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Shoptalk 2024 “Shark Reef” Startup Pitch Competition: Preview—12 Innovators, Four Areas of Retail Disruption

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Coresight Research is an official research partner of Shoptalk 2024, which will take place during March 17–20 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Shoptalk is an annual retail conference that unites executives from retailers, consumer-facing brands and technology vendors across both physical stores and e-commerce to discuss retail innovation and the trends, business models and technologies that are shaping the future of retail.

On March 17, 2024, the “Shark Reef” Startup Pitch competition will see 12 early-stage innovators compete to win the Judges’ Choice and Audience Choice awards. The competition will span three sessions on Shoptalk’s Arctech Track Stage, beginning at 2:00 p.m. and concluding at 4:20 p.m. PT (local time of the event). Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, will emcee the pitch competition as well as serve as lead judge.

In this report, we preview the pitch competition, covering its format and the judging panel as well as an introduction to each participating innovator.

Shoptalk 2024 “Shark Reef” Startup Pitch Competition: Preview

Event Format and Judging Panel

The Shoptalk 2024 “Shark Reef” startup pitch competition will comprise two rounds:

  • Round 1: All competitors will present for three minutes on how their innovative technologies are addressing important challenges in retail. As emcee and lead judge, Weinswig will ask each presenter a single tough question following each presentation. The judges and audience will rate each presentation, and the six companies that receive the highest aggregate ratings will progress to the next round.
  • Round 2: The finalists will each participate in a more in-depth, five-minute Q&A session with all four judges. The judges will re-rate the finalists, and the audience will rate each of them as well.

Shoptalk will reveal the Judges’ Choice and Audience Choice winners at the end of the session!

Weinswig will be joined by three expert judges:

  • Jett Fein, General Partner at Headline—Fein specializes in global technology investments. Since joining Headline in 2014, he has been instrumental in leading or co-leading the firm’s early investments in a variety of successful ventures, including Gopuff, Fancy and Honeycomb.io. Before Headline, Fein worked at Fung Capital, focusing on investments in companies involved in global, omnichannel commerce. His earlier experiences include roles at Palantir Technologies and Cambridge Associates.
  • Christina Melas-Kyriazi, Partner at Bain Capital Ventures—Melas-Kyriazi joined Bain Capital Ventures in 2021, where she focuses on early-stage investments in fintech and commerce. She was previously Head of Product for Consumer Foundations at Affirm, where she led a team of product managers to enable a frictionless customer experience from account creation to loan servicing. Before Affirm, Melas-Kyriazi was a Senior Product Manager at GoFundMe, where she worked on growth and new product areas. Earlier in her career, Melas-Kyriazi also spent time in business operations at LinkedIn and as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. She is an active angel investor and an advisor to early-stage companies.
  • Matt Nichols, Partner, Commerce Ventures—Nichols has been an investor in and operator of early-stage technology companies for more than 20 years. At Commerce Ventures, he leads the firm’s retail-tech investing and has led investments in FleetOps, Grabango, Kevel, Mulberry, Pensa Systems, Rally, Simon Data, Syte and Trove. Commerce Ventures invested in Kevel in 2020, and Nichols has worked closely with the company since.

Innovative Solutions Across Four Areas of Disruption in Retail

The participating startups must satisfy the following selection criteria:

  • Business-to-business (B2B) solution
  • Pre-Series A—funding of less than $8 million
  • Founded since 2018
  • Scalable—addresses a major retail challenge or opportunity
  • Highly differentiated—unique or highly differentiated technology or business model

Coresight Research categorizes the 12 startups into four areas of disruption in retail, as detailed below.

AI/AI-Based Content

This category comprises startups that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to create and optimize content for various purposes, such as marketing, customer engagement and personalization.

Startups: EyeLevel.ai, Optiversal, PSYKHE AI, Tare

Shoppable Media and Experiential Commerce

This category comprises startups that provide solutions for shoppable media and experiential commerce, enabling brands to create engaging and interactive shopping experiences for consumers, either online or offline.

Startups: dotkonnekt, Hue, MadeMeBuyIt

Customer Experience and Loyalty

This category comprises startups that focus on enhancing the customer journey—including the post-purchase experience—improving customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention through personalized communications, loyalty programs and more.

Startups: Node, Primis, Raleon

E-Commerce Operations and Fulfillment

This category comprises startups that are transforming e-commerce operations and fulfillment processes, optimizing supply chains, reducing costs and improving efficiency.

