Empire state of mind: software startup Braiyt.Ai’s retail analytics platform gets New York exposure

Retail analytics
Retail analytics

Tamey McIntosh hasn’t had much time to be dazzled by the bright lights of Broadway or any other of New York City’s myriad attractions during her first visit to the Big Apple.

Instead, the trip has been all business for the co-founder of Ottawa software firm Braiyt.Ai, who’s spent this week soaking up insights on retail technology during a federally funded program run through the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service’s New York office.

Braiyt.Ai is one of seven companies from across the country taking part in the event, which aims to give promising startups in the retail technology space a taste of the thriving U.S. retail tech ecosystems in New York and California. 

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Organized by the Consulate General of Canada’s New York office, this week’s events include meetings with business leaders and venture capitalists, as well as roundtable discussions with industry experts and visits to Amazon, Nike and Samsung stores, where McIntosh and her fellow founders are checking out the latest retail trends in verticals such as fashion and electronics.

For McIntosh, landing a coveted spot in the accelerator – a program she discovered only a few days before the April 30 application deadline – is yet another vindication of Braiyt.Ai’s decision to focus its artificial intelligence platform on retail applications.

“What Google Analytics is to e-commerce, we’re trying to be to physical spaces in retail.”

Founded in 2019, the company uses AI and machine learning software to tap into security cameras and track metrics such as how many customers are entering brick-and-mortar stores, where shoppers are most likely to gather, and how long they wait in line at the checkout counter. 

McIntosh says the platform gives retailers valuable insights into which items and services are most popular and what parts of a store might need to be reconfigured to improve traffic flow and make the shopping experience more efficient. 

“What Google Analytics is to e-commerce, we’re trying to be to physical spaces in retail,” says McIntosh, Braiyt’s chief operating officer.

The technology is now installed at four stores in Ottawa, including Massine’s Your Independent Grocer on Bank Street. McIntosh says the product has surprised even industry veterans like Massine’s owner Dave Massine with its ability to help make their stores easier to navigate and more inviting for consumers. 

“Retailers have sort of a preconceived notion of what is happening in their space and it might not be true,” McIntosh explains. “The cameras don’t lie. They’re showing retailers things that they might not have known.”

The platform has caught the eye of retailers as far afield as Brazil, where Braiyt conducted a virtual trade mission a few months ago in a bid to drum up business in South America’s largest economy. Closer to home, a Toronto retail chain with more than 30 locations is now in talks to purchase the software and McIntosh expects inquiries to keep flooding in as more potential customers find out about the product.

‘So much data’

“We just think there’s such an opportunity,” she says, noting Braiyt expects to ring up sales of about half a million dollars this year and “really start growing” in 2023. 

“There’s so much data that (retailers) actually have and don’t know what to do with. There’s so many things in a store where they can optimize savings and make sure staff are being used in the proper places at the proper time. It’s just the tip of the iceberg right now.”

Meanwhile, the 12-person company will continue to benefit from the federal government’s retail technology program for months to come. 

The next phase will feature a series of virtual sessions designed to introduce founders to potential customers and industry mentors in the U.S. as well as provide them with additional market intelligence. In September, McIntosh will head to California for more sessions with industry insiders and meet-ups with venture capitalists and investment experts.

Those meetings could prove valuable for Braiyt, which recently received a Bootstrap Award and has been mostly self-funded up to now. 

McIntosh says she and co-founder and CEO Warsame Ahmed – a data analytics expert who previously worked at Transport Canada – have been polishing up the company’s pitch deck and fine-tuning their financial projections as they prepare to pound the pavement for seed capital.

“You get to a point where you realize if you want to grow, you need money,” she says. “We’re trying to be very fiscally responsible with the money that we have currently. Preparing ourselves to raise funds is pretty stressful. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone.”

While Braiyt is gaining traction in retail, it’s also eyeing opportunities in the defence and security sector. The company is currently working on a pilot project with the Department of National Defence, which is using Braiyt’s technology to help sailors in the Royal Canadian Navy detect and identify objects at sea.

“I think the possibilities are endless,” McIntosh says of the platform’s military applications. “There’s a lot going on.”

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