Serafina: I’m with Rakshak Talwar of Zenus Biometrics. Welcome to the show Rakshak.
Rakshak: Thank you for having me.
Serfina: So tell us about the company.
Rakshak: Our company is called Zenus and we’re a face recognition company that’s currently operating in the event space. So if you go to an event and you’re stuck in line for 30 minutes or you can’t find your ticket you’re going to be really happy that we’re coming around. So when you register for the event all you have to do is take a selfie and now when you go to the event you’re going to go through the express lane; you’re going to breeze right through check in, you’re not going to have to wait in a long line. Every event that we’ve deployed in – we’ve deployed in almost 10 events now ranging from a couple dozen to a couple thousand people and it’s going to keep growing – we had no lines.
Serafina: That is noteworthy.
Serafina: So when we think about biometrics what are the hot applications for biometrics today?
Rakshak: When we first started everyone thought oh face recognition, you’re doing security. And security is the poster child for biometrics because you can extract someone’s information and you can compare them to a black list or a white list. We thought that there’s definitely a market need there, there’s also a lot of companies operating there, but what we want to focus on is getting out in a nice scenario where people can get comfortable. They can get familiar with the technology, and then we can move onto other markets.
We might do security and other applications as well, but right now we’re focusing really on the event space. If you think about it you have your keys – your car keys, your house keys, your mail keys – you have your driver’s license, these are all ways of identifying back to you. The thing is your face really doesn’t change that much and it’s actually better than a fingerprint. If I found 10,000 people there’s a really good chance that a lot of them will have a similar fingerprint as you. So it’s not true what they say, your thumb print is not that unique. Faces are actually much more unique and you can do it passively. You don’t need someone to touch a sensor, they can just breeze right through in the express lane.
Serafina: That is wild. So your application is specifically for events management, how did you guys find that as a viable marketplace?
Rakshak: The CEO and the CMO of our company went to a Beyonce concert at the NRG stadium in Houston last year – or in 2016.
Serafina: All great stories start like this.
Rakshak: Around that time our team formed we were like okay we’re going to do face recognition but we don’t know where we’re going to deploy yet. They were at a concert, it’s sweaty, it’s Houston, it’s in Texas, it was really long lines and the CMO to the CEO was like hey, we can do events – event check in; look at this stadium, there’s so many people. And the CEO initially was dubious of the application, he was like QR codes work fine.
It turns out QR codes and barcodes and tickets don’t really work that well. They’re pretty expensive to set up and more commonly people will forget where their QR codes are. When you have someone digging through their phone that adds a compounding effect on the line and it’s just like traffic on the street. So if you have a process where people can just show up – no one ever forgets their face at home – and their checked in, then you remove the bottle necks in check in and now you don’t have lines.
Serafina: I definitely can hear the effectiveness of the technology. How long is that transaction though?
Rakshak: If you were to look at a QR code system or barcode system it might take over 20 seconds – and that’s in a good scenario – it might take 20 seconds to check in a person. With our system we can get it down to 5 so we’re looking at hundreds of people per hour from one device, so now that’s a cost saving. Typically event budgets are pretty tight, they’re really constrained, and yet they’re also big money makers for the companies that host the events. So cutting down costs there, there’s a very clear, tangible benefit for the event planner.
Serafina: So how has your marketing effort been so far?
Rakshak: Our response rate has been really well. Whenever we email out we get over a 30% response rate, which is insanely high. That’s a response rate, the read rate would be even higher; people would be happy if they got a 5% read rate – click, open the email – that’s been a great thing. And pretty much all of our sales have been inbound. People write really good articles, the media is really nice to us.
Serafina: That’s always a blessing.
Rakshak: It’s definitely a blessing and the event space really has been showing itself to be a good fit for technology like ours. And the thing is, there’s so many event registration companies because we don’t do the whole thing. When you go to the event and you check in with the software, that software was already there before we got there; that’s been there for years. We’re working with them and they use us as the identification factor. Working with them has been really great and they already know the space and they already have the outreach.
Serafina: And since your founding in 2016 what are the systemic benchmarks that you guys have set up for yourself, probably surpassed from what I’m hearing. What are your plans for 2018?
Rakshak: The team was formed in late 2016, we had our first version of the product in December. We had an improved version early of last year in 2017. We can do – 1,000 people in an event we can do with over 99.5% accuracy and that’s insane. I’m the CTO so I work on the technology side – right now we’re working on improving that to have tens of thousands of people so eventually we’ll be able to support stadium size events. The trick is that if it’s just you and I at an event doing face recognition or any biometrics is something that’s going to be really accurate because there’s only 2 people, but when you have thousands of people it gets harder and harder and harder and it compounds. And the reason why is there’s probably a doppelganger. There’s probably someone who looks just like me, there’s probably someone who looks just like you and so that’s when it gets hard and that’s what we focus on.
Rakshak: So one of the goals for 2018 is improving that and we’re well on our way on that. Last year – last half of the year we did pilots; w said hey, give us some marketing material, we’ll support your event. Now it’s all revenue; now it’s all making actual sales. Now people trust us in the industry and so now we’re putting our money where our mouth is, people are putting their money where their mouth is, and we’re actually starting to do sales.
Serafina: That’s great, congratulations to you guys. Thank you for sharing your story and we look forward to keeping our finger on the pulse of all things Zenus Biometrics.
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