Boston startup raises $10M for retail software that predicts inventory needs

Boston startup raises $10M for retail software that predicts inventory needs
By Kelly J. O'Brien. Source: BizJournal.

Boston-based Celect has raised $10 million for its software that lets retailers purchase and deploy their inventory more efficiently by predicting what customers will be most interested in buying.

The Series B funding was led by Connecticut’s Activant Capital, with participation from Fund Capital and August Capital, both based in Silicon Valley. Activant and August previously participated in Celect’s $5 million Series A in June 2015.

Celect currently has about a dozen brand name clients, including Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN) and Zipcar, and plans to use the money to at least double customers and revenue over the next year.

Two MIT professors, Vivek Farias and Devavrat Shah, founded Celect in 2013 based on research they had done around how to model the purchasing choices consumers make. In 2014, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory named Shah’s predictive algorithms, which he also applied to car buying and Twitter’s trending topics, as one of the 50 most important technologies to ever come out of MIT.

The startup’s cloud-based software helps the buying teams within national retailers deal with the “combinatorial explosion” of factors they need to consider when deciding which items to purchase, how many of each item to purchase and which stores to distribute the items to, according to CEO John Andrews.

Andrews joined the company as CEO in 2014. He was previously the vice president of marketing and product management at Endeca Technologies Inc., a Cambridge-based e-commerce software company that Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) acquired for more $1.1 billion in 2011. Andrews then spent several years as the vice president of product management and strategy at Oracle Commerce.

The Endeca acquisition has contributed to a miniature retail software cluster in the Boston area. Endeca’s founder Steve Papa is on Celect’s advisory board. And Salsify, founded by a trio of Endeca alumni, recently raised $30 million for its software that provides online retailers with an easy way to handle all the different kinds of product data they receive from manufacturers.

Elsewhere in the retail software ecosystem, Woburn-based True Fit, founded in 2007, has seen traction for software that helps online clothing and footwear retailers provide better fit and style information to their customers.

Celect currently has 30 employees and plans to triple that number in the next few years. Andrews said the company is in the process of finding a new headquarters, but didn’t disclose details.

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