Danish Ideas: Be My Eyes – a visionary startup

The Danish startup Be My Eyes has a lot of traction in Silicon Valley. We had a chance to talk with Christian Erfurt, CEO, about the story of Be My Eyes and what lies ahead.   

Be_My_Eyes_Logo

In January this year, a team of talented Danish entrepreneurs launched the app “Be My Eyes” for iOS devices. The app connects blind and visually impaired users with sighted people, who want to make a real difference in their everyday lives. At any moment, a blind or visually impaired person can request help through the app and is then connected to a helper in the same time zone, who can provide assistance via live video chat on an internet enabled device.

When asked how it all started, Christian Erfurt, CEO of Be My Eyes, puts it this way:

“The beginning of our story is actually quite straightforward. Hans Jörgen Wiberg, our inventor, participated in Startup Weekend Aarhus in late 2011, where I met him. After that weekend, development took off. It took twice as long and costed twice as much as planned, but timing-wise we were actually quite lucky since 3G and 4G networks, along with improved live video quality, gained momentum while we were in the development phase.”

Since launch, Be My Eyes has rocketed forward, and the company participated in Innovation Center Denmark’s 10th SCALEit program in March this year. First week after launch, the app was already featured on the world’s five biggest television stations. The interest has just kept growing since then and the company hasn’t had to spend anything on marketing with the app going viral.

Be My Eyes is now a network of eyes with more than 305,000 helpers and 23,000 blind or visually impaired, who have participated in over 107,000 sessions. This scale and impact has exceeded Christian Erfurt’s wildest imaginations:

“To get a grasp of the scale, I sometimes try to visualize how many people are on board by imagining soccer fields with our users on them. I am just really proud and grateful for the positive reactions to Be My Eyes. It has gone so fast and it’s crazy that we’re already in 140 countries.”

Lend Your Eyes to the Blind

Often blind people find themselves in situations, where they could really use a pair of helping eyes. Smart phones and their existing features sort part of this problem and have helped a lot of people with visual impairments, but the problem with the existing video peer to peer systems is that you have to call somebody. Be My Eyes solves this problem by bringing together a community of those who need help with those who are more than willing to provide it.

With Be My Eyes it doesn’t cost anything to help someone distinguish between a can of tomatoes and a can of coconut milk; something that can make a huge difference, if spaghetti Bolognese is on the menu.

Be My Eyes has also proven that the limits of the app are constantly being pushed by its users.

In one example, a blind woman went to her son’s first soccer match and if it hadn’t been for Be My Eyes and its eager community of helpers, she wouldn’t have experienced much of it. But the app put her in contact with a helper, who could see and comment the match.

Another example illustrates the value of Be My Eyes in helping visually impaired people orientate in complex situations. A blind man and his wife were driving in their car, when suddenly the car stops, and the wife exclaims “Accident!”. While she runs out of their car to lend assistance, her husband is left disoriented. Fortunately he was able to get a live overview of the situation by filming the events through the car’s sunroof with his smart phone and receiving updates through Be My Eyes.

These examples illustrate how a platform and its users can solve important problems in seemingly simple ways.

What’s Next?

Be My Eyes already has a lot of traction with it being the largest community of blind in the world. To leverage this position, the company has relocated to Silicon Valley and it speaks to the potential of Be My Eyes that the dedicated and skilled team behind it have been chosen for the prestigious Singularity University Accelerator.

“We have had our first weeks at the Singularity University Accelerator. It’s a great opportunity and we’re being pushed to go forward with full speed. The Accelerator had 400 applicants, but only seven were chosen, so we consider ourselves really privileged. It’s such an amazing program and the six other projects are great – we can learn a lot from them.” says Christian Erfurt.

The next step for Be My Eyes is scaling and doing some analysis:
“Our focus right now is to reach more users and make a difference for more people globally. We also have to try to understand the users we have and how they use the technology before we press the marketing button and start hitting the PR-drums.”

