About your company
Explain what your company does or offers.
Biped.ai is a smart harness that can help guide visually impaired people. The harness uses cameras and AI to detect incoming obstacles and provide GPS navigation to the end-user. The audio feedback helps the person navigate smoothly, bringing independence in daily mobility.
What led you to launch a startup that focuses on delivering a solution for people with impaired vision?
I met a person who had impaired vision struggling to cross the street in summer 2020. He was on a FaceTime call to a friend who helped him avoid obstacles such as traffic signs or electric scooters. I just had the idea of using AI to help detect these obstacles automatically.
What are some of the challenges or obstacles you have faced while trying to balance profitability and impact in your business model, and how have you managed to overcome them?
Our biggest advantage is the versatility of our technology. We’re essentially building self-driving car software that can run directly from your shoulders. This has lots of potential applications, and big research and development components, making us attractive to investors. We develop technology for impact, while keeping in mind the company asset it’s creating.
Your solution offers a unique combination of software and hardware, applying advanced AI alongside image processing and GPS capabilities. How do you recruit and manage such a multidisciplinary team?
We had to build a small but extremely competent team very early in order to solve such a challenge. We currently have two robotics engineers, two full stack software engineers, one embedded software engineer, one audio programmer and two external hardware engineers. Being able to create an impactful solution for people with visual impairments is what motivates our team. And this drive for social good has made it much easier for us to hire the right people.
Is there any advice you can share with founders who are, like Biped, working on complex technological projects addressing social challenges? Is there a secret sauce for success in the field?
I just think that very often, impact startups fail to convince that there is a real profitable case behind. Building versatile technology in our case has helped a lot, as we could quite easily move to new markets. But that’s probably only one of the ways to go!
How do you see the role of impact investing in furthering your startup's mission, and what steps have you taken to attract investors who align with your values?
Until now, we managed to get funded by quite a large pool of business angels and family offices. I think that these categories of investors tend to be very aligned with the company’s missions and values. Impact investing, especially in VC, is still on the rise. We’re hoping to onboard several impact funds next round, but we’re definitely starting to see a trend of companies reporting their impact to more traditional investors. And that’s great!
You have recently announced a collaboration with Honda Research institute, could you please tell us about the added value this partnership brings to your users? How do you collaborate with other organisations, governments, or communities to amplify your impact and drive meaningful change?
Honda Research Institute develops self-driving car software among other things. We managed to secure a partnership with them for some key algorithms initially designed for vehicles and integrate these algorithms in our software. It helps us improve performance and go faster to market. As Biped uses AI, there is the simple paradigm that the more data we gather, the better the solution gets. And that’s how we approach partnerships and collaborations: let Biped explore new environments, new use-cases, and improve our algorithms. Some companies are now feeding in data to help navigate their buildings and we’re working with some cities to provide solutions for their inhabitants. We’re committed to continuously improving our technology.
What is the latest news from your company (closing a funding round, entering a new market…) or the next exciting milestone you are about to achieve?
We just announced our seed round! It’ll allow us to expand to European countries and prepare for our US expansion.
Your 4YFN23 experience
Please tell us about your experience as an exhibitor at 4YFN 2023. What were the benefits for your startup in terms of business development, exposure and connections with potential business partners, investors and others?
4YFN 2023 was a great event for us. We had great exposure in the press, which converted into sales on our side. It’s the first fair where we met two investors directly on site who invested in our seed round afterwards. Then we found a B2B partner and made our first B2B sales a couple of weeks after the event!
How should startups prepare to exhibit at 4YFN24? What actions can they take ahead of the event to make the most of their time on site?
We’ve always done things a bit last-minute when it comes to fairs but registering for pitching events and preparing pitches for partners, customers, press and investors definitely was a good time-investment. As it’s all about standing out, 4YFN is also a great place to experiment with your booth experience! We plugged our harness in to speakers for example and it generated sounds every time someone was walking towards the harness. But be prepared to be amazed, it’s more crowded and there are more opportunities in a single place than anything else we’ve seen so far…
You won the 4YFN23 Tech and Planet pitch battle after pitching to investors from Lumo Labs, Impact partners and Nero Ventures. What did winning the pitch battle mean for your startup?
It was a great moment! We had no initial expectation, but getting some sort of validation from impact investors for our case was a great signal. This winning pitch triggered discussions with the two investors we met at 4YFN.
Any advice for other startups pitching at 4YFN24? How can they best prepare for the big moment?
Knowing your numbers and sounding confident about the potential opportunity removes a lot of potential hurdles in these pitches, so I’d definitely invest some time into that!