We talked to Domitille Esnard-Domerego about how Key Infuser develops and sells innovative robotic solutions focused on user experience around the “touch technology” and this is what she had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: We are trying to do our best. I am a mother of two girls, seven years and ten years old, so we’ve tried to be innovative to find good time while reducing social interactions. We started DIY projects, geocaching and enjoyed all of them.
The most challenging part is that we missed interactions with the broader family, particularly with the oldest in the family. Neither Zoom nor emails will replace the good family moments. Let’s cross fingers that the upcoming vaccines will bring back those unique instants and keep all our beloved family members and friends safe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Key Infuser?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: At its origin, I was frustrated with musical instruments and how they are created. I visited a musical instrument museum and found those instruments under their displays. No sound. No magic. So frustrating. While musicians or free access are not viable options, demonstration robotics appears as obvious for all those objects that are alive to illustrate their Magic. And this is the same for another magical device: the smartphone. I am an engineer, so I immediately wanted to work on this: I bought a 3D printer, an embedded system, and started prototyping. And here we are now, five years later, with a company, a line of products and main customers around Europe.
How does Key Infuser innovate?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: We have created a robot KiOne. It is as small as a smartphone and easy to use. It’s unique and patented. It demonstrates in stores and events what’s great about a smartphone, an application. And for the retailer and the brand, this is an entertaining and efficient way to create a link between the visitor and the product: projection is the first step for adoption.
We also provide other retail and events solutions using robotics like product personalization. More broadly, Key Infuser aims to bring complete, durable, and accessible commercial solutions to its customers. We build user-centric robotics solutions.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: 2020 is definitively a special year for us. We are in the retail & events industry, so our business and growth have been directly affected.
The good news is that we are a startup: we are agile by nature. So, we adapted our offer. For example, we added a touchless interface for commanding the robots which interact directly with the product: no need to clean the product after each visitor. We also created new specific robots to help the retail promote particular products while respecting the health constraints.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: It was warming to observe how retail is essential in people’s life. A shopping experience is a social event, a “feel good” event, and people worldwide were deeply missing it, and eCommerce will never replace it. There has been even a phenomenon called “revenge shopping” observed in China during store re-openings.
For our startup, the challenge is to navigate by sight while anticipating a maximum of different trajectories. This is time and effort consuming. I believe we will learn the lessons while this is all over. Before this, it is impossible to evaluate the choice we made.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Key Infuser in the future?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: We are a team, and my background is in engineering. So, we try to take the decision altogether based on facts and not on emotion. This is very close to a scientific process: first understand the problem as much as you can, then evaluate the success for each identified possibility, then choose the best. And the icing on the cake: removing the uncertainty has a positive effect on anxiety!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: Robotics is emerging everywhere. But making it accessible for the retail and events segment is not trivial. Needs are different compared to robots for hobbyists or industrial engineers. We have built our robots to be autonomous, accessible, and ratable: there is no installation effort; they are remotely accessible to track their performance, perform updates, etc. We also set up partnerships with retail agencies to ease deployments and be part of new store projects.
Your final thoughts?
Domitille Esnard-Domerego: Innovation, Agility, and Resilience are three keywords that all startups need to know by heart. And this year, they have made so much sense for all of us. These are arrows to Key Infuser’s bow, with Innovation being one of the company’s most important values. After all, beyond the pun with “Tea Infuser,” Key Infuser is about inspiring, infusing keys – aka solutions – to Key Infuser’s customers by its technological expertise and creativity.