Summers spent in video games and game creation have led to a booming tech business for a pair of Derby graduates.
Jordan Fisher and TJ Lutz are part of a seven-member founding group that created Standard Cognition, which is a company built to “enable autonomous checkout for retailers with a AI-powered computer vision platform.”
Lutz said the company, which has raised $86 million in capital at a post-money valuation of $535 million, is still relatively new at just two-and-a-half years of age. He had moved to Austin, Texas, with plans to open a gym after starting a video game company with Fisher. However, his classmate and five other friends called with an invitation that he couldn’t turn down.
“I got the call from Jordan and a couple of others that they had this idea and they wanted my help with it,” Lutz said. “I signed on in late 2016, early 2017 as one of the founders for the company.”
The group applied to Y Combinator, which is a startup incubator in Mountain View, Calif., and also is home to Google headquarters. Lutz shared that only two percent of startups are accepted through the company and Standard Cognition was one of the few selected.
“They said, ‘cool, you’re in, but you have two weeks before the program starts. Get out here,’” Lutz added about their prompt and concise response.
The seven founders quickly rented a house in Palo Alto, Calif., for three months while in the Y Combinator program. Once that had completed, they chose to headquarter in nearby San Francisco as the company began. Lutz shared a majority of their investment network is located in the area and it made sense to headquarter in the Bay Area.
After beginning planning in 2016, the company opened its first cashier-less store in San Francisco.
Shoppers are only asked to download the app to their smartphone and once they arrive in the store, they press the “check-in” button. Customers then put their phone away and when they finish shopping, they can leave the store and receive a receipt via email. The company’s website states any purchase can be returned within seven days.
The company’s technology is able to track items that are put back on its shelves and test runs of the store showed over 99 percent efficiency in preventing shoplifting. The artificial intelligence can pick up on signs of theft, which relays messages to store attendants.
Amazon currently runs three cashier-less stores, but Standard Cognition beat them to the San Francisco market.
They were also recently selected by the Boston Red Sox ownership group to make Polar Park in Worcester, Mass., the first stadium and entertainment venue in the world to utilize autonomous checkout.
Within company leadership, Fisher is the CEO of the business while Lutz carries CFO responsibilities.
“It’s been absolutely bonkers,” Lutz said. “No one could have predicted the career path for either of us. It has been pretty crazy.”
Starting with video games
This isn’t the only startup that Fisher and Lutz have been a part of.
The friends created two separate video games, beginning with “Cloudberry Kingdom” in the early 2010s and it was followed by “We Are Legion.”
“It was a hardcore 2D platform,” Lutz said of Cloudberry Kingdom. “It was like a Mario game that was super amped up on difficulty … [the other game] was a real-time strategy game like a Starcraft and something similar to that.”
Lutz was living in Derby at the time the game creation began, while Fisher was living in a Santa Barbara finishing school. He later moved to New York in 2011 as that company began and they entered Cloudberry Kingdom into a competition to see if it could join XBOX Live Arcade.
“I always had an interest in video games,” Lutz said. “My role with both companies has been on the business side. I was more the operations guy in both situations.”
They set that company aside to pursue other opportunities, realizing the size of gaming companies they were competing with in the marketplace.
Having made the decision to move to Texas, Lutz admits he couldn’t have seen this role with his leadership team at Standard Cognition coming.
The Derby graduate said he still is amazed when realizing he and Fisher’s shared passion for video games could open a door this big. What he is confident in is understanding that a dream and vision of this magnitude is worth chasing.
“Whatever it is you want to do, you can find a way to monetize it,” he said. “Chase what you’re passionate about because your passion is your fuel.”