In-Store Media Start-up Cooler Screens Closes $80M Series C Funding; Expanding Footprint

October 5, 2020 by Dave Haynes

Chicago-based in-store digital start-up Cooler Screens has closed a $80 million Series C funding round intended to expand the footprint of its product, which to their ever-lasting credit actually aligns with its name.

The company does LCD displays in cooler doors in chain grocery and drug stores. I am a crotchety old fan of companies that have relevant names, as opposed to start-ups that would call this BlinkeyBoo, or God knows what.

The financial backers include Verizon Ventures, Microsoft’s venture fund M12, GreatPoint Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank has done debt financing.

Says the PR:

The company intends to use the funds for growth and national expansion, advance rollouts at several leading retailers, and develop its technology platform including its contextual advertising and digital merchandising capabilities.

Founded in 2018 and led by CEO Arsen Avakia, Cooler Screens has developed a patented in-store digital merchandising and media platform that enables consumers to experience in-store what they want to shop online.

Earlier this year, the company announced Walgreens will expand its platform into 2,500 stores across the U.S. The expansion, which is the largest installation of Cooler Screens’ technology thus far, is expected to reach over 75 million consumers monthly, including 2.5 million in-store consumers on a daily basis at Walgreens alone.

Cooler Screens is also working with a number of leaders in the grocery and convenience store industry, including Kroger and GetGo, to bring a digitally-enhanced shopping experience to the cooler aisle.

I am not 100% sure how Cooler Screens operates, but believe it is the age-old “build it and they will come” model that sees a third-party put the technology in, selling the screen time and cooler position to brands, and splitting the revenues with the retail banner.

Happy to be corrected on that.

The pitch is that the enhanced media drives purchases for advertised brands.

The impression I have had with LCDs in chiller doors (this tech has been around for maybe 10 years, and got way better) is that retailers are open to having them, but not all that open to paying for them. So the brands need to finance it.

I THOUGHT these were transparent LCDs, but now understand these are LCDs with backlighting that swap out regular doors. Bit of a difference but the concept is the same and going with the full backlit LCD drives a better visual than edge-LED illumination is likely going to do.

One never knows, but there is 20+ years of roadkill of companies who thought in-store ad networks were a can’t-lose concept. The only one in grocery I think that worked out was SignStorey, because CBS crazily paid $72M for that start-up in 2007.  The grocery screens eventually went dark.

I think this set-up all looks good, but not convinced it’s a business that works.

Leave a comment