Seattle’s University Village is quickly becoming the go-to spot for techies who want to get their hands on devices before pulling the trigger.
Tomorrow, a new store called b8ta, which lets people test out products from a variety of smaller tech companies, will have its grand opening, joining the Microsoft and Apple stores at the mall. b8ta says it is working with more than 100 device makers, including Teforia, Pearl Auto, TrackR, eero, and Pepper.
The first b8ta store opened last December in Palo Alto, Calif. The company is based in San Francisco and was founded by Vibhu Norby, William Mintun, and Phillip Raub, a group of former employees at Nest, which was acquired by Google in 2014 for $3.2 billion. In addition to the Seattle store, b8ta is opening a location in Santa Monica, Calif. by Christmas.
“B8ta exists to make retail accessible to entrepreneurs building the best products and services, not just the big companies that can afford it,” Norby said in a statement. “With only 80 spaces in our Palo Alto store and hundreds of sign ups, we needed to find more space, and Seattle and Santa Monica were top locations that our makers were demanding.”
The stores are designed by Gensler and have a sleek, modern design kind of like an Apple Store. B8ta uses a software-based approach to merchandising that gives makers quick feedback not only sales but how often customers engage with products. Calling what it does “retail as a service,” the company says no two b8ta stores will be alike. Each will have different tech products, and the merchandise will be changed out monthly.
According to a press release on the store opening, b8ta is pursuing a national expansion. A recent funding round of $19.5 million led by Khosla Ventures and TriplePoint Capital and including national mall operator Macerich will help with that.