Fast 15: Charu Thomas

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,218 views 

Class of 2021 Charu Thomas CEO Ox

While studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Charu Thomas knew she wanted to be an engineer and hoped to impact a lot of people.

The Atlanta native moved to Northwest Arkansas and started her technology business in January 2019 after earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in December 2018. A startup accelerator program called Fuel led her to the area. The 12-week program matches artificial intelligence and machine learning startups with partners to accelerate their technology development.

Ox, which rebranded from Oculogx, builds tools retailers need to transform their brick-and-mortar stores into micro-distribution centers. The startup’s fulfillment optimization technology makes picking orders 40% faster and 80% more accurate than existing technology.

The company saved one client $129,000 annually per facility. Its technology showed a 2,600% return on investment over two years for a customer. After nearly one year on the market, the Ox technology platform has provided the retail industry with a 3,600% return on investment. Its customers include Walmart, Google and Newell Brands.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased need for retailers to create a fast and straightforward omnichannel solution as e-commerce sales rose. According to Statista, online grocery sales in the United States rose to $7.2 billion in June 2020, from $1.2 billion in August 2019.

Ox recently received $3.5 million in seed funding and plans to expand operations and assist more retailers in supply chain optimization through machine learning.

Thomas declined to provide revenue but said the startup has been growing 300% month-over-month in the past two quarters. It has 13 employees. She said she’s surrounded herself with incredible people.

“I’m thankful for all they poured into me,” she said.

While Ox is her first full-time job, Thomas said she also was a researcher at Georgia Tech and worked in the supply chain for McDonald’s. She was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for manufacturing and industry in 2020. She said her academic adviser, Thad Starner, has been the most influential person in her field. Her favorite technology is DuoSkin, a wearable technology that’s like temporary tattoos but can interface with electronic devices.

Thomas supports Atlanta nonprofit Synergies Work. She spends her free time watching TV and YouTube and playing chess.