Our Mission

Automating brick and mortar retail.

  • About Us
  • Core Values
  • The Team

  • Focal Systems is helping retailers tackle their biggest challenges through deep learning and computer vision.

    Our Mission

    To Automate Brick and Mortar Retail.

    Retailers are desperately trying to catch up to the seamless experience of online but they are falling short. As labor costs increase, retailers are asking employees to do more with less, resulting in a frustrating shopping experience and a mass exodus of shoppers to online retailers because of convenience and lower cost.

    Enter Deep Learning Computer Vision! Imagine a store where you can walk in, grab a cart, ask it questions if you need help, throw items into it, and then walk out when you are ready. No checkout line. No hunting down store associates. No out-of-stocks. This is not a fantasy; this is the reality Focal Systems is building to fully automate B&M Retail. Focal Systems is delivering an indispensable competitive advantage for B&M Retail to beat their online counterparts.

    Our Story

    Bringing artificial intelligence to retail.

    Our Story

    Solving Multi-Billion Dollar Problems in Brick and Mortar Retail.

    Founded in 2015, we set out to build Computer Vision applications for Retail and CPGs to solve some of their biggest, oldest multi-billion dollar problems. We graduated Y Combinator’s Winter 2016 batch and have since grown considerably and assembled an exceptional roster of employees, investors, advisors and partners.

    Our team consists of Stanford PhDs and Masters students with backgrounds from Apple, Google, and Facebook, specializing in state-of-the-art machine learning and computer vision – the same technology used by Amazon Go, Google’s self-driving cars, and other applications.

  • We have a strong set of beliefs and values that guide us and define our approach to business.


    We are a deep learning first company.

    “Many times experts fail because they’re experts in the past version of the world.”    - Vinod Khosla

    Deep Learning has enabled computers to solve tasks never before possible, and it is only five years old. Just imagine what value it will unlock in the next five years. It is clear as day to us that Deep Learning enabled software will eat the world over the next 30 years in the same way that software ate the world over the past 30 years. We are at the precipice of the next major Renaissance of computing. For this reason, we are a Deep Learning first company. We have strong expertise in it, and will continue to grow this expertise every day, every hire. This belief is important to state formally since the start-up journey can take you meandering in many different directions to solve attractive but unsolved problems. We choose to focus on the unsolved problems of the world that can be addressed with the new advancements in Deep Learning because this is where we can make the most impact.


    Only when you test your limits do you realize you have none.

    “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough."   - Marissa Mayer

    The people in this organization do what it takes, going above and beyond the job requirements. Sometimes that means a graphic designer needs to go on a sales call. A CTO needs to pull 2 all-nighters in a row to meet a deadline. A VP Marketing needs to learn how to code. In these cases, and countless more, the job got done, and the individual surprised him/herself. This infectious, can do attitude, has not only powered this company through many obstacles allowing us to whiz past the competition but also has allowed individuals to challenge themselves and grow.


    The hardest working, most dedicated team will win.

    “"If other people are putting in 40 hours in a week, and you're putting in 100, you will achieve in four months, what it takes them a year to achieve."    - Elon Musk

    When playing chess, if you are allowed to move twice every time your opponent moves once, winning gets a whole lot easier. This team works hard, very hard, to keep this advantage. It is the reason we have made it to where we are today. We hire hardworking, dedicated, creative, and intelligent people.


    Own your work.

    “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet”    - Bob Dylan

    Plenty of companies offer a 9 to 5, narrow scoped position building widgets or something, where you can check out Friday and pick it up on Monday. We are not one of them. We expect you to own your work, to flaunt it, to breath it, to feel empowered by it, to believe in what you do every day, and to achieve your life's work.


    Row as one.

    “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”   - MLK

    We leave ego at the door for the benefit of our customers. They are expecting great things from us and we strive to never let them down. If things do fall through the cracks or don't go the right way, we do not point the finger, instead we identify what we collectively could have done different and improve the team as a whole for the next time. We stay hard on the problem, never the person. We show respect at all times, for each other, our vendors, and especially our clients. We are all rowing the same boat and we are going to sink in unison or row in unison; there is no alternative.


    Focus and solve one problem at a time.

    “We wanted Nike to be the world's best sports and fitness company. Once you say that, you have a focus. You don't end up making wing tips or sponsoring the next Rolling Stones world tour.”   - Phil Knight

    Big audacious goals are achievable, but to do so requires an unwavering focus and persistence. A repeated tenet of engineering is to break down complex problems into easier and easier sub-problems. We set our sights for a specific yet audacious goal, then break it down into smaller and smaller sub-problems, and then iteratively work our way through each sub-problem, one at a time, day after day, night after night, without forgetting our original goal. Focus on the trees while keeping track of the forest.


    Hypothesize, Experiment, Measure, Repeat.

    “If we don’t communicate with the outside world –to gain information for knowledge and understanding–we die out to become a non-discerning and uninteresting part of that world.”    - John Boyd

    We go to the world to settle our disputes. Data wins all squabbles! If a debate arises whether something will work or not, we test it, measure the results, and let the world tell us which is right or wrong. This principle, guess and test thinking, has led to all major scientific discoveries to date, and should be our guiding star. It has informed every decision this company has made. Hypothesize, Experiment, Measure, Repeat. And let the data speak for itself.


    Crave change, embrace discomfort.

    “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”   - John F. Kennedy

    Never accept the world as it is today as the gold standard, but as a best effort, that can and will change. We should always be aiming for that next rung on the ladder. But when you do, it is usually coupled with more work, higher risk, louder headaches, more stress and risk of failure. But if you are not pushing for this day to day, you are playing it safe, and you are selling yourself, your team, and your clients short. In the limit, this converges to irrelevance. We look to improve the status quo at every opportunity. We crave change, we strive for that next rung, and welcome the discomfort that comes with it.


    Burn the boats.

    “Burn the boats.”    - Hernán Cortés (Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire)

    It takes great courage to dock your boat, jump off of it, stare into unchartered territory and expect to come out the other side victorious. Retreating back to the boats sometimes seems like a better option. Not here. Burn those boats. We are going for gold, not a participation award. The decision is a bit easier if there is only one option. Forward.


    Love life, love the world.

    "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it"   - Ferris Bueller

    For as hard as we work, we never forget to enjoy the rest of what life has to offer. We have a lot of fun here. We go to concerts and festivals. We surf. We ski. We eat together. We cook together A LOT. We love music. We love our friends. We love our families. We bring them along to many of our events. We try to enjoy every moment. Life is short. Don’t miss it.