If you are looking for a particular cafe, bar or street, with a navigation software on your phone it’s easy to find your way around these days. But what if you are indoors – in a huge shopping mall, a gigantic airport or hospital – and just can’t find the place you are looking for?
As GPS doesn’t go through walls, the solution to that particular problem is far more difficult than navigating outdoors. But the Austrian startup specialised in indoor navigation manages to do so by using signals emitted from wifi, bluetooth, beacons or other proprietary systems to calculate the position of the mobile device. The team of indoo.rs ensures that “there is a very complex algorithm behind the dot on the map.”
From Chinese to indoor navigation
Cofounder Bernd Gruber; Photo credit: indoo.rs
The person behind the dot on the indoor map is Bernd Gruber, an Austrian in his mid-twenties. When Bernd came up with the idea that would eventually lead to the founding of indoo.rs, he was only 20 years old. Having moved from Lower Austria to Vienna to study Business and Chinese, becoming the COO of a widely successful tech startup wasn’t really on his immediate to-do list. But his life was to take a surprising turn when he spent fateful twelve hours in transit at the airport in Düsseldorf where there had only recently been a fire.
“Things were pretty confusing there and finding toilets, places to eat or a pharmacy was quite a challenge,” Bernd says. “So I thought to myself: there must be something out there [to tackle this problem].” Having worked on the idea together with Markus Krainz (CTO) for a little while, they founded indoo.rs in 2010 with the aim of developing a proto-typeof the indoor localisation software Bernd had envisioned at the airport in Düsseldorf. Now, at 26, he is a successful entrepreneur and has an office in Vienna. Moreover, he is heading a team of 18, one of whom actually used to be a researcherat CERN who helped discover Higgs Boson before meeting Bernd and deciding to join the team at indoo.rs.
Ever growing fields of application
In the most basic sense, indoo.rs’ navigation software provides mobile assistance guiding users to their desired places. Among their clients is the LifeBall in the Vienna city hall, as well as Swisscom, with interest growing especially in the retail, travel, and public safety industries. The use of indoo.rs technology in the provision of a meeting room guide has become very popular – in addition to its application in fire stations, museums and hospitals.
Recently, the Austrian startup worked on a project at San Francisco Airport, where they implemented an app for visually impaired people that helps them navigate through one of the terminals by telling the user what is around him or her.
Besides localisation tools, indoo.rs is also active in the area of analytics, offering their clients data related to customer flows, which can help identify customer behaviour, improve queue management, or manage staff communication. The solution business is growing as well – “and it’s a lot of fun,” says Bernd. “A customer has a particular problem, we have the tools and together, we find a solution.”
In terms of pricing, at indoo.rs things depend very much on the project. On the one hand, they offer a self-service to developers who can use software on their website but also projects with clients are implemented, that include an array of additional services.
In entrepreneurship, you should always set yourself a deadline and if it hasn’t worked out by then, you should stop.”
First funding from family members
At the beginning, Bernd and his team financed indoo.rs with the help of their families. “We gave ourselves half a year to see how it would go,” says Bernd. “In entrepreneurship, you should always set yourself a deadline and if it hasn’t worked out by then, you should stop.” After winning the MobileMonday award in 2010, indoo.rs was far from stopping – “quite to the contrary,” says Bernd, “we saw the market and we saw that our software was being received well.” Since then, Bernd and Markus have learnt to structure their projects and their team, always careful to maintain a clear focus in their work and learning how to differentiate between qualified and unqualified leads. When they received their first grant, the two-man team was able to hire employees – and attract clients. At the beginning of 2013, indoo.rs managed to bring three investors on board, namely Tecnet Equity, SpeedInvest, and Techinvest, raising a six figure sum.
Daughter company in Silicon Valley
Steadily growing, the startup has not only hired additional staff, but has also taken the leap over the big pond. In 2012, they founded a daughter company in Silicon Valley, with the support of their investor Speedinvest. Although things are “difficult to coordinate given the time difference,” as Bernd puts it, it made sense from a business perspective to expand to the American market, especially on the West Coast, which is where most of their clients are located. Businesses in the US are generally “more eager to invest than in Europe,” says Bernd. “Decisions are often taken more quickly there, whereas in Europe sale cycles are usually longer.”
Business with iBeacons
Indoo.rs is growing and expanding at a time when the market for localisation software is evolving and becoming more and more dynamic. “This year is the year of proof of concept and next year, the roll-outs will happen,” Bernd says. “Now, everyone is trying things out and next year, we will see what works and what doesn’t.” Beacons, for example, are becoming an increasingly attractivemarket segment, that indoo.rs hopes to tap into in the future. “iBeacons can trigger the opening of an app or push notifications, which is very interesting for the retail sector when you think of the possibility of personalised offers, forexample.” Amidst all the expansion and growth, however, Bernd’s biggest wish for the future remains “that we keep having fun at this.”