Fung Global Retail & Technology attended XRC Labs’ 2017 Cohort 3 launch on January 10 in New York City. XRC Labs is an accelerator program dedicated to fostering the next generation of disruptors in the retail and consumer goods sectors.

  • XRC Labs sponsors eight emerging brands for 14 weeks and is a partnership between the Parsons School of Design at the New School and consulting company Kurt Salmon. The startups in the third cohort had completed the first week of the program at the time of the launch event.
  • The XRC Labs accelerator program provides on-site workspace on Parsons’ New York City campus, mentorship, access to capital and operational support to emerging companies in the retail and consumer goods industries.
  • The companies participating in the accelerator’s third cohort are providing solutions designed to improve the customer experience, increase conversion rates and analyze data for better decision making, and one startup is launching a skincare product line.

XRC Labs 2017

Fung Global Retail & Technology attended the XRC Labs 2017 Cohort 3 launch celebration on January 10 in New York City. XRC Labs is an accelerator program that hosts eight emerging brands for 14 weeks twice a year. It is a partnership between the Parsons School of Design at the New School and consulting firm Kurt Salmon. XRC Labs is a design-centric innovation ecosystem for the retail and consumer goods industries. It brings together entrepreneurs, investors and sponsors to foster rapid innovation and unlock new opportunities in retail. Its vision is to be on the forefront of change, disrupt the conventional system of retail and promote the best experience for consumers and producers.

XRC Labs’ brand sponsors include Best Buy, Intel, Lowe’s, Michael Kors, the National Retail Federation (NRF), Reebok, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), Shoptalk, ThoughtWorks and TJX Companies.


Retail Ready for Change

Joel Towers, Executive Dean of the Parsons School of Design, and Pano Anthos, Managing Director of XRC Labs, kicked off the evening with introductions and an overview of the retail environment. Towers emphasized that the challenges facing the retail industry are urban, social, dynamic and technological, and that design innovation can help solve them.

Anthos presented a few slides to set the stage, highlighting that retail innovation has been slow compared with technological innovation and that the retail industry is ripe for change. As the slide photo below shows, in 2009, only 6% of consumers shopped online over the Thanksgiving weekend, compared with 55% over the same weekend in 2016. Anthos added that the retail store shopping experience has not changed significantly over the past 100 years, and that the industry is ready for innovation.


Anthos contrasted technology with retail and stores, and said that stores are afraid to fail. He argued that the reason technology has improved is because the industry is willing to fail.

x-2Anthos said, “We should treat stores as beta experiences and not be afraid to fail.” The mind-set today is that retailers are built to last—and not change. Anthos said XRC Labs’ vision is to be on the forefront of change, disrupting the conventional system of retail while promoting the best experience for consumers and producers.

XRC Cohort 3 Companies

Leslie Cohen, Exeutive Director of XRC Labs, introduced each of the companies in the accelerator’s third cohort. As of the launch event date, the companies had completed one week at XRC. They will make their final presentations on March 30. Each of the companies
presented a high-level overview of their retail solution:

  • 29th Centuryx-leslie-cohen provides an artificial intelligence (AI)–powered virtual data analyst to help businesses make better decisions. Alex Man and David Yang created 29th Century to target e-commerce businesses that cannot find or cannot afford a data analytics team.
  • Benja is a merchandising ad network that sells products across multiple proprietary platforms. The company uses sales per impressions to track performance. Benja is currently working with Nike and Under Armour, among others. The company’s team includes Andrew Chapin, Tommy Goode and Morgan Reilly.
  • Cartogram provides indoor location services to businesses. It is built into the Google Maps platform and Cartogram’s software services work together to create an end-to-end experience for the customer, while lowering business overheard. The Cartogram team includes Will Clausen and Davis Johnson.
  • CheckOut is using online sales and conversion strategies with brick-and-mortar retail to create an immersive customer experience in physical stores. CheckOut is creating smart connections between online sales activity and in-store preferences. The company presents that data to customers using tablets, screens and interactive mirrors. The CheckOut team includes Asaf Shapira, Roy Dror, Yossi Shriki and Idan Sergi.
  • Ella is a lifestyle skincare brand focused on an elevated product, the brand experience and sourcing high-quality ingredients tailored to the needs and identities of women. Ella is positioned to fill a void in the women’s skincare market by offering high-quality, lower-price products. The company plans to launch later this year and the team includes Georgina Gooley, Jason Bravman and Emily Motayed.
  • Lacelook, created by Ha Nguyen and Surat Teerapittayanon, is an AI-backed search technology that allows users to search for fashions they see in a photo or on the web and easily compare prices in real time across brands and retailers.


  • Snappy, created by Hani Goldstein and Dvir Cohen, is an app that allows users to send a personalized gift with all of the advantages of a gift card that offers the recipient choices.
  • Ziel is a platform that enables any lifestyle company to expand the reach of its brand into activewear. Ziel provides a turnkey solution to bring high-quality, eco-friendly performance apparel to market. The service platform includes custom design with on-demand production, US-based production, and e-commerce and POS integration.

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