Conversational Commerce Startup Wizard Raises $50M, Adds Former Walmart E-Commerce Boss Marc Lore as Co-Founder
Conversational commerce technology startup Wizard Commerce has raised $50 million in a Series A funding round led by NEA’s Tony Florence. Former Walmart e-commerce chief Marc Lore participated in the funding and is now Wizard’s co-founder and chairman of the board.
Wizard is the successor to text-based shopping platform Stylust. Stylust’s text message checkout and AI image recognition and recommendation engine were technically acquired by Wizard ahead of the new company’s birth, bringing most of the staff along, including Wizard’s co-founder and CEO Melissa Bridgeford. . The new investment is pegged for hiring a sales and operations team and filling the tech roster with AI, machine learning, and natural language processing experts. The startup’s official tagline is “Transforming ecommerce with conversational AI.”
Lore’s long experience with tech-enabled commerce on a massive scale fits with Wizard’s ambitions for a shopping experience entirely conducted through texts between brands and customers. He previously owned the e-commerce platform Jet.com before selling it to Walmart for $3.3 billion. Some of the $50 million has already been used to purchase Wizard.com for his latest venture. Online records indicate the website was owned by domain investment company Telepathy Inc. until December last year when a GoDaddy account took over but left it dormant ahead of Wizard Commerce’s acquisition.
Walmart’s AI-powered commerce vision didn’t end when Lore left. Conversational commerce vice president for Walmart’s Store Nº8 incubation division Dominique Essig continues the retail giant’s investment and experiments with the idea. Customers like the idea of talking to brands directly, and Walmart offered direct ordering through Google Home devices in 2017 before switching to Google Assistant integration in 2019 and adding Siri. For employees, the Ask Sam voice app released last year answers questions for employees looking for information on product prices and locations, including maps. Amazon’s new CEO is also excited about what voice commerce could mean for retail, specifically through smart TVs. A recent Juniper report estimated that voice assistants will handle $19.4 billion in transactions by 2023. That 320% growth from the expected $4.6 billion this year is tied to greater accessibility to voice assistants and people getting more comfortable making purchases.