DURHAM — Entrepreneur Cole Johnson believes digital storytelling is the future of commerce — and he’s managed to convince investors the same.
His Durham-based startup, The Looma Project, a retail tech platform that uses digital storytelling, has raised $1.1 million in new capital. It’s the first sign of new cash for Looma since an original seed round of $375,000 disclosed in 2018.
The company’s first product, Loop At-Shelf Maker Stories, is a network of tablets that “connect grocery shoppers to the people behind their products.”
Loop are primarily installed in grocery stores and play short “human-centric” videos, with a heavy emphasis on local breweries and wineries.
Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods are among its partners.
WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam had the chance to ask the 26-year-old a few questions about his plans. Here’s what he had to say:
- Tell me about The Looma Project, and how it got started.
Looma exists to bridge the gap between producer and consumer. We believe 1) a growing number of consumers want to know the people and stories behind their products, 2) this desire for greater humanity in our purchasing will produce a fundamental shift in video advertising over the next decade, and 3) effective video advertising is a blend of art and science and can therefore be made at least partially algorithmic. Our vision is to build the world’s most insightful and actionable platform for a narrow but growing niche we define as “human-centric point-of-decision video.”
I founded Looma while in undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill, and while the vision and business model have evolved over time, the core of our mission has remained the same: we want to capture and share stories of people who love what they do in an effort to promote meaningful work and responsible purchasing.
- What’s your background as an entrepreneur?
Unless illicit fourth-grade homework services (in your handwriting!) count, this is my first real go at it. I worked on another small business called Freedom Code my first couple years of undergrad, but ultimately gave it up to pursue Looma.
- You’ve just landed $1.1 million in new capital. Why did you decide to raise the funds? And what do you plan to do with it?
Demand for our platform has grown dramatically the past couple months, so we’re raising capital to support this growth. Additionally, we expect nearly all of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on grocery to accelerate adoption for us, and while there remains a high degree of uncertainty with respect to the timing of this acceleration, we need our sales and product teams to be ready.
- You’ve already got partners like Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods. What other partners do you hope to get? And where else do you think your product could be used?
We have a number of other fantastic grocers in the pipeline, though I’m unfortunately unable to disclose them at the moment. With respect to product expansion, we anticipate remaining focused on grocery in the near-term, but we’re excited to expand outside of adult beverage into other categories soon. (In fact, we already have with the recent launch of a local nonperishable program in Lowes Foods).
- Where to from here?
Outside of retail expansion, we’re most excited to continue refining our predictive models. We recently launched a beta of Film Score, which enables retailers and brands to predict sales growth based on the quality of their film before it goes live, and we plan to invest substantial effort in refining this and other film optimization tools.
Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire