Meet our Retail Mentors: Mike Calbert

The Brand and Retail Center of Innovation has been growing and strengthening since it began last year, accelerating startups working within the retail vertical. They have amassed an impressive group of corporate partners, such as Sears Holdings, The Clorox Company, Hershey’s, Proctor and Gamble, Star, United Airlines, Deloitte, and Panasonic. On top of this network, […]

The Brand and Retail Center of Innovation has been growing and strengthening since it began last year, accelerating startups working within the retail vertical. They have amassed an impressive group of corporate partners, such as Sears Holdings, The Clorox Company, Hershey’s, Proctor and Gamble, Star, United Airlines, Deloitte, and Panasonic. On top of this network, they have also brought together a group of experience mentors in the retail space.

Mike Calbert of KKR’s Retail Industry is one such mentor offering his insight to the startups that take part in this 12 week program.

Mentor Mike Calbert

“A year ago Saeed and I were working with a company that was part of his incubator. This led to a conversation about the quickly evolving needs of retailers to find technology solutions for a whole host of problems. Saeed shared with me what he had done in automotive and I told him I thought the opportunity in retail and consumer facing business was much greater, partly because consumption is 70% of GDP in America. Solutions that deliver efficiency, solutions that build customer loyalty are worth a lot, and the retailers are quickly investing a lot more capital in these technology solutions,” Mike said.

The Brand and Retail Center of Innovation brings together retailers and CPG companies with startups working towards those types of solutions. The entire program operates under the belief that technology has changed the retail space forever, and that retail companies must evolve or lose out to their more innovative competitors.

Mike says: “The biggest driver is the fact that technology has basically changed the way consumers obtain, digest, and evaluate information, the way that they shop, and the way that they communicate. So the traditional role of a retailer, which was basically to open up a brick and motors store and advertise on television or through a newspaper, that’s all radically changed. Retailers now have to figure out how to engage with how to drive demand, how do they differentiate through technology.”

As one of over twenty knowledgeable mentors, Mike will help guide startups towards success in disrupting retail by identifying the best strategies and by asking the right questions.

“Start with the customer, start with the retailer, understand what are their issues, what are their big needs, what are they focused on, and try to develop solutions for that, because that’s what people are willing to pay for. They aren’t willing to pay for things that aren’t top of their issues list, even though it might be nice to have. Listen to the customer” per Mike.

There is a lot of excitement around the retail branch of Plug and Play, largely because of the endless possibilities available.

“One of the things technology is doing is really increases the speed of collaboration between people who haven’t necessarily collaborated. So what you see is closer collaboration between the vendors, the CPT companies, and the retailers in trying to solve the problems. They’re all trying to solve the same problem and focus these entrepreneurs on developing tools and solutions for their biggest problems,” said Mike.

 

 


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