The Munich B2B startup Inner-I has developed an innovative solution for employee development that combines virtual reality with brain wave measurement and gaming elements. Its founder, Michael Ludwig Seyfried, who is also an actor, director and team development coach, answered our Seven Questions.
Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do?
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: With a team of psychologists, neurologists and computer programmers, I’ve created Inner-I, an innovative tool for employee development. What Inner-I teaches — combined with virtual reality (VR), gamification and brain wave measurements — is the ability to relax, mental strength and leadership skills.
Inner-I wants to teach skills for Work 4.0 in an entertaining way
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: Even working from home, many committed individuals in the brave new world of work are under enormous pressure. The higher the level of responsibility, the more dramatic the degree of overload can be. That is combined with the multifarious distractions on the many channels of communication. The ability to concentrate diminishes, many key players are constantly working at their limit. Too much and also too little stress lead to inefficiency, states of exhaustion and — ultimately — burn out.
On top of that, many people were already plagued by worry before Corona. They might be worried about their job, about restructuring or the rapid changes that accompany the much propagated ‘agility.’ Doing ‘a bit of yoga’ is hardly enough to come to grips with the trend. After all, stress disorders can also be self inflicted: The real reason for failing at work is a lack of self-organization. We’re driven by subconscious patterns, by ‘blind spots.’ These often lead to difficulties in decision making, problems with authority — and a lack of motivation, bad communication. In an entertaining and vivid way, Inner-I imparts the key meta-competencies for Work 4.0: Self efficacy, resilience, dealing with complexity and much more.
The innovative training medium is a journey into the unknown for the ‘old economy’
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: On the one hand, the market for training and coaching is bursting at the seams. On the other, VR is already being used to a certain extent in the area of (especially technical) advanced training. However, the potential of immersive access to 360° realms of experience combined with findings from behavioral psychology and dramaturgy has scarcely been used or offered. The combination of brain wave measurement and direct control of the course of the educational narrative with mind power is another unique selling proposition.
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: Challenge number one for us was initial financing. We received startup funding from KfW, but only with a private guarantee. If you can’t provide assets such as real estate, no bank in Germany will grant you a loan — and even the KfW evaluation runs through banks.
Challenge number two is a consequence of challenge number one. Getting our system ready technically for customers without the necessary funding.
Challenge number three is getting customers, especially in the ‘old economy,’ on board with innovative approaches like ours, because by using our different media of training, they have to venture into the unknown.
The corona crisis necessitates a new concept
Munich Startup: How is business going?
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: The corona crisis initially made all of our appointments with customers impossible. We reacted by adapting our concept. Originally, we wanted to sell specific hardware. Now our customers can only access Inner-I content on the cloud with standard VR headsets. As a result, we’ve only generated symbolic revenue. We plan, however, for our system to be used as an instrument for developing potential in companies worldwide in a few years.
Munich Startup: How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: We have fundamental unicorn potential based on the virtual ecstasy, which we can offer users drug free, that will enrich the horizons and quality of life of thousands of people without them needing to leave their office buildings.
Munich Startup: Quick exit or staying power?
Michael Ludwig Seyfried, Inner-I: We love what we do, so we’re not thinking about an exit.