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 Marc Lore — now CEO of Walmart’s e-commerce division — 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 and will be based in (where else) Silicon Valley. While Lore didn’t reveal how much Walmart would be investing in the project, Store No. 8 will be headed up by Walmart SVP of Digital Store operations Seth Beal and VP of Incubation Katie Finnegan, who also came from Jet.com. While the companies at Store No. 8 will be operate independently of Walmart corporate and its research company @WalmartLabs in San Francisco, 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.