Startups: Portless, Two Boxes

Figure 1. Shoptalk 2024 “Shark Reef” Startup Pitch: 12 Innovators Across Four Areas of Retail Disruption

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Source: Coresight Research


The Competing Innovators

We introduce each innovator in alphabetical order below.


  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Dhiraj Jain, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: Shoppable media and experiential commerce
  • Year Founded: 2021
  • Headquarters: Singapore, Singapore
  • Download the Innovator Profile for dotkonnekt here.

High customer acquisition costs (CAC) and the deprecation of third-party cookies pose significant challenges to businesses reliant on paid advertising for traffic generation. While not all paid advertising requires third-party cookies, their deprecation still poses significant challenges to businesses heavily reliant on them for traffic generation. High CAC not only strains budgets and eats into profitability but also limits sustainable growth opportunities. Additionally, the lack of engaging digital experiences on commerce sites contributes to suboptimal SEO (search engine optimization) rankings and reduced conversion.

These are the challenges that dotkonnekt seeks to tackle with Sangria, a digital experience platform designed to revolutionize digital commerce strategies. Sangria leverages advanced AI technology to seamlessly integrate content, community and commerce (which the company calls “3C”), enhancing engagement and driving organic traffic to brands’ commerce sites. By facilitating in-content shopping and engagement, Sangria empowers brands to organically improve their SEO rankings, increase conversion and reduce dependency on paid advertising. Furthermore, Sangria’s AI-driven capabilities enable personalized and contextually relevant experiences, mitigating the impact of third-party cookie deprecation.

“3C” integration and immersive experience by dotkonnekt
Source: dotkonnekt



  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Neil Katz, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer
  • Area of Disruption: AI/AI-based content
  • Year Founded: 2018
  • Headquarters: Denver, Colarado, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for EyeLevel.ai here.

EyeLevel.ai solves a significant challenge in AI today: a lack of trust. Output from an LLM (large language model) is subject to hallucination, whereby the AI presents incorrect information as a fact in an attempt to satisfy the input prompt, due to the content not being grounded in real data. Whether a business is building LLM-powered apps for customer service, sales, legal, training or other functions, they need AI to generate answers that are consistently accurate and based on their own data.

EyeLevel.ai addresses this by turning corporate content into data that LLMs such as ChatGPT understand, providing businesses with AI applications that are up to 95% accurate—far beyond the industry standard—according to the company. EyeLevel.ai calls this “truth serum for AI.”

Making the use of AI simple and secure, EyeLevel.ai enables businesses to build e-commerce and customer service apps with no-code tools and APIs (application programming interfaces). The company’s solutions can be launched on web, apps and even SMS, and integrate with dozens of enterprise systems such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Google, Microsoft Clouds and more. Importantly, data are always encrypted, not leaked into LLMs and allow for full data governance—businesses can trust the AI with their private data.

Examples of EyeLevel.ai’s AI in use
Source: EyeLevel.ai



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  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Nicole Clay, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer
  • Area of Disruption: Shoppable media and experiential commerce
  • Year Founded: 2020
  • Headquarters: San Francisco, California, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Hue here.

Established in 2020 and headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Hue is a shoppable-video solution designed for e-commerce brands and retailers. Historically, only a small selection of skin tones and body types were represented in beauty and apparel marketing, excluding many communities—Hue sets out to help retailers correct this. Hue enables brands and retailers to ensure that a diverse range of shoppers are represented modeling and reviewing their products, by embedding authentic video reviews directly on brands’ direct-to-consumer e-commerce websites. Hue leverages a diverse community of over 2000 micro-content creators whose user-generated content showcases products on various skin types, ages and hues, allowing prospective buyers to view the products paired with individuals that properly represent them.

Hue’s platform allows brands to utilize this content for various marketing channels, including advertising, social media and email marketing. By incorporating authentic video reviews into the e-commerce experience, Hue aims to assist brands in engaging and retaining customers, ultimately boosting sales and conversion rates.

Product features and illustrations of Hue’s solution
Source: Hue



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  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Benjamin Kosinski, Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: Shoppable media and experiential commerce
  • Year Founded: 2022
  • Headquarters: New York, New York, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for MadeMeBuyIt here.

Retailers encounter difficulties in navigating the vast array of emerging brands available in the market. This challenge not only consumes valuable time and resources but also hampers retailers’ ability to curate a diverse and appealing product selection for their customers. As a result, retailers may miss out on opportunities to capitalize on emerging trends and effectively meet evolving consumer preferences.

