Wal-Mart launches emerging tech incubator

Store No. 8 will back startups in machine learning, VR and autonomous systems

Wal-Mart Stores is creating what it's calling a technology incubator in Silicon Valley that's focused on technologies that will change how people shop.

Dubbed Store No. 8, named for an Arkansas location where Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton tested new store features, the new venture will try out and possibly invest in technologies like virtual reality, drone delivery and autonomous vehicles.

Don't get your hopes up about shopping in the world's coolest Wal-Mart. This will not be an actual store.

Store No. 8 acts much like a venture capital firm, working with startups, entrepreneurs and academicians.

The group, according to Wal-Mart spokesperson Ravi Jariwala, will back startups in various categories, such as machine learning, virtual reality and autonomous systems.

The new technologies could eventually be used in Wal-Mart's e-commerce efforts, Jariwala said, although the technologies may be as much as three to seven years away from being working products for the company.

"We want to look into the future and have conversations with entrepreneurs and VCs and nurture those technologies," he said. "They may be in such an early form, there may be concepts sketched out on the back of a cocktail napkin."

The venture is operating with offices in San Bruno and Sunnyvale, Calif.

"We're carrying on the original spirit of innovation that audaciously and fearlessly shaped the way the world shops, saves money and ultimately, lives better," the company said on the Store No. 8 website. "We're getting back to the heart and soul of those early days where passion fueled innovation, where 'crazy ideas' were the norm and the only rule was to pay no attention to the way things were supposed to be done."

Store No. 8 is being led by G. Seth Beal and Katie Finnegan, both of whom will act as principals in the venture.

The effort is one way that Wal-Mart is pushing to compete with Amazon, the biggest online retailer.

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