Autonomo – a startup behind checkout-free software that enables retailers to convert existing stores into a cashierless shopping experience – has closed a £2 million seed funding round to launch in the UK and around Europe.

Autonomo, founded by James Sutherland and former Metro CEO Patrick Müller-Sarmiento, has installed computer-vision powered checkout solutions in petrol stations, convenience and grab-and-go stores in Germany since 2021.

It says it is on target to automate the largest number of cashierless shops in western Europe by the end of this year.

Led by London-based Potter Ventures and Liverpool-based River Capital, it brings Autonomo’s total funds raised to £3.8m.

Previous investment came from members of The Edeka Group, Germany’s largest supermarket corporation, and angel investment from current and former directors at Aldi, Delivery Hero, Metro, Carrefour, Apple and Brookstreet Equity Partners of Mayfair.

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“Working with bright new investors and constantly opening stores is one way to measure success, but the other really heart-warming impact our stores have is on the local shoppers, where we fundamentally improve their lives,” said CEO Sutherland.

“We believe in a world where queues, staff inefficiencies and theft are a thing of the past. With our system, we’ve seen hyper-local neighbourhood stores opening up again, stores opening 24/7 and theft drop to near zero. 

“And because it can be scaled to accommodate various store sizes and formats and is significantly more cost-effective than some competitors, we’ve been able to make this tech accessible to both small and large-scale retailers. 

“Combining our tried and tested tech with fresh investment, we’re excited to make a mark on the UK retail space and bring these benefits to Britain’s businesses.”

Customers tap a payment card or phone and the computer vision tech installed throughout the store then anonymously tracks the shopper, matching them to the products they pick up. At checkout, the shopper simply exits the store and the Autonomo platform automatically takes payment.

In comparison to figures in Germany, theft occurring in retail stores is a much bigger issue in the UK, with the problem causing £2bn of losses to UK retail businesses last year alone and the latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealing that shoplifting rates in England and Wales, in particular, have hit the highest level in more than 20 years.  

Autonomo is currently open to further investment, with tax relief available to UK taxpayers under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), a HMRC-run scheme that helps younger, higher-risk businesses raise finance by offering investors generous tax reliefs.

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