Word of advice

Christian Erfurt and his team have experienced a lot along the way and are full of great advice to Danish entrepreneurs considering taking the leap to Silicon Valley:

“The best piece of advice I can give to other startups is that they should pack their suitcases and participate in ICDK’s SCALEit program, which is a great way to network and get vouched into the system. SCALEit has been invaluable for us and made it a lot easier to get into places and establish contacts that would otherwise be out of reach. It is also highly recommendable to stay for a month afterwards to discern whether Silicon Valley is really the right thing for you and your business. But be warned, Silicon Valley is a really exciting place, and once you’ve been here, it’s quite probable that you’ll want to come back!”

Obviously, a lot has still to come for Be My Eyes and ICDK looks forward to following them on their exciting journey.

Report Documents the Great Value SCALEit Creates for Danish Tech Companies

SCALEit
The new report “2015 SCALEit Survey Report” documents that the Danish incubator program in Silicon Valley, SCALEit, creates great results and value for young Danish tech companies by helping them grow, develop their potential, and create key contacts in Silicon Valley.

During a jam-packed week, the SCALEit-participants are introduced to potential investors, advisors, partners, customers, and clients, which for 44 % of the participants results in key partnerships in later stages.

Furthermore, the companies receive feedback on their product and business model. For 67 % of the participants this valuable input ends up changing or adjusting their business model or strategy, while 42 % change or adjust their product.

And this is only a short excerpt of the many positive effects that the program has had for participating companies.

Overall, the survey documents an extraordinarily high level of satisfaction with the services delivered by SCALEit among the participating companies. Generally, the participants have high expectations about what they are going in to but still 87% of them agree that the program has exceeded their expectations.

The SCALEit team is very proud of the fact that they are able to contribute towards growth and development for Danish tech companies. Rest assured that they will continue to work towards helping people who are passionate about an idea or product by showing them how to use the Valley to scale.

Click here to read the 2015 SCALEit Survey Report

If you are interested in knowing more, contact Christian Vinther: chrvje@um.dk

Scaling it at Danish doorsteps!

Coming up: SCALEit Inspire events in Aalborg, Aarhus and Copenhagen

The SCALEit team is ready to hit the Danish roads to bring Silicon Valley to the doorstep of entrepreneurs around Denmark. We want to inspire you on how to take advantage of the Valley’s unique ecosystem and use it to grow your startup. If you are working on a technologically driven scalable idea, have some early traction and passionate about taking it big, we are the perfect fit for you.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, you should consider coming by as well. We’ll offer concrete and actionable insights on how you can take your company or idea to the next level.

Meet us in Denmark?SCALEit

Aalborg: 28th of August, from 13:00 – 17:00

Aarhus: 7th of September, from 17:00 – 19:00

Copenhagen: 9th of September, from 17:00 – 19:00

More than 80 Danish startups have been immersed in the Valley

SCALEitCopenhagen

This year we celebrated the 10th edition of our SCALEit program. To mark this milestone, we have decided to bring the valley spirit to Copenhagen. Therefore we invite every interested entrepreneur to join us on June 1st in Founders House in Copenhagen. This day we will host the biggest pitch workshop ever held in Copenhagen, and also tell you more about doing business the Silicon Valley way.

Continue reading “More than 80 Danish startups have been immersed in the Valley”

Knock, knock…

– Who is there?

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…..Innovation Centre Denmark is! Or to be completely precise, we are here if you knock on the heavy green marble door at 200 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. But actually you should not knock. Then you will not be heard. Use the shiny doorbell instead, and your arrival will be announced throughout the entire office (Quite the entrance, huh?)… Now you have made it through the door, so what can we do for you?

(HINT: If you are not quite sure what we can actually help you with, then please, keep reading. You’ll know in a couple of minutes)

Who are we?

