Nike Plans to Get More Personal With Customers by Acquiring AI Startup

The acquisition is part of Nike's data optimization strategy.

Shoe giant Nike has acquired Boston-based AI startup Celect, which specializes in e-commerce algorithms. Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Nike’s newest acquisition is Boston-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup Celect.

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The shoe giant bought the e-commerce AI tool developer to help beef up its online shopping’s machine learning. The acquisition is part of Nike’s strategy to boost its “Consumer Direct Offense strategy” aimed at its massive global customer base.

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“With the acquisition of Celect, Nike greatly accelerates our digital advantage by adding a platform developed by world-class data scientists,” Nike’s chief operating officer Eric Sprunk said in the announcement. “As demand for our product grows, we must be insight-driven, data optimized and hyper-focused on consumer behavior. This is how we serve consumers more personally at scale.”

According to Nike’s statement, the corporate fashion brand will utilize Celect’s “cloud-based analytics platform,” which the startup has used to provide past clients with vital consumer insights.

Celect was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors Devavrat Shah and Vivek Farias in 2013, and has helped many retailers “optimize inventory” through data collection and machine learning. According to its website, past clients include Urban Outfitters, Lucky Brand and Aldo, among other major retail brands.

To date, the startup has received over $30 million in funding, most recently a $15 million Series C from investors that included Fung Capital and NGP Capital. “We’re thrilled to be joining the Nike team, adding our unique and innovative capabilities to the data and analytics foundation they’ve been building over the years,” said Celect CEO John Andrews.

Nike did not disclose the sum of the deal but confirmed that Celect employees will “immediately be integrated into Nike’s Global Operations Team.” Furthermore, co-founders Shah and Farias will act as consultants for Nike moving forward while continuing to teach at MIT.

Nike Plans to Get More Personal With Customers by Acquiring AI Startup