Like Target and Amazon, Walmart is trying to figure out what the future of retail looks like. The company already bought up startups like Jet.com and clothing store ModCloth to better compete online, but Walmart's next move will invest some of its sizable coffers directly in the next generation of retail technology startups through its own tech incubator. According to Jet.com founder and Walmart's CEO of e-commerce Marc Lore, who announced the project at this year's Shoptalk conference, the group will be called "Store No. 8" and will focus on investing in companies that cover all the buzzwords from virtual and augmented reality, to machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence.
As Bloomberg reports, the new tech incubator was named after a shop in Arkansas where Sam Walton used to experiment with store layouts will be based in (where else) Silicon Valley. While Lore didn't reveal how much Walmart would be investing in the project, Walmart SVP of Digital Store operations Seth Beal and VP of Incubation Katie Finnegan (who also came from Jet.com) have taken new roles as Store No. 8's two Principals. The incubator and the companies under its umbrella will be operate independently of Walmart corporate and its research company @WalmartLabs in San Francisco, but the end goal here is to create new tech that will help Walmart's bottom line -- whether that be through new online boutiques like ModCloth or new ways to skip the checkout lines in the store. Plus, when your competition is riding robots and planning a delivery service for the moon, the only smart move is to respond by opening a tech incubator.