Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. Customers can just walk out with no checkout or line. Sensors automatically detect purchases
The "Amazon Go Effect": Pushing retail players into innovation. Photo: Shutterstock

Retail tech sector pushed 31 companies to the status of unicorns in 2019

CB Insights' the State of Retail Tech annual report disclosed the players who reached the position as well as the key trends for the sector

From real estate to mobile games, 2019 saw a great number of companies from a wide range of sectors to move to the next level. One hundred forty-two players around the world reached the coveted status of at least $ 1 billion in valuation, and among the countries that had a special position in the podium, Brazil was there filling the third position, along with Germany, amidst the countries that had the highest number of startups becoming unicorns. 

Although the year has been productive for Brazil when it comes to the startup sector, on a global scale, 2019 saw fewer companies becoming unicorns when compared to 2018, when 158 players reached the $1 billion valuation. Market Intelligence platform CB Insights has released its annual report on the State of Retail Tech, revealing that this industry has also followed the global trend, with funding to e-commerce companies dropping by 7% during the last year. But while investment in e-commerce itself is showing signs of decline, funding in supply chain and logistics tech, as well as for AI companies working across retail tech functions, on the other hand, is rising fast. 

As the market evolves, investments in retail tech are slowly shifting towards later-stage rounds, focusing on funding for real growth and flowing to companies upgrading the store experience and driving precision. As for the markets that are learning fast how to drive innovation in retail, the US is not in the first position, unlike some might think. Asia surpassed the North American country when it comes to deals in the sector, as the region secured a 36% share of annual global retail tech deals in 2019, against 35% from North American companies. South America, on the other hand, was placed with 8% of the global share, along with Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. 

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But one of the most staggering findings of CB Insights report was actually the number of unicorns that rise this 2019 in the retail tech sector: 31. Take a look at what were the companies featured in the list:

E-commerce News: from resale marketplace to store-based retail

The “Amazon Go Effect”: Pushing retail players into innovation. Photo: Shutterstock

Grove Collaborative is an online service focused on helping craft a healthy and beautiful home environment. The startup researches and hand-selects natural products and delivers them (carbon offset) right to each customer’s door.

MUSINSA is a fashion commerce company that offers a fashion magazine, as well as a fashion distribution platform, an online shopping mall, and online promotion services.

Rent the Runway is for women that wish to rent designer apparel and accessories. The company focuses on convenience on all of its platforms, including online, mobile, and retail locations in the American cities of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. The startup serves as a marketing channel for the fashion industry, offering to a new generation of women brands that they used to have limited access.

Valued at $1.02, Miaoshou Doctor is a China-based pharmaceutical e-commerce company. Backed by Sequoia Capital China and Tencent Holdings, among other investors, the company became a unicorn in June 2019.

Resale marketplace

Detroit’s StockX was one of two high-end sneaker resale marketplaces that hit unicorn status in 2019; the other was Poizon, based in Shanghai. Resale marketplaces continue to expand and evolve as consumers look for unique products as well as more sustainable retail options.

Vinted, operated by Friendly Fashion, is an ecommerce platform that allows users to buy and sell clothes from their closets. The company also operates Kleiderkreisel, a second-hand marketplace that lets people sell, swap and gift unwanted clothing. The company offers real-world marketplaces, organized so people can meet in person and swap their clothes. Company (Alive / Active)

Vroom is an end-to-end ecommerce platform that offers a better way to buy and sell used vehicles. Vroom’s scalable, data driven technology brings all phases of the vehicle buying and selling process to consumers wherever they are. Vroom offers an extensive selection of vehicles, transparent pricing, competitive financing, and at home pick-up and delivery.

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Direct-to-consumer (D2C)

Away is a global lifestyle brand specializing in direct-to-consumer high-end luggage.

Casper manufactures mattresses and sells them directly to consumers.  

Glossier is a direct-to-consumer beauty company that leverages content and community to power a superior shopping experience. Its skincare, makeup, body, and fragrance products are sold in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom directly through its website and New York City showroom.

