Von Bismark Sunday Business Post Article
Von Bismark’s mirror on retailing future
1 January 2012 by Linda Daly
Eoghan O’Sullivan, founder, Von Bismark: the company’s aim is to revolutionise online retailing.
What it does: virtual commerce and retail advertising
Why it works: “It’s better to test your products with real world users than to spend nine months in development creating something people don’t want. Get things out there early. Get feedback and, if it’s rough around the edges, so be it.” – Eoghan O’Sullivan, founder, Von Bismark
With a background in 3D design, Eoghan O’Sullivan has been a serial entrepreneur since he graduated with a degree in Multimedia from Dublin City University in 2003. He co-founded Pixie Labs in 2005 and Tender3d.com in 2009. However, it wasn’t until 2011, when he spotted the potential for an innovative new technology, that he went out on his own.
When Microsoft released its Kinect technology for the Xbox, O’Sullivan saw real potential in it – not just as a gaming platform, but as a way for people to interact with data. He came up with the idea for Von Bismark and officially registered the firm at the end of August 2011.
The company’s aim is to revolutionise online retailing by enhancing the way people interact with both digital advertising and online retail stores. The first of its products to be released will be Accessories, an augmented reality platform that allows users to physically interact with digital accessories. The technology uses a two-metre interactive mirror and Kinect technology to show people how a handbag or accessory might look on them.
The person can then email an image to friends for advice, get information and get information on the product itself
Accessorise is still in production and Von Bismark is yet to make a sale, but O’Sullivan said potential clients would include designer brands such as Burberry and high-end retailers such as Brown Thomas. He sees the technology advancing further in the near future.
“The end goal for us is for people in two years’ time to stand in front of their flat screen at home and be able to access stores, click on an image, see what it looks like on, and buy the product from there,” he said.
O’Sullivan believes the product had the potential to revolutionise online retailing. “Sixty-six per cent of people will not buy clothes online and, of all the clothes that are bought online, about 30 per cent are returned,” he said.
The company recently put its product on display at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in Dublin. In the first three days, more than 15,000 people stopped to use the system, which took over 2,000 pictures.
O’Sullivan said that, despite the fact that Von Bismark and its technology were both in their infancy, it was important to get his message out there early on.
“It’s better to test your products with real world users than to spend nine months in development and creating something people don’t want. Get things out there early. Get feedback and, if it’s rough around the edges, so be it,” he said.
O’Sullivan believes strongly in communication.
“The first thing is to talk to absolutely everybody. Spend 23 of the 24 hours of the day talking and generating a buzz around your product. The great thing about Dublin at the moment is it’s got a great tech scene. It is a really vibrant area to be working in and people want to know what’s out there,” he said.
In the latter half of 2012, O’Sullivan expects to build further on Accessorise by introducing three-dimensional clothes using fluid simulation. “The product will take all of your measurements and drape the clothes over your body, so you’ll be able to see the way the material swishes. It will have a huge impact on online shopping,” he said.
Von Bismark won a place on the National Digital Research Centre’s LaunchPad programme last September. The incubator programme supports digital entrepreneurs, helping them to turn business ideas into reality. Participants get €20,000 in seed funding. Von Bismark has also just received €50,000 from the Lucey Technology Fund, which makes a part-cash, part-development commitment to new and growing IT businesses. With this funding, the company has taken on two full-time coders and part-time sales and PR people. It also has Microsoft’s permission to develop further products using the Kinect platform and O’Sullivan plans to expand its range in the coming months.
One of the new products in the pipeline will be digital window display unit for mobile phone shops, which will customers to access their entire catalogue of products and make a purchase.
“It will essentially turn the shop window from an advertising display to an interactive display. We’ll move things from above-the-line advertising to one-to-one interactions with those advertisements, all the way to point-of-sale,” said O’Sullivan.
Another product in the pipeline will be a metrics and user engagement facility to allow retailers to record footfall outside their stores. The firm hopes to enter the British market next year and has the US in its sights in the longer term.
“Our next port of call is to get High Potential Start Up designation from Enterprise Ireland so we can tap into its resources abroad,” said O’Sullivan.