Behind $39 million of funding from venture capital firms and some of those traditional retailers searching for retail's next chapter, b8ta, a Palo Alto-based company founded in late 2015, has stepped into the void. B8ta operates a nationwide network of tech-centric stores – think Sharper Image for the modern age – that borrow some of the minimalist look and feel of Apple stores.
But instead of relying of the traditional retail business model, b8ta inks contracts with product manufacturers big and small to showcase those, this generating revenue regardless of where the customer ends up buying the products. B8ta co-founder and CEO Vibhu Norby calls it "retail as a service," allowing brands to use b8ta’s software to manage checkout, point of sale, inventory management, staff scheduling and more.
"We believe that this approach is what's going to save physical retail, which is built around the old model of retail that requires the customer to just buy from you," Norby sais. "The reality is that today when people go into stores, they're in research and learning mode – and a lot of the purchases are happening somewhere else."
B8ta has a network of 11 standalone stores as well as 70 smaller shops within Lowe's around the U.S., all designed to allow customers to test and try products. The network of shops includes a store that opened in the Village at Corte Madera in 2017. That location, operated by general manager Jonathan Burns, is launching a "Founders Series" of talks designed to "connect with the leaders of companies that are pioneering innovative products and new tech worldwide."
The series kicks off Tuesday, Oct. 16 with Art Coppola, the CEO of Macerich, the Santa Monica-based property development company that owns the Village at Corte Madera mall on the east side of Hwy. 101. Norby will lead the conversation. Coppola will discuss "his journey in the world of retail and where he sees the industry going" in a "casual evening of networking and discussion, complete with drinks and snacks."
Coppola, Macerich's CEO for more than 20 years, is a long-standing member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and a current member of The National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT). In 2009, Coppola garnered NAREIT's Leader in the Light award, recognizing his significant and lasting contributions to the industry.
The 411: B8ta Corte Madera launches its Founders Series on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 6:30-9pm, with b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby leading a conversation with Macerich CEO Art Coppola at b8ta's store at the Village at Corte Madera. Free.