There's an app for that

New delivery service speeds into Houston

GoPuff is a combination of concierge service and errand runner. Photo courtesy of goPuff

Everyone knows how hard it is to manage to get everything done in a single 24-hour period. Errands to run, groceries to pick up, food to buy, prescriptions to get. To-do lists seem never-ending, and for busy professionals, can be absolutely overwhelming.

Enter goPuff, a Philadelphia-based retailer that has just launched in the Bayou City. Think of it as a combination of concierge service and errand runner. The company stocks more than 2,500 products across eight categories. Those items, ranging from snacks to beverages to household essentials to pet needs, are housed in centrally located facilities in Houston.

When customers need something, they log into their goPuff account, select what they want, and the company's delivery drivers bring it straight to their door. Delivery hours are from noon to 4:30 am, seven days a week, with a flat delivery charge of $1.95.

Founded in 2013, goPuff is now available in more than 90 cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. "Customers have been asking us to come to Houston since we first launched the concept, and we are thrilled to now bring that experience to the area and deliver the moments that matter most to this vibrant community," said Rafael Ilishayev, goPuff co-founder and co-CEO, in a statement announcing the expansion to Houston.

In Houston, the company will cover the enormity of the city, from the Texas Medical Center to Northeast Houston, Independence Heights to the Fifth Ward. Customers will place their orders on the goPuff app, the same way they would for other delivery services. Then, goPuff team members head out, collect what's needed, and deliver it.

The company touts its speed of delivery as a main selling feature; because the products are housed at goPuff facilities, drivers don't need to head all over town to collect needed items, and there are no third parties to work with. But what about cold treats like ice cream?

"Because we warehouse product inventory at our own facilities, we can quickly pack orders in our special insulated bins and pass them off to our driver partners for fast deliveries, keeping the ice cream cold," Liz Romaine of goPuff tells CultureMap.

Given the furious speed at which live in the Bayou City moves, goPuff should find a pretty warm welcome here in Houston.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.com.

Florida startup Fit:Match chose Houston for its first location of its AI-enabled retail store. Photo via shopfitmatch.com

In November, on the first floor of Friendswood's Baybrook Mall, wedged between the Abercrombie & Fitch and the Apple Store, a small studio popped up. At the window, a bubblegum assortment of balloons replaced the usual spruced-up manakin, and the shop is sparse for racks of clothing.

That's because the Fit:Match studio isn't really trying to sell clothes — it's trying to help you buy them online. By fusing artificial intelligence with retail shopping, Fit:Match makes ordering clothes online more trustworthy. The writing on the walls promised to revolutionize the way that people could: "Shop what fits. Not what doesn't," reads a neon sign. The tech might not only reduce long waits for the dressing room — it could abolish it altogether.

"You never have to try on clothes again," says Haniff Brown, founder of the Florida-native startup.

The store does have a fitting room, but Brown says it's not really for trying on clothes — it's for preparing to "get fitched," the process through which the imaging tech measures a customer's body.

It's fitting that the pop-up sits next to the iPhone giant. Fit:Match uses the same 3D imaging tech as Apple's FaceID, Brown says, which blasts infrared light at thousands of dots at a user's face. Where the light bounces off, the AI technology images the person's face. The sensors at the Fit:Match studio in Baybrook Mall expand this to the rest of the body. In 10 seconds, the AI sensor lets people sketches a customer's shape through 150 measurements.

Those measurements become indicators of how well a piece of clothing will fit the wearer. In the initial phase of the project, Brown's team fitched thousands of women — wanting to keep things neat, the company hasn't ventured into men's fashion yet — and compared the scores of the AI's algorithm with how the women scored their own clothes.

Now, once a customer has been fitched at the Baybrook studio, she can log online through an app or the company site and sift through thousands of clothes that will likely fit her. Each clothing item — mostly smaller brands that range from eclectic pieces and dresses to athleisure right now, Brown says, although he's already working to partner with better-known labels — is rated with a percentage of how well it's likely to fit the individual customer, based on her measurements and on how snug or loose she likes her wear. From the array of brands, she'll get specific matches — clothes that have a 90 percent chance or higher of fitting — that might look completely different from a friend's. Over time, the app will also update her on the latest matches.

"You're going to have this personalized wallet," Brown says, adding that this will also decrease a store's rate of return. "You will see a completely truncated assortment of clothes that are meant to fit you."

The Baybrook Mall hosts Fit:Match's first location. Brown says he chose the Houston area for its size and demographics, calling it a "hotbed to test new ideas, to get traction, to get customer feedback," and is even considering expanding to the Woodlands Mall and other places around Texas, too. It's also not far from the Austin-based Capital Factory, which brought Fit:Match under its wing late last year to help the startup raise $5 million.

In the meantime, the five-member management team at Fit:Match is focused on getting more Houstonians fitched. In the first month of operations, the studio measured more than 1,200 mallgoers, and Brown says the company could fitch a quarter million in the next two or three years.

"We think that the opportunity here is immense," Brown says.