AI startup Nola secures backing of Skalata Ventures amid strong take-up by corporates

AI startup Nola secures backing of Skalata Ventures amid strong take-up by corporates

Nola co-founder Victoria Zorin

Melbourne-based AI startup Nola, a company likened to Google Analytics for the physical realm, has been backed by Skalata Ventures amid a rapid take-up of the company’s data capture technology by entertainment venues and major corporations.

Co-founded in 2019 by Victoria Zorin, Nola offers the retail, hospitality and entertainment sector an ‘anonymous-by-design’ solution that analyses live video feeds to gain insights on visitor numbers, marketing engagement and customer wait times while maintaining personal privacy.

“Unlike bluetooth, wifi or facial recognition cameras, Nola is anonymous-by-design,” says Zorin.

“This means Nola doesn’t track or store any form of unique identification, managing risk for the organisation and protecting customers.”

Nola has secured a $200,000 investment from Skalata Ventures, the first capital raising for the startup which Zorin says has been self-funded from inception.

The funds will be used to scale up Nola’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, including the introduction of a self-service platform that Zorin says is aimed at making the technology accessible to smaller businesses as well as larger corporations.

“Our vision is to make this an affordable, accessible and safe tool for all businesses,” Zorin tells Business News Australia.

“We are building our system for deployment at scale and one of the strategies to achieve this is a self-service tool where the customers themselves can set it up through a simple deployment.”

The strongest take-up of the Nola technology has been among entertainment venues which aligns with the origins of the business. Zorin started probing visitor analytics after spending five frustrating hours in a queue at a music festival three years ago.

Last year, Nola proved the value of the technology by partnering with environmentally conscious music festival Yours & Owls at Wollongong, using temporary cameras to monitor queue lengths, speed and wait times.

“The client had real-time data and a live traffic map available via an app, allowing the event organisers to move staff reactively around the venue and better manage customer flow,” says Zorin.

The Nola technology doesn’t need special hardware or expensive installations to operate as the system taps into existing CCTV cameras at venues or in stores to monitor customer behaviour.

“We also provide an edge device for the venue which means all the data is processed on site and doesn’t leave the venue,” says Zorin.

For hospitality venues, the Nola system is widely used to monitor queues and waiting times by customers.

“It also helps optimise their staff rostering by understanding the trends of how long people are waiting,’” says Zorin.

“Right now, every single hospitality business is guessing how many staff to put on and in an industry like hospitality where there is such a lack of staff, they just can’t afford to do that.”

The Nola algorithms can also be used to track customer engagement in store or within venues.

“We’re tracking when people are facing advertising, art or other objects and how long they dwell on these,” says Zorin.

“That helps to understand what is appealing to the visitor. We are able to measure those impressions, and all this is done in anonymous way.

“Our system is anonymous by design. It’s about delivering a better system without compromising personal privacy and that’s something we’re extremely passionate about.”

Nola is experiencing solid demand from entertainment venues and ASX-listed companies.

“We are getting quite a lot of uptake from them due to our zero trust technology because many are prioritising the personal privacy of their customers,” says Zorin.

“Although it is the enterprise businesses that are grabbing it right now, over time we believe that smaller businesses will begin to adopt these technologies as they become more popular.

“If you have a small store with one camera you can measure your visitor count, the number of people queuing up at the checkout, how long they are waiting and how many people have visited different shelves and their dwell time as well.”

Zorin also sees predictive capabilities as the future for Nola.

“Nola will soon be able to tell you how many customers will visit your store next week, and even integrate external data like weather and public holidays to predict behaviour and help businesses plan for spikes or low traffic days,” she says

While Skalata Ventures has made the first external investment in Nola, Zorin says the partnership is reaping rewards for the startup.

“Their support has outweighed the investment,” says Zorin.

“They really feel like they are an extended part of our team.”

Skalata Ventures - which has also backed the likes of digital freight forwarder Explorate, the Digital Disruptor winner of this year's Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards - sees Nola as a solution for businesses that is not easy to imitate.

“It’s like Google Analytics for the physical realm,” says Skalata Ventures’ investment manager Tom Smalley.

“E-commerce has the advantage of being able to track shoppers’ every move. With hospitality one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, and Australia now back open for business, Nola offers a huge opportunity to IRL businesses.”

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