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US: Walmart acquires VR startup to take on Amazon

 |  February 11, 2018

As Walmart seeks to invest in tech to compete with Amazon, the retailer has acquired a small virtual reality (VR) startup. Spatialand will become the crux of Walmart’s VR efforts as the retailer looks to transform its shopping experience across multiple channels, Recode reported.

Through software tools, Spatialand enables creators to turn existing content into virtual reality experiences. The startup worked with Walmart’s technology incubator, Store No. 8, on a project in 2017.

With the deal, the startup’s CEO, Kimberly Cooper, will join Walmart along with approximately 10 employees. Katie Finnegan, who leads Store No. 8, will step in as the company’s new interim CEO. Finnegan would not tell Recode what projects Spatialand will work on, but she said her team’s work may not become public for a year to a year and a half. Even so, Finnegan said it might take 5e to 10 years for her team’s projects to become widespread.

While Walmart did not disclose how much it paid for Spatialand, it is believed to be a small deal. The acquisition comes as Walmart has scooped up several startups — including Bonobos, Parcel and Hayneedle — and is hungry for more in the technology, retail, and digital native brand categories. When it comes to acquisitions, Walmart’s CEO of eCommerce Marc Lore is more focused on a company’s offering than its size. “Specialist positioning is better than mass,” Lore said. “We’ve empowered the leaders of these companies to basically run the category across the entire entity.”

In an effort to build their own retail startups in-house, Walmart formed Store No. 8 last year. The venture was tasked with discovering the cutting-edge of technology that could be useful to Walmart’s total retail goals, as well as to create relationships with entrepreneurs, particularly those working in artificial intelligence  and other emerging tech. It was named after a store that was built in a bottling plant during Walmart’s early days that Sam Walton reportedly used as his retail strategies lab.

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