Marcel Herz, CEO and Co-founder of Tiliter tells us about accelerating the democratization of computer vision.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marcel Herz: Doing very well as I am living in Australia where COVID hasn’t impacted our day-to-day as much as it has affected Europe and America. Luckily, my family in Germany, where I am originally from, is also doing well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Tiliter.
Marcel Herz: I started my professional career after completing my engineering degree in Germany and then moved over to Australia in 2013. I started to work for a construction company while pursuing a master’s in Biomedical Engineering. In 2016 I met my two Co-founders Chris and Martin and founded a Tiliter. A year later, I quit my full-time job, and I have been focused on making Computer Vision accessible to the world ever since.
How does Tiliter innovate?
Marcel Herz: The most challenging but rewarding part is to get your existing or new customers to adopt technologies that they haven’t touched before, either because it hasn’t been available or the technology wasn’t ready. It is a tremendous entry barrier, so our products need to be intuitive and solve large pain points, areas that we continue to develop. A good example is product identification in retail stores, which is notoriously difficult to achieve at scale. By introducing our intuitive Computer Vision products and setting the gold standard of integration to ubiquitous systems such as checkouts, we were able to minimize friction points and offer a great customer experience.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Marcel Herz: As the primary field of operation is retail, we see a spike in demand from retailers wanting to make their store operations more efficient in response to the pandemic. Retailers are embracing the technology adoption, knowing that it is necessary for the short term in response to COVID but also for the long term for future growth and sustainability practices.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Marcel Herz: We very much followed Sequoia’s warning about a potential heavy downturn of the business (especially start-up) sector and questioned every assumption about our business. When COVID first hit, we had to make some tough decisions to decrease everyone’s (founders included) pay across the board rather than letting people go. The team responded in the best and most positive way we could have imagined, and this upbeat consensus in morale helped us prevail.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Marcel Herz: The unprecedented part of COVID is that it affected every business differently. Retailers were busier than ever but forced to innovate to keep their operations in good order. Manufacturers experienced delays as supply chains broke apart. Start-ups became even more resilient as the world we knew (funding, exposure) lay dormant. We’ve started to heavily focus on CRM tools across different departments to improve our business relationships. Coordinating interdepartmental actions can become a game-changer if CRM tools are used to their full potential. E.g., Sales discovering integration difficulties due to 3rd party provider interactions, which can then be addressed by creating more detailed API documentation from marketing.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Marcel Herz: Yes, we benefited from some government grants. Job Keeper was a grant that helped eligible Australian companies retain staff by providing cash flow. It was certainly a big help and effective in how fast the government was able to distribute the funds.
Your final thoughts?
Marcel Herz: We will see the enormous impact of computer vision over the next couple of years, one that will propel the next industrial revolution. COVID has certainly increased the appetite for more automated solutions that support humans in decision-making processes and can operate non-stop around the clock. I’m thrilled to lead an amazing team that shapes the way we interact with the world by creating easy-to-use computer vision products.
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