TotemInteractive, StartupYard’s first Polish startup team, came to StartupYard with a novel concept, and has executed on a broad vision to change digital outdoor advertising in a major way. The team, experienced in digital media and cloud systems, is creating a platform into which marketers and advertisers can put their creative energy to generate meaningful, lovable, interactive display ads in place of boring, old fashioned posters and billboards.
I caught up with Piotr Piekos, CoFounder and CEO at TotemInteractive, to talk about the future of outdoor digital advertising, and cloud based marketing. Here’s what he had to say:
Hi Piotr, tell us a bit about TotemInteractive and your team. How did you come up with the idea?
TotemInteractive is a software platform that aims to help marketers with deployment and performance measurement of cross-platform, interactive marketing campaigns launched on electronic screens in public and in-store locations. Basically, interactive display advertising, instead of boring old posters.
The idea came from our observation of two trends: the propagation of digital screens in public spaces, and the fact that mobile devices have become an inseparable part of almost every activity that we do outdoors. TotemInteractive believes that digital advertising outdoors as often depicted in scfi movies in not just an imaginary future. We think that it is a natural consequence of the mobile and IoT revolution. TotemInteractive’s plaform aims to be among the first players on that market.
You have a background working with digital agencies. How does that help you when it comes to creating a platform for digital interactive ads?
Throughout my professional career I had seen a number of solutions aiming to resolve the problem of unified and streamlined visual communication across different devices. Some of them already succeeded in industries like gas and oil (crisis centers) or places like decision-support systems for high-level corporate executives.
Budget constraints are less of a worry for these types of businesses, allowing the vendors to reach high complexity and sophistication with the systems they deploy. I have been involved with several dozen such products. Knowing exactly what our target market (advertisers) expects, we are able to provide a lean and user friendly answer to the market demand. In short: we want to move what is already possible with multi-million dollar equipment to the world of advertising, where price is always a consideration.
What about your team? How are you uniquely qualified to bring display ads into the modern age?
To answer this question, I will first need to explain a bit about the requirements for the platform. We had composed a team with very technical specific requirements in mind: such as quality of service (your ad has to be there at all times), and scale (platform needs to work on hundreds of screens simultaneously).
Our team consists of people who are experts in building complex, distributed systems. Michal is a system-engineer who is a specialist in cloud based deployments. Kamil and Piotr have been working on large scale deployments of tailored B2B systems for years.
On the business side: Leszek Knoll, my CoFounder and COO, brings startup entrepreneurial experience on board. He had built startups in the past and knows well the rules of the game.
I have been working in professional audio-visual industry for several years: my expertise is based on several dozen deployed, consulted and rescued projects related to large scale visualization systems. Lastly, we are backed by several mentors who hold strategic positions in advertising segments: in agencies, brands, and large media-house conglomerates.
Tell us a little about how the TotemInteractive platform works. What does it enable advertisers to do?
TotemInteractive makes it possible to directly interact with a big digital screen in public spaces using your mobile phone. It can be a game, where you use your mobile as a controller, or a socially engaging voting system for your favourite band during the music festival. Whatever you can image.
Our platform stays hidden behind the scenes, a cloud based system that supports various applications for live screens. It’s a sophisticated enabler, allowing marketers to very easily create and deploy interactive campaigns, without a need to engage substantial resources to prepare, code, test and deploy their own cloud based or local solutions.
How is TotemInteractive different from traditional static display ads?
It is not boring! Our platform transforms traditional ads into something that delivers real value to the consumer. Suddenly, those displays become engaging, fun and an experience sharable with others.
You’ve already run a few pilot campaigns. Can you tell us a little about how these worked, and what the results were?
Even though our MVP is still in development phase, we had done a proof of concept campaign during a job fair, at Silesian University of Technology. Our results show that, first of all: people are really keen on interacting with this new type of medium, when the motivation for doing so is clear.
Registering more than 10 engagements per hour, per screen, gives us good reason to believe that such advertising can be much more effective than traditional display ads. Not to mention, that 42% of the people who played our game were willing to share their Facebook data with us through the platform. Try doing something like that with a poster.
You have spent quite a bit of time identifying market needs and exploring different approaches to the market. What has the exploration process revealed that you didn’t know a few months ago?
Major conclusion was that a seed-stage startup will have very hard times when it comes to deployment of a platform across multiple screen networks. We had found out that it is a very capital intense goal, that we simply cannot afford to chase at this moment.
What are your immediate plans for expansion? What does TotemInteractive have planned for the next year?
We want to reach the retail market (in-store digital signage, banking, car dealerships). Gradually we also want to move to the events market. In the next year we want to be recognizable by marketers in CEE and western Europe as these guys that can put their creative, potentially viral, ideas into motion.
Long term, where do you want to be in 5 years?
Market leader in interactive digital signage! We want to provide marketers not only with technology, but with unsurpassed reach (network aggregation), for their digital outdoor campaigns.
How has StartupYard shaped the company’s growth in the past 3 months? Are there any particular mentors who had an outsized impact on your team, direction, or traction?
Well, StartupYard was immensely helpful in terms of momentum that our business reached during this time. Definitely, mentoring was a revealing and beneficial experience for us. It was about knowledge sharing, feedback (both positive and negative), but also some of the mentors allowed us to enter real sales opportunities that we are chasing at the moment. Without SY it would not be possible. But not only that: I believe that our business development potential is now multiplied by your expertise in marketing and the power of your network.