Bentonville startup Ox secures $12.6 million in Series A funding

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,059 views 

Bentonville software provider Ox said Tuesday (April 25) that it had raised $12.6 million in Series A funding.

BBG Ventures and MaC Venture Capital co-led the oversubscribed round. Several existing investors also participated, including:

  • Cortado Ventures
  • Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund
  • Florida Funders
  • KCRise
  • Tech Square Labs
  • Vuzix

Atento Capital and Agya Ventures are new investors.

With the latest round, Ox has raised over $16 million since its launch in 2019.

Charu Thomas, 25, is Ox’s founder and CEO. She said the funding round is the largest enterprise software Series A in the state’s history.

“It’s a testament to the technology we are building and the world-class team we’ve put together,” Thomas told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Our goal is to turn frontline operators into a central part of the conversation and change our cultural relationship with automation.

She said the funding underscores a larger goal of “drastically” developing the region’s automation technology reputation.

“That’s one of the big things we’re here to do,” she said. “We want to turn Bentonville into not just a supply chain and logistics hub but an automation technology hub.”

Ox is an order fulfillment platform that leverages machine learning to assist retailers in supply chain optimization. The company aims to level the playing field for retailers by providing accessible, scalable, and beneficial technology to businesses.

Thomas started the company as an engineering undergraduate and researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The company won the Atlanta Startup Battle and was a TC Top Picks for TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019. Thomas relocated in 2019 to Northwest Arkansas.

Through software automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and wearable technology, Ox has pioneered a supply chain operator experience.

Charu Thomas

“Our mission is to use software to improve the experience of frontline teams and drive better business outcomes,” Thomas said. “We provide advanced tools and capabilities to engage and excite frontline workers, and we prioritize their needs by creating a system that values their work. By doing so, we improve operator satisfaction and employee retention rates. At a time when investing in workers is needed, human-centered automation is the way forward.”

The supply chain faces a significant challenge in attracting and retaining workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are one million open warehousing jobs and an expected 6% increase in material handling and logistics workers over the next decade. To meet the growing demand for efficiency, the global logistics automation market is expected to reach $121.3 billion by 2027.

“Unfortunately, the operator has often been the most underinvested component of the supply chain,” said Ox Chief Product Officer Tanner Green. “The number of jobs and workers is only going to increase, so Ox exists to define the operator experience for the next generation of frontline workers.”

Ox will use the Series A funds to advance its leading innovation — a patented wearable device that directs workflows via AI.

“We can expand our customer relationships and get our technology into as many operators’ hands as possible,” Thomas said. “We’ve already scaled to hundreds of operators. Getting from hundreds to thousands and tens of thousands is the next step of this journey.”

Thomas explained that human-centered automation is wearable technology that directs frontline operators to perform their work through software intelligence. The technology benefits workers by transforming knowledge into operational procedures, creating an equal playing field for all workers.

“For many years, automation in the supply chain industry has largely entailed replacing human labor with expensive mechanical and robotic systems that can take years to install,” she said. “By investing in software that prioritizes human experience, businesses can achieve greater process efficiency across multiple facilities and reduce operating expenses simultaneously.”

The patented Operator Experience (OX) platform integrates with existing systems to help supply chain companies design intelligent applications. Thomas said multiple Fortune 500 companies had adopted the technology, which increases operational productivity by over 20%.

Thomas said Ox powers over $500 million in supply chain volume across hundreds of operators.

“At BBG Ventures, we invest in visionary founders who are creating the next generation of change. Ox is doing just that across supply chain operations, an area that is ripe for digital transformation,” said Susan Lyne, New York-based BBG Ventures’ managing partner and co-founder. Lyne is also joining Ox’s board. “We are proud to invest in Ox and their mission to make frontline workers a central part of the solution. As a firm that backs female founders, we are thrilled to partner with founder and CEO Charu Thomas and the Ox team as they continue to grow their impact.”

Before launching BBG Ventures in 2014, Lyne spent most of her career in operating roles at companies of all sizes and stages, from startups to public companies, most notably as president of ABC Entertainment and CEO of Martha Stewart’s media company.

“Susan is an incredible operator and executive, and we are thrilled to have her as part of our organization,” Thomas said.

Thomas said she’s been able to recruit best-in-class talent to the company’s Bentonville headquarters. Ox has grown from four to about 40 employees over the past couple of years.

For example, she mentioned Brian Clark, the company’s chief revenue officer, who joined Ox two years ago. He previously was a senior leader in charge of Walmart business for NCR Corp., a global leader in the self-checkout market.

“There is an immense retail and supply chain ecosystem here,” Thomas said. “It’s been incredible to recruit the best team from Northwest Arkansas. You can’t find that level of talent elsewhere.”