The startup of the day: InnerSense relies on augmented reality to facilitate the purchase of furniture
The Toulouse start-up InnerSense publishes an interactive catalog mobile application, making it possible to do “virtual try-ons” of interior design using augmented reality. The user can thus navigate in a digital catalog, visualize the products directly in his living room in real time and at scale (to recreate the illusion that a piece of furniture is in the room for example). It also publishes a turnkey solution for integrating 3D models of catalog objects.
More details with Stephane Mercier, President of InnerSense:
FrenchWeb: How did you get the idea to create InnerSense?
Stephane Mercier: The project was really born out of personal frustration, by being myself in the position of consumer furniture buyer. By desperately not finding the piece of furniture I was looking for, I realized that even today, most people buy their furniture with a tape measure and paper catalogs, in the same way our parents did. 30 years ago. However, technology is there to change things, and that was the trigger: InnerSense was born out of the ambition to transform the layout of spaces, thanks to the mobile.
Who are your clients ?
The start of our marketing is recent, since we started in September. Our first customers are manufacturers and distributors of mid-size fittings (we can cite Tujague furniture, a great SME in the Pyrenees) looking above all for tools to help sales in B to B. Soon, we will expand our target by allowing our customers to reach the general public through our tools, and on a larger scale.
What is your business model?
Our economic model is based on a fairly low fixed cost of access to our technology, then recurring costs related to the integration of 3D models in our database. We are still working on the industrialization of our 3D model integration process, in order to be able to scale up and reach larger players.
Who are your competitors and how do you tell the difference?
In France, our main competitors are above all “classic” planning software, those that everyone knows and that are well identified by the profession.
However, we note the appearance of new players in the virtual fitting, in the furniture sector in particular. The app produced by IKEA (co-developed with Metaio, one of Germany’s largest augmented reality companies) is the best example. However, it is also a real opportunity for us, because everyone is observing the brand’s experiments and it makes the public aware of what they can expect from now on.
On the other hand, this is a proprietary application, as we address all manufacturers and distributors.
What were you doing before founding InnerSense?
Personally, I first followed an academic path (as a doctoral student) before joining the world of startups, in software development and R&D. I have always been particularly interested in human-machine interactions and user-centered design. My partner Xavier Crouilles, for his part, followed a more commercial and consulting oriented course, in the financing of innovation in particular.
What was the first problem you had to face during your development?
A real problem for us at the beginning was simply to make it clear what our virtual try-on product was. When we were talking about augmented reality, a lot of people had their own interpretations of what it could mean, and that gave rise to some misunderstandings.
However, since we released the product, and seeing that we provide a very simple and very visual experience, everyone immediately understands what it can be for. The first feedback is very good, but it’s impressive to see the difference in people’s reaction between the “before” (to have the product working) and the “after”. In short, showing a functional product replaces all talk, you have to get there as quickly as possible.
What is the best advice we have given you? Who gave you this advice, and when?
“Focus on the present, and don’t let the 10-year-old vision interfere with your day-to-day decisions”.
It is a piece of advice full of common sense for a startup, where we are always torn between presenting a long-term, ambitious concept that will take time to set up, and very short-term visibility, with all small (or large) everyday problems to solve. We have to find this path, and suddenly, accept to see with lucidity where the project really is at a given moment. It was a new friend and mentor, who has a lot of experience in the startup world, who gave us this advice recently.
Which personality do you admire the most, and why?
Elon Musk. It is true that it is very fashionable at the moment, but it commands admiration. He is able to present incredibly ambitious projects, where States have themselves given up (in the space field for example) and where competition is fierce (the automobile); and despite everything, the execution is impeccable and his projects seem well on the way to success.
Founders: Stephane Mercier (Chairman), Xavier Crouilles (CEO) and 4 other partners
Creation date : May 14, 2014
Company based in: Toulouse
Funding: 50,000 euros starting (personal funds) and a first fundraising planned for the first half of 2015
Total workforce : 6 employees