MadeMeBuyIt offers a centralized B2B marketplace where retailers can seamlessly discover, source and procure from emerging brands. By streamlining the onboarding process and handling operations, payments and shipments, MadeMeBuyIt simplifies the procurement journey for retailers, enabling them to efficiently explore new brand partnerships, thus reducing the time and effort required to expand their product offerings.

Snapshot of MadeMeBuyIt’s platform
Source: MadeMeBuyIt



  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Rohan Mahadevan, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: Customer experience and loyalty
  • Year Founded: 2021
  • Headquarters: Menlo Park, California, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Node here.

Node removes inefficiencies from the online shopping experience caused by cumbersome account setups. The process often leads to friction and security concerns for both merchants and consumers, negatively impacting the overall user experience and the company’s bottom line. The impacts of these challenges include lost sales for merchants and frustration for the consumer. Security and trust may also deter consumers from completing transactions, which hurts both the merchant’s revenue and reputation.

Node’s commerce platform removes friction between merchants and consumers, enabling them to interact directly (with one-click purchasing capability) without the need for sign-up or any servers. This paradigm shift—bringing commerce to the edge—eliminates the frustration, cost and risk associated with usernames, passwords, captchas, email spam, phishing, hacking, risk management, regulatory compliance, security and more.

Because it cuts out the server (and the need to store user data), Node’s technology delivers complete privacy for the shopper. For merchants, Node’s solution drives sales and enables trusted communication—and it takes less than 10 minutes to integrate the tech into an existing site, according to the company.

Node’s platform for customers
Source: Node



  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Lucas Tieleman, Co-Founder
  • Area of Disruption: AI/AI-based content
  • Year Founded: 2022
  • Headquarters: Saint Petersburg, Florida, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Optiversal here.

Many e-commerce businesses struggle to resonate with their target audience. This struggle often translates into stagnant traffic and revenue growth as generic or outdated content fails to capture the interest and loyalty of potential customers. This challenge is magnified by the fiercely competitive nature of the e-commerce landscape, where myriad brands compete for consumers’ attention amid a sea of options. Without engaging and unique content, e-commerce companies risk blending into the background and losing potential customers to competitors offering more personalized experiences.

Optiversal tackles this issue by providing an AI-driven e-commerce content-creation platform. Leveraging generative AI technology, Optiversal automates the creation of thematic landing pages, product content and marketing materials. This approach enables e-commerce companies to produce high-quality, keyword-optimized content that resonates with their audience, ultimately improving traffic, conversion rates and revenue.

How Optiversal helps retailers optimize content
Source: Optiversal



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  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Izzy Rosenzweig, Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: E-commerce operations and fulfillment
  • Year Founded: 2023
  • Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Portless here.

Portless helps e-commerce brands to navigate the complexities of supply chain and logistics processes. Traditional methods often involve extended transit times, resulting in delayed market entry and increased inventory risks. Portless streamlines these processes by facilitating direct shipping from China to customers’ doorsteps within six days, thereby minimizing lead times and mitigating inventory risk.

Conventional supply chain practices entail heightened operational costs and reduced market agility for e-commerce brands. By offering direct shipping solutions, Portless aims to alleviate these challenges, enabling brands to achieve greater cost efficiency and market responsiveness. Additionally, Portless facilitates market expansion by simplifying cross-border shipping logistics, allowing brands to enter international markets more seamlessly from a centralized hub.

A comparison between Portless and traditional logistics methods
Source: Portless



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  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Rebecca Griffiths, Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: Customer experience and loyalty
  • Year Founded: 2020
  • Headquarters: London, UK
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Primis here.

Primis addresses the challenge of providing a seamless and engaging post-purchase experience for online shoppers, which is a common pain point for retailers in today’s competitive market. This challenge presents itself in various forms, including decreased customer satisfaction, diminished brand loyalty and missed opportunities for further engagement and sales. Today’s online shoppers expect more than just a transaction; they seek a personalized and memorable experience throughout their entire journey. A subpar post-purchase experience not only fails to meet these expectations but also risks negative reviews and decreased customer retention. Moreover, in an overcrowded marketplace, brands struggle to stand out and build lasting relationships with customers.

Primis specializes in the post-purchase stage of online shopping. Through tailored and sustainable strategies, Primis helps brands elevate their customer experiences, differentiate themselves and cultivate genuine loyalty. By seamlessly integrating with e-commerce platforms and carrier networks, Primis provides features such as live delivery updates, personalized recommendations and visually appealing order summaries, enhancing the overall post-purchase journey for both brands and customers.

