Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!
Blinkin: We’re Blinkin, a startup in the field of remote visual support and computer vision. We give companies and their customers a “help button.” We’re developing a platform for visual collaboration to make it possible to understand and solve problems faster and remotely – either guided 1:1 by an expert or automatically by the Blinkin visualbot. It might be used in industrial situations to shorten machine downtime, or in insurance cases to assess damage. And we do so by relying on the effectiveness of pictures and videos – seeing means understanding.
There are four co-founders: Josef at the head office in Munich, and Harsh, Nitin and Dhiraj at the Bangalore office. We’re all in our early or mid-thirties and have been working together since 2018 – Blinkin has been active on the market for customers since 2019. A few years ago, Josef commissioned Harsh’s team in India to develop an app for a customer project. The successful project turned into friendship and eventually into a vision for how tech support could be improved with computer vision, and be automated step-by-step by a digital assistant for smartphones.
Tech support “within seconds, without downloading an app, without logging in”
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Blinkin: Problem 1: Millions of times each day, people try to communicate with each other about technical issues that they have a hard time describing even in their native language, but that an expert could often figure out by just taking a quick look. We add a visual element to these ‘conversations in the dark’ – within seconds, without downloading an app, without logging in.
Problem 2: Sharing pictures and videos among any number of people and companies involves many obstacles. This is where we build a visual bridge between experts and their customers that can be used to transfer even large amounts of data while complying with the GDPR.
Problem 3: Tech support is hardly scalable due to its dependence on on-site service and expertise. With computer vision, we’re building a digital assistant that guides people via their smartphone so they can help themselves with technical problems.
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Blinkin: Even in our day and age of what feels like endless video conferences, customer requests for tech support are still predominantly answered by phone or email. Many companies, including insurance firms, have recognized the need for a simple connection to exchange pictures and conduct video calls between experts and customers, which is why they’ve integrated WhatsApp into customer communication. And now they face the major challenge of replacing WhatsApp with a solution that complies with the GDPR. We want to combine the simplicity of WhatsApp with the security of a telephone call and, to a certain extent, the effectiveness of an on-site visit. Our goal is not to completely replace on-site visits, which would be unrealistic and completely uneconomic from a present-day perspective. Our goal is to replace the avoidable visits and increase the fix rate while using fewer resources and providing assistance for self-service.
Blinkin is preparing its first round of financing
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Blinkin: First: We’re bootstrapped, which is quite a challenge on its own. We also have to cover our complex research in the field of computer vision with our turnover. That’s why we’re preparing our first round of financing.
Second: We’re currently working in B2B(2C), mostly with large companies. This collaboration alone ties up a large amount of resources and also sometimes means dealing with lengthy decision-making processes that slow projects down.
Third: Obviously, dealing with the current Covid conditions is not always easy, even for us. And not only because customers have postponed budgets. From the very beginning as a team, we had to overcome the distance between India and Bavaria, which worked amazingly well. But now both here and there, every team member is working from home. There’s a lack of personal interaction as a result and we really have to make a conscious effort to keep up our team spirit.
Munich Startup: How is business going?
Blinkin: Very well! Sometimes we’re still amazed to see the customers we work with now and the companies that we’re negotiating with! At the moment, we’re working on many pilot projects with large SMEs and corporations that we want to shift to the operational phase in 2021. For the first quarter, we already have some new pilot projects in the pipeline, where we’ll be working with customers, for example in the automotive, household electronics and hand tool markets, on the proper implementation of our collaboration platform.
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Blinkin: Munich is a lively place for startups! We have very good connections in the scene in the Werksviertel, which is also where our offices are located. We receive so much support from the different programs and institutions, such as Xpreneurs, Techfounders or the Insurtech Hub at Werk 1. The associated networks have already opened so many doors for us.
Munich Startup: Hidden champion or shooting star?
Blinkin: We’re certainly not a hidden champion yet – we’re right at the beginning of our journey! We highly value SMEs. Most of us have already worked with or for hidden champions in the past. We now love hidden champions as interested and pleasant Blinkin customers. But we can’t deny feeling a bit like a shooting star after the awards we received in recent weeks and months at SaaStock, Sweden Innovation Days, the Entrepreneur World Cup, along with a two-page spread in Handelsblatt. What’s more important was that a multitude of interested companies and investors reached out to us at these events. But our primary motivation at Blinkin is to create real, measurable added value for our customers and their customers, from faster turnaround to CO2 savings.