Startup Corner: DigitalBridge

Retail Systems catches up with David Levine, founder and CEO of DigitalBridge, to find out more about this augmented reality-based tech startup.

Can you give us a bit of background about DigitalBridge? Who are you and what you do?
DigitalBridge started after a conversation with my wife when she wanted to redecorate our lounge at home. She held up these two wallpaper swatches and asked me what I thought and I couldn’t answer, because I couldn’t imagine what those colours and designs would look like on the entire wall. I did some research and found that there was no tool to help retailers or consumers overcome this problem of the ‘imagination gap’, so I decided to leave my corporate role and set up DigitalBridge.

What are the benefits of using your technology?
Up to now there has been no “undo” button in the home décor arena – that is what DigitalBridge brings to the market. Consumers can take a picture of their room on a tablet or smartphone, and the technology will turn this image into a 3D environment which people can then edit by adding or removing furniture, or changing the colour of the walls or the type of flooring. The technology behind our tool ensures the image stays to scale, so customers can see not just what furniture will look like in a space, but also make sure that the item will fit. The intuitiveness of the platform also updates the lighting conditions in the room and instantly reacts to any change of tone or colour, so homeowners are getting an accurate picture of what their new room will look like.

More augmented reality tools are being developed for the retail sector now. What sets you apart from the competition?
The way we’re delivering this technology to the market is the way that retailers want it, which is an insight we got from being part of JLAB [the John Lewis startup accelerator]. Too many businesses are obsessing over developing apps, but in the long term these are actually expensive and inconvenient for retailers to maintain and operate, and consumers get annoyed when they aren’t updated regularly. Our technology is delivered to the consumer directly through a retailer’s website and sits there on the system for them to use as they are shopping. It doesn’t need the kind of constant updating that an app requires. The technology we’re using in mixed reality and deep learning is something we are innovating with, so we are delivering the most rounded immersive shopping experience.

In 2016 you were awarded £100,000 from the JLAB accelerator. Why were you picked and what has the funding helped to achieve or will help you to achieve?
The funding has helped us to expand our team, improve the user experience of the technology and get it ready for market. In terms of why we were picked, the JLAB judges were impressed not just with the technology that we presented to them, they also recognised that we are solving a genuine commercial challenge for retailers. Working closely with John Lewis executives meant we were getting instant updates on our product on what they expected from it. This experience also meant we could trial in-store, and get feedback directly from the people who will be using the technology – the consumers. This experience ensured we delivered a viable product that will create commercial success for the businesses that use it.

What advice would you give to new retail startups?
Follow your passion, stop looking for a reason not to do it and just get on with it. Then be obsessive about hiring the right team and, more importantly, trust the people you bring in to do their jobs. I think one of my earliest mistakes was not trusting the team to do what I was hiring them to do.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Our main focus is bringing DigitalBridge into the mainstream British retail market and we are working on a deal with a major retailer to do that in the coming months.

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