We’re not about to tell you the story of the latest spin on the All American Cookie Company, the Great Cookie or even Mrs. Fields. PresenceOrb is a startup based in London and they’ve developed a “virtual cookie” for the real world.
I’m hoping that it’s not too far reaching to expect readers of nibletz.com, the voice of startups everywhere else, to know what cookies are, at least in the internet sense of the word. Taking it back to internet 101 for those of you not in the know, cookies are the little tidbits of information transmitted from you, across the internet to other websites that help determine what you need to know.
It’s how the adservers on nibletz.com know to offer you an ad for kayak.com when the last website you visited was US Airways, that kind of thing.
Unarguably, having some kind of offline version of this very important tool would be amazing. Imagine if everyone that shopped at Old Navy went through some magic door that left some kind of radioactive film on you so that when you went to Abercrombie & Fitch, you could get some kind of message that says, “Come Back To Old Navy we’ll give you a discount right now”.
OK so it’s not that freaky, nor futuristic. However, PresenceOrb is that useful. The only thing you need to bring in the store with you to make this magic work is your smartphone.
Using the PresenceOrb app and your smartphone, if you walk into a business in the program your phone is “marked” or “noted” now that business can market to you in the best way possible. Using a profile you’ve completed and information locally at said business establishment, you’ll get relative, passive advertisements that may seem a little cray cray but actually it’s kind of fascinating.
For the sake of understanding, on the company’s video they show a customer with PresenceOrb activated on their phone. The customer walks into two different car dealerships, a Volkswagen dealer not using PresenceOrb and a Porsche dealer that is.
After taking a test drive at both dealerships the user ends up taking some time to think about it. Low and behold, he drives past a digital billboard also equipped with PresenceOrb and the billboard offers him a special price on that particular Porsche. Voila, it’s an offer the user can’t refuse and bam he’s driving a brand new Porsche.
When you dissect this form of targeted advertising it’s actually pretty amazing. The potential for real world advertising to be affected this way could lead to billions of dollars in sales.
We got a chance to talk with Thomas Sheppard the brilliant man behind this startup, check out the interview below.
What is Presenceorb?
PresenceOrb is the cookie for the real world. POB allows retailers to cookie consumers as they visit brick and mortar stores. Retails gain analytics previously only seen in the online realm, Footfall, Bounce rate, return customers, new customers, linger time …. the list goes on. With this information and via our expanding advertising partner network retailers can then action these analytics by targeting consumers on the street through such outlets as digital out of home billboards.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Thomas is the founder of Presence aware tech. He has worked as an engineer in banking producing financial markets software as well as for a number of technology companies producing consumer software for desktop and mobile for the past 11 years. Presence aware tech additionally has a North American partner company who provide development resource and are additionally POB’s largest customer.
Where are you based?
Presence aware tech is based within the Cisco office in North Greenwich, London. Having recently been awarded the Raptor SME grant for which Cisco is a key backer.
The culture is fantastic. We are surrounded by like minded companies (Oprillo, AMBX, Lamppost, Prod designs, Crowd Vision) the majority of whom are also current or previous Raptor grant winners. We collaborate, disagree, challenge and encourage one another.It’s the sort of environment where you can lift your head and hear conversations covering twenty different industries.
How did you come up with the idea for Presenceorb?
Presence Orb was originally intended as a security device. After a startled wake-up at two am one night our founder thought someone was in his home. Thankfully it was just a bad dream which had forced him awake however it got him thinking. How could a home owner detect if someone was in the home, not just movement but be able to “cookie” someone and see if they where supposed to be present or not. From there he began to research how that could be done and then things got interesting. Thomas then went on to form Presence aware tech, we produced a prototype and pivoted our focus from security to analytics. We are now 8 months further on and the path from then to now has been astounding.
The market is ready, hardware is now cheaper to make. People are familiar with the concept of cookies and the adjoining technology is available. In short the market has come to meet our vision.
What problem does Presenceorb solve?
Presence Orb levels the playing field between physical and online retailers. For years online retailers have had analytics software and marketing which has allowed them to analyse consumer wants, needs and actions. Online retailers can then adjust to these findings very quickly. Physical retailers have been hampered by an inability to gain such rapid feedback. Typical collection methods such as surveys, in store spotters and analysis took months if not more to conduct and collate. With Presence Orb retailers can gain these analytics instantly similar to Google analytics but for the brick and mortar stores.
Who are your competition?
There are others in this space doing similar things and we are aware of them however we don’t overly concern ourselves with competition. We have a vision and direction as to how we believe our product should function what features it should include and how we are going to do that. We can only concentrate on our own game, we leave everyone else to concentrate on there’s and the results will come out in the end.
And what’s your secret sauce?
It’s no secret that good people make great products. We make sure that our people have the drive to produce something truly amazing. It’s no secret it’s just what makes us produce a quality product is a desire to do exactly that.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
Bootstrapped and proud. We would take funding when it’s needed but at the moment we can survive on our own resources and steam. We don’t charge for the hardware which can meet initial ourlay is high but our SAAS business model then takes over and will allow us to grow as we bring on more customers.
What are some milestones you’ve achieved?
We’ve recently been announced as Digital innovation finalists in the advertising space at Digital shoreditch London. We are one of 21 companies presenting in the final for 7 awards. This was a hugely proud moment for us.
To be accepted onto the Raptor SME program run in part by Cisco was another huge milestone for us. This fueled a number of conversations that without which we might never have begun or had the good fortune to be part of.
Our first enterprise level trial was another amazing milestone. We have deployed within a household recognizable location and it blows our mind every time we walk into the location to think …. we’re deployed here.
Our second enterprise level trial with a global chain…. i’ll say no more.
Honestly there are loads of milestones that as a team we are exceptionally proud of but our main focus is our product and perhaps the biggest milestone was our first customer feedback from a small Cafe in North Yorkshire telling us there takings are heading north in no small part because of Presence Orb they knew where to focus there marketing spend. That’s when we knew our product was making a difference.
What’s your next milestone?
Taking on the Digital Innovations final on May 20th. We want to wow the crowd with whats possible. And we will.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
We are in an incredibly privileged position to have not only people as mentors but also companies. Cisco provide us with one to one mentors and also business units will email from time to time giving advice. We are really thankful for that. We have advisers in the advertising space and even companies who have installed our product who we view as mentors. They provide feedback on what they like and don’t like so much about POB and ultimately that’s the best feedback and direction we can ask for.
Where can people find out more and what is your Twitter username?