Meet Poikos, a 3D body imaging startup from Amsterdam and co-winner of the IBM SmartCamp European Regional. They’ll be competing for the title IBM Entrepreneur of the Year in NYC, Feb. 5-7! This is part 6 of 8 in our Meet the Global Finalists series. Register for the public session on Feb. 7th here.
1. Briefly, what is your company’s solution, how does it work, and where did the idea come from?
Poikos is a computer vision systems company which has developed a revolutionary patent-pending technology for imaging and measuring the body in 3D, using consumer grade hardware such as smartphones, tablets and PCs. It is called FlixFit.
We are developing a platform to deliver our technology to partners within the health, bespoke and fashion e-commerce, and entertainment sectors for a range of new capabilities across all industries.
We were shortlisted recently for a Cisco BIG Award, and Cisco tell us that they now want to work with us to see how our technology can affect the 3rd world. What the experts say:
“I just heard about Flixfit technology from a friend and was blown away by it’s potential. I’ve 15 years experience in the sporting goods industry, working for Nike, and believe technologies such as Flixfit will revolutionise the way we do business.”
From CEO Eleanor Watson: “My dream was of a world where affordable mass customisation of apparel was a reality. This would mean that anyone would have access to custom-fit clothing within days, at prices roughly comparable to the mass market. I wanted to make a real difference for people all around the world who face problems in this area (I think most people do, to some degree, particularly women).
There is a suite of technologies out there which is emerging (such as Direct Production on Loom), which almost make this possible. I realised however that in order to customise something, one needed accurate data on what one should customise it to. All the solutions out there required expensive, bulky and inconvenient proprietary hardware, which I never really considered to be a viable solution. From my background in e-commerce, and from teaching post-grad computer science and computer forensics from the age 24, I reckoned that there must be another way.
I spent six months travelling around and picking the brains of very smart individuals and groups of professors all over the world. Everyone basically said it was impossible, but I kept digging, like a detective, and eventually I had amassed enough information that we could begin to put a system together which can work on any PC, tablet or smartphone.
I raised a brilliant team, and we got straight to work. One year later, working with no less than 8 Universities here we are, finally bringing our UK and US patent-pending technology to market.”
CEO — Eleanor Watson — Taught Post-grad Computer Science and Computer Forensics, co- founded Graffiti4hire.co.uk, career in e-commerce prior. Insatiable obsession with actualising new technologies which can be massively scaled.
CTO — David Evans — has been presenting at hacker conferences since the age of 12, recently graduated with an MSc Computer Science. David has a background in Math and Physics to design incredible computer vision technologies.
CFO — Derk Jolink — an entertainment industry veteran who held several key positions at major record companies. Starting off by recording artists in the seventies, he became A&R manager and international marketing director for CBS/Sony, marketing director for Warner Brothers, managing director for BMG and international VP for Wegener Arcade.
CCO a.i. — Mark Schiefelbein — has worked with Internet and technology startups for many years, as a growth hacker, helping founders and investors unlock growth.
3. How will your solution impact people’s lives for the better?
A Mintel Report on Fashion Online 2010 shows that almost 36% of online buyers feel that the clothing they order do not meet their expectations. This figure is even higher for women at 46%, because women tend to have more difficulty finding clothes that flatter various body shapes.
With our FlixFit solution, we will eliminate the stress felt by online retail customers when they don’t know their size. They will be able to shop online with more confidence and experience fewer returns and exchanges, saving them time, effort, and money. From a business perspective, FlixFit enables retailers to increase their conversion rate by a substantial margin–research shows that up to 40% of all clothes bought online are returned to retailers (source: Daily Mirror 2011).
Since nominal sizes offered by brands differ, FlixFit would allow customers to know their size irrespective of the retailer they are buying from. The concept also ties in with campaigns for real sizing, celebrating the fact that every person is unique.
4. What is the best advice you’ve been given or the most important thing you’ve learned in the SmartCamp competition so far?
The most interesting advice came from tech investor Bill Liao, who suggested that we found our own accelerator based around our technology to help push it forward. That really blew our minds!
5. In what ways do you hope working with IBM will help your company grow and succeed?
IBM has a very strong and well-known brand; IBM is solid, enduring and dependable. Poikos’ association with IBM provides us with respectability and credence, which for a scrappy little startup doesn’t always come easily. Furthermore, IBM’s suite of powerful technologies and software which it has offered us has the promise of really helping us to drive our innovation forward.
Poikos has an opportunity to powerfully disrupt a wide range of sectors in business, including mass customisation, fashion & e-commerce, and health. It is this mix of disruptive change to business and everyday life, lead by a vision of a more intelligent porting of personal biometric information which we believe makes our company so exciting.