November 24, 2017

Williams-Sonoma buys AR startup in hundred-million-dollar deal

Laura Alber

San Jose based Augmented Reality startup Outward is being bought up by furniture and kitchenware retailer Williams-Sonoma (WSI). The cash-only deal – worth $112 million – will give WSI access to Outward’s imaging and rendering technology for the home furnishing industry.

Outward’s 3D image capture, measurement and rendering technology offers a perfect fit with Williams-Sonoma, owner of the Pottery Barn and West Elm brands, as well as stores in its own name. A statement from the company making the acquisition says that Outward’s imaging technology will enable them to “enhance and extend its high-touch customer service platform.”

Founded in 2012, Outward raised $11.5 million from Merus Capital in two funding rounds. Their technology is used for capturing furniture and related products in 3D, allowing customers to see the products from all angles and to make selection based on color or pattern. They have pioneered the use of augmented reality and virtual reality in this field.

Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber stated:

Outward brings proprietary and transformative technology at the forefront of our industry, and we welcome them to WSI. We are excited to own and collaborate in the further development of Outward’s technology that enables applications in product visualization, digital room design, and augmented and virtual reality.

Never one to mince her words, Alber is bullish about the future of bricks-and-mortar retail. At the Recode Commerce Event, two months ago, she stated:

Clarence ShuiI certainly don’t think we’re in the midst of a retail apocalypse. I do not believe that and I do not believe that Amazon is killing retailers. I believe retailers’ bad service is killing retailers.

When the acquisition is finalized, by the end of the year, Outward will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of WSI. It will continue to be run by its co-founder and CEO Clarence Chui.


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