocery carts to more locations.

The startup says its tech could help grocery store chains bring more seamless checkout processes to customers as the groups aim to keep pace with Amazon, which has doubled down on physical retail automation with its Amazon Go convenience stores.

While Amazon’s small stores rely on a complex web of cameras and sensors tracking your purchase habits, Caper’s solution is more insular, focusing only on what’s happening inside a shopper’s cart.

“Instead of monitoring an entire store, we’re monitoring this very small cart. Our computation is faster, our cameras are a lot closer and we’re able to scale much faster because we don’t need to implement any infrastructure inside the store,” CTO and co-founder York Yang tells TechCrunch.

The company declined to detail exactly how pricey these carts were for a store. When asked whether rollouts would costs “thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Yang told TechCrunch that a full rollout at a grocery store would “probably be within the hundreds of thousands range, though it could be less.”

Alternatively, Bloomberg reported that Seattle’s first Amazon Go store required $1 million worth of hardware.

Caper isn’t expecting physical retailers to go all-in and toss out their old-school grocery carts when they become customers. Part of Caper’s advantage is that it doesn’t alienate customers who don’t want to bring AI into their process; those people can just grab an old cart and check out the regular way if they don’t feel like pushing around a computer.

The credit card reader, barcode scanner and image recognition cameras are just a slice of the sell for investors backing Caper. It’s less about streamlining checkout than it is finding a new way to bring AI-driven online retail conventions into physical stores. Personalized recommendations, shopping lists and recipes could eventually find their way onto the built-in touchscreen, Yang says.

“Our vision is ultimately to build a platform layer on retail that never existed before.”