If the retail industry wasn’t already in the midst of a transformation, 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of contactless shopping would have ensured that. But one Black woman tech founder was already upending the status quo. In Episode 11 of the SistersInc. podcast, “Driving Innovation,” Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene shares how she’s shaping the future of retail with her smart vending technology company Popcom.
Despite now being one of the most well-known and successful founders in the Black tech space, Dickson-Akpoghene wasn’t originally planning for a professional life in that field.
“I went to school for IT and that was after I went to school for journalism. I got into tech because I started to see how the internet was disrupting media,” she says. “I wanted to be competitive in the job force—I had no intention of being an entrepreneur yet, I wasn’t thinking of starting a business. It sent me down a rabbit hole that changed my life.”
Instead of becoming the next VJ on MTV or BET as she had first dreamed, Dickson-Akpoghene became a serial entrepreneur. She’s a four-time founder. And now, with Popcom, she’s the one doing the disrupting, turning vending machines—the last thing you might think of as innovative—into the future of retail.
“We make the software that makes the vending machines smart. We partner with vending manufacturers to integrate our software to be able to collect customer data at the point of sale,” Dickson-Akpoghene says. That data can be anything from foot traffic to customer demographics to conversion rates, achieved using technology such as AI, computer vision, and robotics.
“Just imagine all the tools available on Google Analytics and Shopify and e-commerce, bringing those tools to the real world,” she continues. “Vending is so antiquated and there’s such a lack of data and innovation in the vending space. We really want to bring that innovation to allow retailers to sell direct to customer using vending machines.”
To hear more about Dickson-Akpoghene’s approach to innovation, including how she came up with her groundbreaking—and now patented—idea and how she’s breaking the mold even when it comes to financing her company, check out Episode 11 of the SistersInc. podcast.