You b8ta believe it

10 futuristic products you can buy today in this Galleria store that's flipping the script on retail

B8ta has all the perks of a digital marketplace — but customers are able to physically test all the products. Photo by Natalie Harms

Retail is in a transformative phase, as more and more consumers are shopping online. According to United States Census data, over 9 percent of this year's first-quarter retail sales were e-commerce transactions — that's more than doubled in less than 10 years. But one brick-and-mortar retailer has a new approach to sales for new, innovative products entering the marketplace.

San Francisco-based b8ta opened its first store in 2015, and now has 13 flagship stores nationwide — in addition to having setups in Lowe's stores across the country. Houston's first and only location opened in October of 2017 in the Galleria.

The store acts as a general marketplace, where companies can rent shelf space at the store to feature their products — everything from home accessories to tech gadgets and even items like electric skateboards. Consumers can come into the store and test products, and the developers can see — in real time — how customers are interacting with their products.

"If you look at our store, nothing's in a box. Everything is out on display," says Jalal Bsaiso, b8ta Houston's general manager. "Everything has a tablet with information on the product, and that data is controlled by the maker — they can swap photos, change pricing, all on the fly. They also can see analytics in real time. They can see how many people walk by their product and how long they are engaging. Sales associates log demos we do with the customer, so the partner can see that too."

Bsaiso says that innovators have trouble entering brick-and-mortar sales because consumers need to take the products out of the box to experience them and have a sales associate educate and demonstrate how to use the product. The company's three founders — Phillip Raub, Vibhu Norby, and William Mintun — worked at Nest, a smart home technology product, prior to launching b8ta. They saw Nest struggle to get into brick-and-mortar stores and started envisioning a concept that would be right for products like Nest.

"Online it's easy to sell something," Bsaiso says. "You post it on your website, you have analytics, and you can see how people got to your website and what they purchased. There's nothing like that in physical retail."

Product makers can apply online to become b8ta partners. Usually, each partner has products in at least half of the 13 stores, and every product has an inventory of six to 10 products in the store.

"Retail is evolving," Bsaiso says. "I think everything is moving toward experience. You don't want to spend $200 online on a product that might not even work for you from a company you're not really familiar with."

The store will stock any types of products in its stores, as long as it fits the bill as an innovative product. Here are 10 that seem like are from the future.

A self-caring herb garden

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Véritable Indoor Garden has lights that mimics the sun and a tank of water that together lets your plants be all set for up to 3 weeks.

A camera with 16 lenses

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Light L16 camera would make a spider jealous. With 16 lenses, the camera captures all the different types of lighting and focus to ensure you capture the best picture.

A gadget to make you fluent in every language

Photo by Natalie Harms

Here's one for the world traveler. Pocketalk Two-Way Voice Translator allows you to translate what someone is trying to tell you, and vice versa.

A collar that tells you everything you need to know about Fido

Photo by Natalie Harms

The LINK AKC™ Smart Dog Classic Collar tells you everything from location and body temperature to even recording activity.

A device that swims for you

Photo by Natalie Harms

Going on an underwater adventure? The WHITESHARK MIX Underwater Scooter is the smallest underwater scooter and takes you 3.35 miles per hour with its two propellers.

A shark-preventing ankle band

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Sharbanz technology prevents any nefarious sharks from coming anywhere close to you.

A robot to talk to your child

Photo by Natalie Harms

Tyche AI Learning Robot for Kids learns your child's facial expression, name, and voice to communicate, educate, and interact with him or her.

A next-gen speaker that features the song's lyrics

Photo by Natalie Harms

Ever wonder what that one lyric is in your favorite song? COTODAMA Lyric Speaker will tell you. In addition to featuring the lyrics of most popular songs, the speaker will visualize any tune you queue.

A deep tissue massager the size of headphones

Photo by Natalie Harms

The UGYM mini Deep Tissue Massager vows to relieve back pain and help you sleep better. And, it's on sale.

A handheld smart safety device

Photo by Natalie Harms

Much like your actual father, D.A.D.® 2 (Defense Alert Device), is here to keep you safe. It tracks your location and can send an emergency alert on your behalf. Plus, there's also the military-grade pepper spray to also keep an attacker at bay.

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Building Houston

 
 

Re:3D is one of two Houston companies to be recognized by the SBA's technology awards. Photo courtesy of re:3D

A couple of Houston startups have something to celebrate. The United States Small Business Administration announced the winners of its Tibbetts Award, which honors small businesses that are at the forefront of technology, and two Houston startups have made the list.

Re:3D, a sustainable 3D printer company, and Raptamer Discovery Group, a biotech company that's focused on therapeutic solutions, were Houston's two representatives in the Tibbetts Award, named after Roland Tibbetts, the founder of the SBIR Program.

"I am incredibly proud that Houston's technology ecosystem cultivates innovative businesses such as re:3D and Raptamer. It is with great honor and privilege that we recognize their accomplishments, and continue to support their efforts," says Tim Jeffcoat, district director of the SBA Houston District Office, in a press release.

Re:3D, which was founded in 2013 by NASA contractors Samantha Snabes and Matthew Fiedler to tackle to challenge of larger scale 3D printing, is no stranger to awards. The company's printer, the GigaBot 3D, recently was recognized as the Company of the Year for 2020 by the Consumer Technology Association. Re:3D also recently completed The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator this year, which has really set the 20-person team with offices in Clear Lake and Puerto Rico up for new opportunities in sustainability.

"We're keen to start to explore strategic pilots and partnerships with groups thinking about close-loop economies and sustainable manufacturing," Snabes recently told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Raptamer's unique technology is making moves in the biotech industry. The company has created a process that makes high-quality DNA Molecules, called Raptamers™, that can target small molecules, proteins, and whole cells to be used as therapeutic, diagnostic, or research agents. Raptamer is in the portfolio of Houston-based Fannin Innovation Studio, which also won a Tibbetts Award that Fannin Innovation Studio in 2016.

"We are excited by the research and clinical utility of the Raptamer technology, and its broad application across therapeutics and diagnostics including biomarker discovery in several diseases, for which we currently have an SBIR grant," says Dr. Atul Varadhachary, managing partner at Fannin Innovation Studio.

This year, 38 companies were honored online with Tibbetts Awards. Since its inception in 1982, the awards have recognized over 170,000 honorees, according to the release, with over $50 billion in funding to small businesses through the 11 participating federal agencies.

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