'A Box That's Everywhere'

7-Eleven tech exec sees chain as the Uber of convenience stores

DALLAS --7-Eleven Inc. has switched its feedback process from dialing an 800 telephone line to tapping its mobile app, according to technology news source VentureBeat.

7-Eleven 7-Ventures (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Technology)

"We are mobile-first and mobile-only," Michael Debnar, the leader of 7-Eleven's Innovation Team, 7-Ventures LLC, said at VentureBeat's GrowthBeat 2014 event in San Francisco. "So far, we got 13,000 to 14,000 pieces of feedback in less than a month, and that is what we will get in a whole year with an 800 line."

7-Ventures, which launched in Aug. 2013, has invested in Belly, a customer loyalty startup, and KeyMe, a digital locksmith startup.

"We do strategic investments in startups. We do that so that we can learn, and they are usually adjacent to our business," said Debnar. "And we are doing new business models and new-category development. If it's something so disruptive, and our core business can be kind of aligned with it, we will do business 'adventures'," he said, which means investing in more experimental food and beverage startups.

7-Eleven doesn't think itself as a traditional company that's faces technology disruption.

Debnar compared 7-Eleven to Uber, a rideshare and alternative taxi service.

"I am a huge fan of two-sided marketplaces--you have on the one side a bunch of cars, and you have on the other side a bunch of people who need a car, and [Uber is] just the glue," he said. "We have close to 8,500 stores in United States. We can be that glue for a lot of things. For example, we have Amazon lockers in some of our stores, [and] for example KeyMe is a company we have in our stores. We can actually become this two-side marketplace just because we have a box that's everywhere, and we can connect people who need stuff to companies and services."

Click here to view the full VentureBeat report.

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