The startup of the day: LM3LABS develops products based on the vision
Some of its technologies are marketed under a white label by large groups such as Panasonic
Frenchweb invites you today to discover LM3LABS, a startup founded by a Frenchman but based in Sophia-Antipolis, Tokyo and Singapore. It develops products based on computer vision such as furniture, sensors or mobile solutions.
More details with Nicolas Loeillot, founder and CEO.
FW: How did you get the idea for your company?
Nicolas Loeillot : In 2003, the future founders of LM3LABS set out to explore in Japan with the idea of selling their patents to major Japanese manufacturers. These made it possible to track the fingers in 3D space. We were far ahead of the market and the majority of our interlocutors had no vision regarding the multi touch or gestural interactions. When we got a little interest, we were rightly told that we were foreigners with no base in the country. Total failure was not far off.
Our initiative took a more positive turn thanks to the request for a prototype from telecommunications giant NTT DoCoMo. After a few months of work in France, the LM3LABS team returned to present its interactive glass surface prototype to NTT DoCoMo, which immediately bought the product. After this first step, LM3LABS will continue to develop new technologies, adding to the engineering profession a designer skill in order to design original interfaces.
FW: What need are you responding to?
The list of products developed by the company is long. They can be divided into four segments: finger, body, face and image detection technologies. More recently, LM3LABS entered the mobile market by developing Xloudia, the world’s fastest image recognition solution.
FW: Very simply, how do you make money?
LM3LABS supplies its technologies to major brands in the form of unique interactive projects, but LM3LABS also relies on a network of distributors in many countries. These interactivity enthusiasts deploy LM3LABS technologies on their local market with a lot of creativity and passion. Some technologies (like Xloudia) are even offered as a white label to large companies like Panasonic.
FW: Who are your competitors?
We have wonderful competitors who are our pride. I will cite Microsoft Kinect, Leap Motion, Samsung Sure interactive table, Qualcomm,… We are a David who fights against Goliaths with full pockets. The strength of LM3LABS lies in its creativity, its highly qualified team, its flexibility and very frugal management.
FW: What or which companies are you being compared to in error?
LM3LABS is not a digital agency and even less an advertising and event agency. Over time, we were forced to extend our research activities to those of engineers, then we developed our interface development activities which made our reputation in interaction design.
Sometimes we do consulting assignments for large groups around the same interaction design. LM3LABS is at a crossroads, between an engineering office, a software publisher, a studio, and a sensor manufacturer. We are all of this at the same time, without asking ourselves too many questions.
FW: What was one of the first issues in your development, and how did you deal with it?
LM3LABS has developed in one of the most difficult and demanding markets in the world, Japan. This country is not the first in terms of technology and the penetration of foreign technology is very difficult.
More generally, during the last ten years we have gone from a market where evangelization was the main activity to a market where interaction technologies seem trivialized while their deployments are still rare in the daily life of our contemporaries. Following the Fukushima disaster, we lost some foreign talents who were based in Tokyo. We are still rebuilding this team, 2 years after the tragedy.
FW: What is your main asset in this market?
LM3LABS is a pioneer in the interaction market and benefits from ten years of experience strewn with successes and failures. We’ve done a lot of experimentation and have pretty clear ideas about what works, what is more risky, and where the future of interactivity is heading.
Thus, for example, AirStrike, whose competitor is Leap Motion, is positioned on the professional market of museography or showrooms, markets with high margins. Of course, LM3LABS capitalizes on a reputation in the field of interactivity and strong patents.
FW: What is the best advice you have been given and by whom?
“Focus on your customers,” advice Japan has given every day for ten years. Our experience triggered a cultural revolution in our entrepreneurial approach and forced us to put the customer at the heart of our strategy. In Japan, it is not just words but a condition for survival.
Customers bring everything a business needs: money, experience, product feedback, referrals. Our relations with our French suppliers even seem sometimes difficult to us because we have made this cultural leap. This strategy has saved us from calling on outside investors, moved away from uncertain paths and imposed permanent innovation. We have released ten innovative products in ten years, without ever abandoning any.
FW: Who is the personality you admire the most?
We are big fans of author-entrepreneur Seth Godin and his “liberating” ideas, perhaps because we live in a country that is a little too structured. How cool to read The Deception of Icarus.
Founder : Nicolas Loeillot and Yumiko Misaki
Investors : 100% self-financed
Creation date : February 2004 for Japan; 2005 for France, 2011 for Singapore
Number of employees : 20
Sales figures : 2.2 million euros (¥ 300m)
Company based in : Tokyo, Sophia-Antipolis, Singapore