Five early-stage startups have been divvied out a share of $100,000 from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s (RMIT) Activator capital fund as the program approaches its one year anniversary.
Launched on November 22, 2016, RMIT’s Activator program has so far provided $800,000 in funding to early-stage startups out of an available $7 million. This latest round put the focus back on tech startups, with each startup receiving between $20,000 and $25,000 from the university.
The five startups include online branded content marketplace Trendy Rhino; agritech startup Digital Yield; Curio, a web platform for researchers looking to conduct research studies; e-commerce and point of sale integration service Versatile Tech; and monitoring and security software EyeCura.
Speaking to StartupSmart, EyeCura co-founder Dr Alsharif Abuadbba says he and his co-founder Dr Ayman Ibaida developed the idea for EyeCura around eight months ago and looked to RMIT’s Activator program as a way to receive advice and, eventually, funding.
EyeCura offers a way to turn old smartphones into security camera-like monitoring systems: the smartphone covers the hardware side and EyeCura facilitates the connection through its application.
Both founders hold doctorates in the computer science and networking field, and after working for years with Silicon Valley companies, the two banded together to found their own startup. EyeCura’s base offering is similar to many other available monitoring software services, but a focus on security and lack of hardware constraints are what the founders are hoping will set their approach apart.
“The idea came around because of our backgrounds in security and privacy, which we realised were quickly becoming a big issue around the world. Everyone was putting their info on the cloud, and we wondered how much of that data was in good hands,” Abuadbba says.
“We did our research and formulated a new way to do it, where our company’s servers authenticate and coordinate the connection, but don’t have access to the actual data stream. It’s entirely peer-to-peer.”
The service also allows two-way communication thanks to the use of smartphones, with users being able to not only monitor but also converse with family members, babies, or even dogs on the other end of the line.
The two are also hopeful with enough adoption EyeCura will provide a market for older smartphones, many of which are currently thrown away.
EyeCura has “unofficially” been underway for eight months, but the duo officially launched the company last month in conjunction with being accepted to pitch for RMIT’s funding, along with being in the university’s residency program for the last six months.
“Being in the Activator program has been amazing — five or six years ago you never would have seen this sort of support available for free,”Abuadbba says.
Abuadbba says the pitching experience was great, but involved a “little more” pressure than the two founders were used to. He believes the two had the upper hand with their already working prototype.
“Everyone we talked with said how much they loved the idea and how cheap the product was, but we were worried how that would work with investors. When it comes to funding, you have to take a lot more into consideration,” he says.
“We were about 65% done with our app so we thought, why not do a demo?
“We set up a camera in the uni kitchen and after we finished pitching we showed them the stream in real time. They loved it and gave us support straight away for the funding.”
The money from RMIT will be used primarily to market EyeCura and pay for the final parts of the app’s development. Once some more testing has been done, the team hope to launch the app on iOS later this year, with Android devices in the pipeline for next year.
Future fundraising will also be on the cards for the founders after they launch and lock down a customer base. They are considering seeking investors in early 2018 in order to help speed up development of the system.
“You have to have a clear understanding of what the problem is before you figure out the solution. A lot of people talk about the solution and when you ask them about the problem, they don’t have a clear understanding,”Abuadbba says.
“If you keep revisiting the problem again and again, you can make any solution sell.”
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