Sensei opens the first European autonomous store with retailer Sonae

LeadX Capital Partners
3 min readMay 27, 2021


Our portfolio company Sensei is the leading European provider for autonomous stores and the first tech company to open a fully autonomous store in Europe with a retail partner. Through an integrated system of cameras, sensors and AI algorithms, Sensei provides a secure and reliable AI-powered end-to-end solution to capture a wealth of store insights and provide a smooth, frictionless checkout shopping experience.

After announcing a $6.5m Seed fund raise last month, yesterday Sensei opened the first autonomous store open to the public, in partnership with Sonae, a leading Portuguese retailer.

Sensei is consolidating its position as the leading European provider for autonomous retail, enabling stores to be scan and queue free. This is the first autonomous store to open in Europe delivered by a European technology company.

A frictionless shopping experience

Continente, the largest food retailer in Portugal, part of Sonae group, opened Continente Labs, its first autonomous store powered by Sensei autonomous technology solution in central Lisbon. Shoppers will be able to experience a frictionless and seamless shopping experience. Customers simply download the Continente Labs App, which acts as a digital payment method. The app generates a QR code that enables users to enter the store, pick their items and leave, without the need to scan products or stay in lines waiting to pay. The digital receipt is received in the app almost immediately after the purchase. It’s a fast and efficient process from entering the store to leaving, with the typical constraints associated with queues and physical payments completely removed.

After a challenging year when people stood for their safety avoiding crowd spaces and prioritizing closeness over quantity usually related with hypermarkets, autonomous stores are more relevant than ever, meeting consumers expectations on time saving and convenience while providing an experience free from any hassle.

Innovating through a close collaboration

The store opening is a milestone for both Sensei and Sonae, whose close collaboration has delivered this innovative format, a landmark event for the entire retail industry. The integrated system developed by the tech company allows store operations to be more efficient, as it brings the benefits of digital efficiency into the brick and mortar store, augmenting the physical experience with digital seamlessly. Alongside the benefits for the consumers, staff also have tools at their disposal to analyse shelf inventory and replenishment act on it with real time insights.

The future has arrived

Sensei’s technology relies on elements that enable the automation of both new and existing stores, providing a fast, convenient, and seamless shopping experience.

Consumers’ movements are tracked as they add or remove items from their shopping list, so the virtual basket is updated in real-time as the product is picked or returned to the shelf. Shoppers can rest assured their identity remains anonymous while shopping and privacy is completely respected while no biometrical or face recognition are used.

Vasco Portugal, CEO and co-founder of Sensei, addresses this as “an historical event. The store of the future is a concept of the past, as we’ve just set autonomous retail as a reality. We are proud to enable a completely transformed experience for both customers and retailers, who are seeking better use of their time, convenience and business optimization. We’re thrilled to partner with such an experienced retailer as Sonae and to count on their trust to pursue a path of pioneering innovation within the sector.”

“Since we met Sensei at the end of 2018 we have been extremely excited and committed to together rethink the store shopping experience. It has been a pleasure and a constant learning process for both sides, having solved complex tech challenges and continuously improved our business processes. The opening of this store marks an important milestone in what we are sure to be a long and fruitful partnership between both companies”, said Frederico Santos, Director of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Sonae MC.



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