Hims and hers offers a modern approach to health and wellness. The company’s mission is to eliminate stigmas and make it easier for people to access care and treatment for the conditions that impact their daily lives. The company’s products address skin, hair, and sex concerns.

Lenskart offers prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and accessories online.

Small business marketplaces

Faire is a wholesale marketplace that caters to small retailers by offering distinctive products and terms that reduce the risk of trying something new (e.g. free returns of unsold inventory). The company uses AI to help forecast inventory efficiently. The platform focuses on eco-friendly and handmade products, as well as products made in the US. Faire reached unicorn status in 2019.

ezCater is a nationwide marketplace for business catering. ezCater’s online ordering, on-time ratings and reviews, and customer service connect businesspeople to reliable catering for any meeting, anywhere in the United States.

ACV Auctions is a mobile platform that enables used-car dealers to view, bid, and purchase car inventory via online auctions. Conducted via a smartphone application, ACV Auctions creates liquidity for wholesale inventory (trade-ins and aged automobiles) 24-hours-a-day. A five-minute process of snapping pictures and drafting a vehicle description launches an auction to hundreds of registered buyers.

Store-based retail

KK Group, an O2O (online-to-offline) retailer based in Guangdong, China, reached unicorn status in 2019. The retailer offers a variety of products imported from around the world and regularly changes its assortment based on demand.

Retail enablement: from delivery to cross-border payments 

Glovo! logo on a bag of delivery man. Photo: Shutterstock

Trax uses computer vision to offer a broad range of services to help retailers run their stores (including store execution monitoring and inventory tracking). In 2019, along with hitting unicorn status, Trax acquired Planorama, a France- based image recognition company focused on retail.


Nuro develops autonomous delivery carts that transport goods like groceries. It has partnered with Kroger and Walmart.

BigBasket is a hyperlocal online grocery delivery platform based in Bengaluru, India.

Delhivery is an e-commerce enablement company offering flexible and logistics solutions to E-Commerce partners including Last-mile delivery, Warehousing, Reverse Logistics, Flexible payment collection and processing, Vendor-to-Warehouse, and direct Vendor-to-Consumer delivery.

Glovo uses a collaborative, urban and express system to allows customers to send or receive products in less than an hour. The app connects users with independent couriers called glovers and allows them to acquire products from restaurants, coffee places or stores in their city, as well as delivering packages.

Loggi is an online express delivery service that connects clients directly with messengers through a computer or cell phone. The technology delivers pricing, automatic payments, and real-time tracking of their delivery with trained messengers.

Yimidida is an online less-than-container-load (LCL) logistics platform utilizing crowdsourcing tools.

Shopper rewards & payments solutions

Ibotta is a free app that makes every purchase rewarding. Users can earn real cash back every time they shop online or in store, and even when they pay for purchases right from the app with its newest feature, Pay with Ibotta.

Marqeta offers an open API payment card issuing platform that provides a fully documented, open API issuer processor platform. Companies can build, issue and deploy payment, finance and commerce solutions with control over what, where, and how purchases are authorized. The Marqeta platform integrates with major credit card brands and makes it easier than ever to make payments, receive payments, reward customers and create more efficient business processes.

Nuvei provides merchant services and global payment processing solutions. The company provides to point of sale, online and mobile merchants a variety of services such as debit and credit card processing, electronic check conversion, merchant cash advance programs, business discounts, loyalty/gift card programs and terminal management solutions.

Riskified reviews, approves and guarantees transactions that would otherwise be declined. Riskified makes it easier for merchants to accept high risk credit card transactions.

Cross-border payments

Ebanx, based in Brazil, caters to businesses looking to expand across Latin America. Its services include access to payment methods, payment processing, fraud tolerance, and more. Ebanx also reached unicorn status in 2019

London-based Rapyd is a “fintech-as-a-service” platform that e-commerce companies can use to consolidate their global payment systems and accept local payment methods. Demand for such services will likely increase as e-commerce reaches more consumers across borders. Rapyd became a unicorn in 2019. helps companies accept more payments around the world through one integration. Its unified global payment processing platform features in-country acquiring, relevant payment methods, feature parity across geographies, fraud filters, and reporting features, via one API.