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5G Frontiers: Proxy 42 on Intelligent Cameras and Active Gaming

In May, seven startups enrolled on our 5G consumer programme. The aim? To use 5G to make entertainment faster, wilder and more vivid than ever before. But who are the startups enrolled on the programme? We recently spoke to Annalisa Dalbon, the co-founder of Proxy 42, an AR platform designed to blend shared augmented worlds with the real world.

1. How did you get the idea for your product?

We believe that the camera has progressed from being a rough piece of hardware, used to celebrate important moments of life such as birthdays and weddings, to something more and more intelligent. AR, Computer Vision, and Artificial Intelligence are changing the way we interact with people and the surrounding environment.

As gamers, we found an opportunity to create an active and really social new generation of games that gives people powers like superheroes and helps them become part of an amazing community.

2. What problem is your product trying to solve?

Parents around the world are desperate to get their kids off the couch and want to see them lead an active and social lifestyle. This is a multibillion dollar problem. We have the solution: “Pokemon Go meets Fortnite”. We have merged two multibillion dollar gaming concepts — Pokemon go and Fortnite — to create a new generation of games that combine active gameplay with real-life social interaction, thanks to mobile Augmented Reality.

3. What’s the biggest challenge your team faced?

Inventing, developing, launching, and operating an AR platform worldwide (including software, hardware, firmware, compliance, retail, strategic partnerships, marketing) that involved millions of users on a very limited budget.

4. What was the moment you realised your product would be a success?

We launched a product crowdfunding campaign a few years ago and our team bootstrapped, crowdfunded and shipped our first game – Father.io – we managed to attract 5 million registered users and $800k of revenue with just $100k of marketing investment. This showed to the team that there was an outstanding response from the gaming community.

However, this was planned, as we built the game together with a wonderful community of thousands of people that provided feedback on Father.IO from the very beginning.

5. What skill of yours has been most important for your career? 

There is no one specific skill or magic formula to boost a career or a company. We believe the magic comes from the alchemic mix of expertise in several fields, from sociology to user experience, from Social Behaviour to real time streaming architecture. But also: passion, passion, passion. And by really ‘thinking outside the box’.

We are always hungry for opportunities to improve and ready to make the world a better, funnier, and much more socially-connected place. 

6. How do you fuel innovation in your company?

Focusing on simple weekly goals, improving what we are doing every day. Magic happens when you have great people in the room and you empower them to be the best version of themselves. 

7. What book/album/film has inspired you creatively recently?

  • TV series –> Black Mirror (the first two seasons) and Breaking Bad
  • Album –> OK Computer – Radiohead
  • Book –>  “Human Action”, Ludwig Von Mises

8. Which other entrepreneur/startup are you most inspired by? 

We are inspired by the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.

9. What’s the one tip you would give young entrepreneurs?

Never give up. But don’t fight against the world, align with it.

10. What’s the best thing about Germany’s startup community?

There is a strong interest from corporate ventures on how to innovate in terms of partnership with the startups. There is a very healthy ecosystem which engages in a lot of long-term planning.

11. Make up and answer your own question!

Quoting Douglas Adams “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?” 42.


Startup Corporate Partnerships: How Do You Make It Work?

When considering a partnership with a corporate, the pitfalls can seem endless: corporates sometimes feel as big and cumbersome as startups are small and agile, delays feel inevitable and navigating the bureaucracy? Instant migraine.

But business is like anything else: you generally learn the most from those who have different experiences. The first step? Recognising the most frequent sources of disruption in startup-corporate relationships.

Problems pitching to business units

Startupnight 2019 @ Deutsche Telekom’s Representative Office, Berlin Berlin, 06.09.2019

Business units are often fenced off by innovation departments or managers refuse to talk to startups. Half the battle is figuring out the maze of the corporate organization you’re collaborating with. Firstly, are you approaching the correct unit? Secondly, once you’ve found the correct unit, are you approaching the correct person?  Pitch smart, not hard. As Tanya Suarez of IoT Tribe put it, “Corporations have their own internal structure. So startups never really talk to the corporation as such but always to one of its components and the success of the interaction may very well depend on the choice of the corporate component that is most appropriate for a given startup.”

Product roadmap

Startupnight 2019 @ Deutsche Telekom’s Representative Office, Berlin Berlin, 06.09.2019

There’s usually a trade-off between building a standard product and trying to tick off the custom requirements your corporate client is looking for. So what should you do?  Stephan Morais from Indico Capital said: “Cooperations between startups and corporates tend to be more stable and fruitful when they are based on shared technical objectives, operations, marketing or distribution channels.” Align on expectations early, and agree on a sufficient amount of time to co-create or cooperate (especially because a corporate often finds itself under pressure to show progress quite early).

Free trials

Hubraum CloudXR Hackathont @ hub:raum Campus, Berlin Berlin, 18.10.2019

It’s often said that the first five clients need to be given the product for free – or, at least, as partially paid trials – to get the sixth client to pay for the product. Similarly, corporates tend to require a lot of success stories before they buy, making it challenging to finance a startup in the beginning.

Why not ask customers who aren’t paying with cash to pay with advocacy instead? Give them your product or service in exchange for their testimonials or for their introducing you to other valuable contacts. This allows the startup to cut costs in terms of marketing. However, this is an approach which should be incorporated into your business plan and shared with investors.

Trust without references 

Hubraum CloudXR Hackathont @ hub:raum Campus, Berlin Berlin, 18.10.2019

A typical chicken-and-egg problem: corporate departments may not want to work with start-ups and their unproven products if they cannot provide references from previous corporate clients. How can you build trust without references? Come prepared: bring examples or case studies of projects you did in the past that overlap with the client’s needs; don’t just tell your success stories but back them up with hard data (numbers, dates, specific names, results) to stand out from competitors in your field; if you’ve worked with credible authorities in the field, cite them.