Mobile applications are the software applications that run on smartphones, making the user experience easier and friendly. It is necessary for the retailers or any other company to have a mobile application, more so, one whose user interface is friendly and easy. This enables the customers to browse through the application easily and know more about the services of the company. With the emergence of AI, almost all the companies have come up with their mobile applications, and to make the customers’ experience more relevant, Victor Ruiz, CEO & Executive Member of the Board of Directors came up with actiMirror. Let us know more about this venture in this exclusive interview with Victor Ruiz.
1] Give us some insights on the foundation of this enterprise.
actiMirror is the result of two visions: on one hand, my co-founder Fulvio envisaged a solution for retail and hospitality using smart mirrors to attract consumers’ attention wowing them with unexpected content and adding value to the customer’s experience. And, on the other hand, my vision to gather and analyze consumers’ behavior data to enable real-time personalized experiences and provide insights for our initial B2B customers. We both were determined to improve usually boring Retail experiences and – after a couple of dinners in Milan – we took proactive action putting our ideas together and co-founded actiMirror.
2] What was that one thing that was kind of a hard nut to crack?
The MVP. Our idea was outstanding and we made sure we put together the right ingredients to make it happen. We had an experienced and very global executive team. We managed to attract a high-profile Advisory Board. We had Seed money to start. We were able to design and manufacture greater mirrors than our competitors at more competitive prices. And so on.
However, the challenge remained: how to best integrate and pack the software and hardware into a holistic MVP that would make instant sense to the market, and eventually to our grandmothers?
We always strove to develop our MVP in a manner that could be understood by the general market, but the sheer amount of possibilities and product features made it challenging. Also, which verticals shall we focus on? Lucrative B2B with long lead times, or faster B2C with lesser margins?
After listening to the Voice of different Customers, few product iterations, and some POCs (Proof of Concept projects), we developed an attractive MVP that was intuitive and got instant attention from brands and retailers. Essentially, our smart mirrors are similar to oversized cell phones offering:
- A scalable open platform => actiMirror allows a wide variety of customized Apps and UXs (User eXperiences) in the same intuitive way we use mobile phones
- The Power of Digital => Artificial Intelligence + Data gathering and Analytics insights + Cloud Management System + Open platform to deliver a holistic Omnichannel Ecosystem
- A perfect mirror => essential in most lines of business, particularly Retail, and instrumental to attract customer attention.
- Truly scalable price point
- Innovative in-store Customer Journeys => actiMirror integrates a wide variety of sensors in its mirrors (in fact, more than an iPad or a phone). The sensors gather data and interact with customers in real-time providing a resounding wow experience.
3] In the words of Freddie Mercury, “When the whole idea of Queen was to be original” How well does it go with your enterprise?
Our team is very creative and sometimes it feels that we have enough ideas to last us for the next 300 years. We are not familiar with the dynamics of the music industry, but in ours, over and above originality a company must deliver scalable innovation one step at a time.
actiMirror is 80% software and 20% hardware. Mistakes on the software side can be relatively easily resolved, but mistakes on the hardware side can be very costly indeed. Hence, as much as we try to be original if originality does not bring scalable dollars those projects won’t see the light.
4] What are the products or services that the company focuses on?
We have established that actiMirror has the leading product offering when it comes to B2B Retail. And the company is now launching products in the Fitness and Smart Home (Real Estate) verticals.
We have partnered with a key industry player to gamify exercise with the target to make it as addictive as computer games. Now, one can train or compete with others in real-time from the comfort of their own home or from gyms and hotels.
We are about to launch a very scalable waterproof range of smart mirrors that can be installed in bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. featuring:
- Infotainment functions: music, news, calendar, weather, etc.
- Personalized Health functions: blood pressure, weight, etc. connected to other devices
- Home Automation controls: lighting, curtains, aircon, mood scenarios, etc.
5] How do you make sure there are no setbacks? And even if there are how would they not hinder the growth?
Using four key ingredients:
- Open Communication
There is not much more than that. If the team will trust and respect each other, then people feel empowered to raise the hand when facing a setback to ask others to help. Of course, everybody has their own KPIs, but the main KPI for the team is to continue being the number one Smart Mirror provider out there. With Open Communication, Trust, Respect, and Diversity nobody has time for feeling down if something goes wrong.
6] It’s a rat-race out there. How do you cope with that?
By being active part of the race attending seminars; by having a very seasoned Advisory Board who comes with truly incredible suggestions; by being public speakers to evangelise our industry; by engaging with other entrepreneurs that have nothing to do with our business model and openly ask for their ideas/suggestions; by asking REALLY difficult questions, by partnering with the best-in-class; by having a diverse team with different and complementary points of view, and – most importantly – by attracting top software talent and keeping an eye on those (who may not yet know it) but will soon make themselves available to join an innovative company like actiMirror.
7] Constant vigilance- a need or a strategy? Please share your views.
In my opinion, Constant Vigilance should neither be a need nor a strategy. The competition will inevitably come with great ideas, and that is good. The competition will always develop this feature, or that sexy product, or penetrate a specific vertical. Always.
And we should always be grateful for that because it keeps making the general public aware of smart mirrors. Because it keeps evangelizing what we do well.
8] Executive Leadership- what are the aspects of it and how do you work on it? (Simply, what are your responsibilities as an owner?)
People often think that CEOs are always busy doing a very eclectic array of things. And, whilst it is true that one has to keep an eye on everything and be able to discern where opportunities lie, what to develop, which market not to penetrate, etc. my primary responsibilities are:
- Strategy, Business Development, and Sales: 50% time
- New and Existing Investors Relationships: 30% time
- Talent Acquisition: 10% time
- Making sure there is enough money in the bank: 10% time
9] Employees are the backbone of any company. How do you maintain a healthy work environment?
Open Communication, Trust, Respect and Diversity, PLUS one more essential extra factor: By attracting top key talent with low egos.
When a company nurtures an atmosphere of best-in-class engaging brains with clean low ego souls, the whole team naturally focus in Innovation, Creativity spurs, and people look forward to coming to a dynamic place to work.
10] The show must go on, what do you plan next?
We are developing an impactful modular platform for B2C and Real Estate that will democratize smart mirrors for the general public. This project is the pinnacle of several years of actiMirror AI + Automated Data Analytics + Apps development + Cloud + Content Management + Hardware, etc. put together with several partnerships we have established over the years.
In essence, the product is a smart mirror for home use, adding under the same modular platform a set of incredible features and functionalities such as AI personal trainers for fitness, an AR cosmetic ecosystem, and a bunch of other exciting modules. Apologies for being succinct, but this is as much as we can disclose at this stage about this very scalable project.