Marie

The person to let you in through the green door will probably be our Office Manager Marie Noerskov. She has been our Office Manager since the 1st of July 2014, and she came from a position in Denmark as PA to the Minister of Health. This is the first time she is featuring on the blog – welcome Marie! We are so happy to have you here.

Beside Marie the Innovation Centre also houses our Managing Director Søren Juul-Jørgensen, Innovation Attaché Mikkel Skovborg, CleanTech experts Christian Vinther, Ali Mushtaq and Ed Beardsworth, Deputy Director and Life Science expert Henrik Bo Larsen, ICT expert Carsten Jarfelt, Bent Hessen-Schmidt and Kristoffer Roerbaek from Invest in Denmark, and finally our three interns Kristina Hansen, Søren Engelbrekt and Line Rodil.

The Silicon Valley Bridge

At Innovation Centre Denmark our main purpose is to bridge Denmark and Silicon Valley. This being both in regards of helping Danish startups immerse into the American market but also in terms of attracting investments to Denmark like the recent successful example of Apple’s ambitious data center plans in Viborg.

Scale and accelerate in the valley

If you are a startup in Denmark dreaming about scaling your business to the US, we can help you. We have a whole initiative called SCALEit consisting of three programs in total. Twice a year we help startups with scaling potential to get a foothold in the vibrant Silicon Valley ecosystem through the SCALEit Ignite program. Throughout this weeklong program you as an entrepreneur receive training in the art of pitching, attend marketing, networking, sales and legal sessions, pitch to potential investors, and tap into the network of the Innovation Centre. Christian Erfurt, CEO of Be My Eyes, shares his SCALEit experience:

“SCALEit was a wonderful introduction on how a life/business setup could be like. It is an intense program where you get to the core of your business and your reasons for doing as you do. It was a great way to see words put into action.”

If you are interested in learning more about the SCALEit program, contact Christian Vinther or sign up for an interview here.

Innovation and corporate inspiration

Silicon Valley is not only for startups. Also established corporations can benefit from being present in the Valley. When doing business in the valley one should have a local address and phone number here. That’s how investors and potential new business partners know that you are serious about doing business. If that seems a bit much in regards of your needs, we have just the solution: Join us at the Innovation Centre, where we have office space that you can rent, and virtual office services that will make you appear as a local with a base in the Valley. When being present here at the Innovation Centre, you also have the opportunity of getting consultancy from our sector experts, and learn how your business will be disrupted or changed in the near future, what competitors should you be looking out for, and why. Contact Marie Noerskov to learn more about these services.

We do consultancy and inspirational workshops aimed at both the private and public sector. Recently we had the Department of Health and Care from the Municipality of Aarhus visiting to learn about healthcare in the Bay Area. Denmark is very advanced in our approach to healthcare and assisted living but this does not make the municipality of Aarhus rest on their laurels. Recognizing that technologies and ideologies from other sectors and providers are to be learnt from, is just one of the ways of innovating for the future.

Are your corporation ready to innovate? Do you know your products and competitors of tomorrow? Whether you do or not, please feel free to reach out to Henrik Bo Larsen, and learn more about how Innovation Centre Denmark can help your corporation with new insights and inspiration straight out of the Valley.

Are you more in search of research collaborations? Mikkel Skovborg and Kristina Hansen make up the Research and Technology team focusing on strengthening the ties between Danish and US research. This includes establishing networks and contact between Danish and Californian research communities, promoting Danish research, innovation and higher education through, among other things, Danish-Californian workshops, conferences, and exchanges, and finally to collect and disseminate best practice in California within science, innovation, and higher education. If you wish to learn more about the possibilities of research collaborations, please don’t hesitate to contact Mikkel.

What can we do for you?

We hope this gave you some insights into our offerings at Innovation Centre Denmark. Remember – just go to the heavy green marble door at 200 Page Mill Road and ring the bell, or contact any one of us by mail or phone. We look forward to asking:

“What can we do for you? – Innovation Centre Denmark is here to help you”

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