The idea to get involved with AR was born in 2011, when Dennis and Viktor met again after many years in the basement of the University of Münster (WWU). Both were already very interested in this technology and realized that there was great potential behind AR, but that the market was not yet mature enough. One could watch the smartphone battery drain (Samsung Galaxy S1). With the skills of Viktor, a budding business information scientist, and Dennis’ general computer science, the kindergarten friends complemented each other well. This interest eventually led the two students into the world of the startup and tech scene.
AR technology took a back seat for the time being, however, as the two developed a booking platform for DJs. This gave the techies their first experience in creating something from scratch. Over time, the third co-founder – also named Viktor – joined them. The platform called gigbookr.com quickly attracted numerous DJs and received a lot of positive feedback. At this point, the founders took for the first time the difficulties of running a platform and solving the “chicken/egg” problem, i.e. serving all sides of a marketplace. Thus, the platform proved to be a “learning” relatively quickly and thus helped in the development of future products.
In the meantime, Pokémon Go had become a worldwide phenomenon. The guys directly agreed that now was the right time for AR. Therefore, they thought about how to reduce the problems of retail: Thus, the idea for “SpotAR” was born. In this app, AR is used to display all offers in 360° on the camera screen. This includes, for example, restaurants, sightseeing but also local offers that can be posted by retailers via a specially developed CMS. However, it quickly became apparent that the retail sector is not really ready for this technology either. Investors don’t believe in it either: “Investing in retail is like handing out a ticket on the sinking Titanic.” In a pilot project of the tourism marketing department of the city of Soest, the aim was to test the possibilities of linking tourism with AR technology. The founders then developed the app “SpotAR”. The result: a new business model and the opening of a completely unknown market. Digital city tours with AR as an “App-as-a-Service” model for cities and tourist regions. Shortly thereafter and after a few pitches at startup events, they were able to win other customers, such as the city of Lübeck.
After some time, the digital city tours developed into “AR experiences” that show, for example, what a city looked like in the Middle Ages. In addition, after more than two years of waiting and bureaucratic hurdles, the commitment for a funding project within the framework of “digital model community Soest” was promised. The startup, which was initially built using the bootstrap method, has now been able to hire its first employees: Among others, a 3D artist who designs the reconstructions and creates the augmented reality scenes. This is done with the help of data from the archive and previous recordings.
In early 2020, the founders were on a six-week “startup retreat program” on the island of Madeira. There, they were given the opportunity to optimize the business model once again in a coaching and mentoring program and to network. In the process, it didn’t take long for Christiano Ronaldo’s home island to also be convinced to request a product from SpotAR. In addition to the Madeira Startup Retreat, the Founders Foundation and the Vodafone UPLIFT team also supported us.
Co-founder Viktor Waal and Alexander Leenen from Vodafone at the Vodafone Global Summit 2020 in London where SpotAR had the opportunity to present their solution.
However, with the onset of the lockdown, projects across the tourism industry in particular were brought to a standstill. So the startup had to come up with new business models: After a conversation with a friend from the hospitality industry and considering the current problem of registration during a restaurant stay, they started to develop a solution for digital guest data collection via QR code. Even before the lockdown ended, it was known that guest data needed to be recorded for infection chain tracking. Action was taken quickly: A prototype was developed before the end of the 1st lockdown and also launched directly. Within hours, the first restaurateurs registered on the platform to implement the solution in their own businesses.
Our current projects at a glance:
Problem: Tourism management and data generation
Solution: AR platform to create own digital city tours to tell city story in a new way. Coupled with a content management system to constantly update and add new content. Furthermore, to generate important insights and relevant data to make the tourist experience in the city even better.
Problem: Paperwork and high tracking costs for health authorities.
Solution: Digital guest data collection via QR code and secure storage on our GastIdent service. The service is designed in such a way that the data is automatically deleted after 4 weeks and is clearly made available to the restaurateur in accordance with DSGVO.
Problem: Visit data capture and staff screening.
Solution: Digital capture and CoV-SARS2 symptom screening through a digital form.