PopCom Raising $1 Million Crowdequity Fund, Places Bets on Future of Shopping through Contact-Less Intelligent Vending

As some states reopened for business in the last few weeks and several others are slated to open this week, one would expect shoppers to flock back to their favorite stores ready to spend cash after nearly two months of habitation. However, data collected from PwC denotes that consumer retail financial experts aren’t as optimistic and still believe the road to pre-coronavirus recovery is on a 6-to-12-month horizon. 

Getting back to “normal” will look different in the weeks and months ahead, partly because human-to-human contact is still risky business for shoppers and retail workers on the front line. 

One solution retailers of both consumer goods and food and beverages are looking to is the evolution in vending machines. We’re seeing this example play out in hospitals as companies serve healthy food options to health care workers via breakroom vending machines. 

Dawn Dickson, founder and CEO of PopCom—a technology platform for vending machines and kiosks—is raising her latest round of funding on the grounds that self-service and automation are the future of retail. 

Key Takeaways

  • Dawn Dickson, CEO and Founder of PopCom, is raising her second crowdequity funding campaign.
  • Intelligent vending machines could pose to fit the current pandemic retail climate as social distancing restrictions work to limit human-to-human contact.
  • Dickson says money will be used for hiring additional sales team members and helping customers finance their machines.

“Self-checkout has increased with COVID-19 as vending machines were named as essential businesses by the government,” explained Dickson in an email. “People are still very much outside but with major venues closed, retailers are now looking to new ways to deliver products directly to customers and vending is a viable solution as they can be placed outdoors.” 

PopCom has raised over $730,000 from more than 1,300 investors in its latest crowdfunding campaign hosted on StartEngine, and is looking to reach $1 million. Dickson says many of the investors are returning or were on the waitlist to invest following last year’s campaign where she raised $1 million on the platform from over 2,000 investors.

Though industry reports concede that overall vending machine sales would be on the decline in 2020, the growth of intelligent vending solutions is anticipated to reach $15 billion by 2025. And perhaps might exceed estimation as social distancing measures affect retail across the board. Dickson and her company are on par with several global trends including: 

  1. Increase in cashless transactions with the ability to accept credit cards, debit cards, and mobile payments. 
  2. Placements beyond arenas and shopping malls (think Amazon Go lockers in Whole Foods) where social distancing measurements are likely to stay in effect until there is a vaccine. 
  3. Vending of expanded consumer goods from personal care products to electronics and apparel.

PopCom has also designed its solutions to comply with regulated retail items like tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and pharmaceuticals with the introduction of its age verification technology. 

Another shift has included the introduction of antibacterial screens and screens that can be used with gloves or smartpens to quell fears of public health concerns and reinforce customer safety while purchasing products from the machines. Dickson mentions the development of a sanitizer kiosk to help address these concerns. 

On track to raise $1 million in its current crowdfunding campaign, Dickson will use the funds to recruit and onboard for sales roles out of its Columbus, Ohio headquarters. 

She also shares that COVID-19 has drastically changed her customer’s financial positions and she’s working to develop options for retails who are presently cash-strapped. 

“We’re raising money to bring machines to market faster. And, since COVID-19, many of our customers’ financial positions have changed and so we’re partnering with equipment financing companies to help them have more time to pay, but they’ll have the product,” said Dickson.

Sherrell Dorsey

She is the founder and CEO of The Plug—a distinctive, Black tech news and insights platform covering Black innovators in tech, venture capital, future of work policy, and more. Follow Sherrell on Twitter @Sherrell_Dorsey.