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Features of Primis platform
Source: Primis



  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Anabel Maldonado, Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: AI/AI-based content
  • Year Founded: 2020
  • Headquarters: New York, New York, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for PSYKHE AI here.

PSYKHE AI seeks to help retailers optimize product discovery amid competition for consumers’ attention. With a vast array of products now available online, consumers often struggle to find items that align with their preferences and needs. Traditional recommendation systems may not accurately capture individual preferences, leading to missed opportunities for retailers to connect with potential buyers. This surfeit of choice leads to reduced customer engagement, conversion rates and sales opportunities for retailers.

PSYKHE AI tackles this issue by providing a solution that leverages advanced deep-learning models and product information to accurately predict purchasing behavior based on consumer’s psychological characteristics and traits such as values, desires, goals, interests and lifestyle choices. PSYKHE AI generates custom rankings of each store’s catalog for individual users, ensuring that the most relevant products are presented to each user based on their interests. By assigning specific qualities to products, PSYKHE AI’s patented system can precisely match products with the right consumers, thereby enhancing the shopping experience and increasing sales for retailers.

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Personalized e-commerce product discovery from PSYKHE AI



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  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Nathan Snell, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: Customer experience and loyalty
  • Year Founded: 2020
  • Headquarters: Wilmington, North Carolina, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Raleon here.

Raleon aims to overturn outdated loyalty and retention strategies, which are still prevalent in the industry. These traditional approaches fail to fully capitalize on the value of customers beyond their initial purchase, resulting in missed opportunities for businesses to cultivate lasting relationships with their clientele. These outdated loyalty strategies limit customer engagement, reduce retention rates and waste opportunities for brand advocacy.

Raleon aims to change this by offering a modern loyalty solution founded on personalization and AI capabilities. By employing AI and deep-learning models, Raleon enables merchants to optimize their loyalty programs and enhance customer engagement passively and neutrally. In a market where digital-first approaches are becoming increasingly prevalent, Raleon’s focus on enhancing the post-purchase customer experience aligns with the evolving needs of e-commerce businesses.

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Raleon’s loyalty sidebar integrated into a website
Source: Raleon



Tare logo

  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Eileen Dai, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: AI/AI-based content
  • Year Founded: 2023
  • Headquarters: New York, New York, US
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Tare here.

Tare allows brands and retailers to optimize their email marketing. Many businesses struggle to create engaging and effective email campaigns that resonate with their audience, leading to low open rates, high unsubscribe rates and missed opportunities for customer engagement and conversions.

Tare addresses this challenge by providing an AI-powered email marketing platform tailored to optimize business processes. With features such as automated image generation using Shopify store products, fully customizable email campaigns and robust tools for measuring and refining email strategy, Tare empowers businesses to elevate their email marketing. The platform facilitates automated customer segmentation, AI-driven content and imagery creation and streamlined scheduling for delivery, resulting in enhanced efficiency and effectiveness in email campaigns.

Illustration/snapshot of Tare’s platform
Source: Tare


Two Boxes

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  • Presenter at Shoptalk: Kyle Bertin, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Area of Disruption: E-commerce operations and fulfillment
  • Year Founded: 2022
  • Headquarters: Remote (serving the US and Canada)
  • Download the Innovator Profile for Two Boxes here.

Returns operations in warehouses worldwide are hamstrung by outdated processes, creating inefficiencies and challenges for logistics providers and brands alike. While significant advances have been made in fulfilling online and retail orders, returns processing has remained challenging. Inefficient, unintelligent manual processes often result in delays, leading to significant financial losses for brands and contributing to negative environmental impacts such as unsellable returned products going to landfill.

Two Boxes is tackling this challenge by leveraging innovative technology to streamline returns operations within warehouses. Through strategic partnerships with numerous third-party logistics providers, Two Boxes facilitates the efficient processing of large volumes of returned inventory for leading brands across the US and Canada. This approach not only optimizes labor-intensive processes but also contributes to environmental sustainability by preventing thousands of units of inventory from ending up in landfill. Additionally, Two Boxes provides valuable data insights to both third-party logistics operators and brands, enabling more efficient, intelligent and environmentally friendly returns management.

Two Boxes’ dashboard shows return statistics and item-level details
Source: Two Boxes



Shoptalk 2024 “Shark Reef” Startup Pitch details and participating innovators are accurate as of March 8, 2024.