Palo Alto store showcases hottest new tech gadgets

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- If you still have some last-minute gifts to buy for the gadget lovers in your family, a store in Palo Alto has a few that'll be hard to find anywhere else.

The gifts are made by local startups that, until now, have only sold their products online. It's especially useful because some things you just have to see to believe, like virtual reality, flying cameras and droids.

Staphanie Engle walked into the store when she saw things in the window straight out of her Facebook news feed. Gadgets so new they were only sold online.

"It was really cool to be able to see the things that I'd seen online and touch them and feel them," said Stephanie Engle.

The store is called b8ta. Vibhu Norby got the idea from his own holiday shopping.

"You can pick up these products, see how heavy they are, see if they actually fit your lifestyle," Norby said. "I was just shocked by the selection I was seeing in stores. It was in some cases years behind what you could get online."

In other cases, products like Osmo Interactive Games were sealed away in a box. For the startups that make them it's frustrating.

"Getting your product into retail stores is a long, arduous, and some cases multi-year process and at the end of the day your box is just sitting on a shelf," Norby said.

B8ta can take risks on products so new they barely have a track record because they use a different business model from most other retailers. Instead of buying hundreds of products, hoping to re-sell them at a profit, everything at the store is sold on consignment.

"With b8ta companies pay a simple subscription fee on a monthly basis to rent space in our store," Norby said.

B8ta's job isn't to sell the products, but to showcase them.

"People are almost treating the store kind of in this museum-like fashion. When you walk into a museum, you literally stop and look at every painting, every sculpture," said Philip Raub, co-founder of b8ta.

They might buy 10 of them, or they could buy none.

Either way, the store logs how much time people spend with the product and tells the makers, so they can tweak their digital signage, or even adjust the price.

Now, it's not just customers flowing through the door, it's companies.

"To walk through the door with a prototype and really start pitching us, at times I feel like it's a mini Shark Tank," Raub said.
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