Fulfilling a need for healthy social distancing
Taking a risk on a desperately needed product
“The biggest surprise was how large companies and governments were so quick in deciding to support our product,” says Van den Heuvel. “The speed was amazing. Everyone was taking a risk, yet they decided – and paid – within days.”
A few months later, the Aura Aware is being used by thousands of businesses – including IKEA, Hertz and Vodafone – in dozens of countries. Last week, they entered the US and Canadian markets.
“We’ve already shipped about 10,000 [units] but we don’t actually know how many we’ll be selling. It all depends what happens this winter and what the needs of companies will be.”
Using previous success to push her product forward
In short, it makes devices that gather real-time data and uses it to improve business-customer relationships, whether it’s by managing queues or keeping bathrooms stocked with necessities.
In the case of social distancing, the Aura Aware uses highly accurate LIDAR technology, which is currently being applied to self-driving cars to prevent accidents. If people get closer than 1.5-meters (though the distance can be customised for localised laws), the device turns from green to red. When the distance shrinks to 90 centimetres, the device starts beeping.
Knowing who to call
Amsterdam has a free vibe and a can-do spirit
“I do think we should reach out and inspire the very youngest – those who are the least influenced by old-fashioned thinking. I tell them it’s best to avoid these gender discussions. And I give them the same advice I would tell any budding entrepreneur: dare to be bold and take the stage. Just show what you have and what you have to offer. And always embrace your failures.”
An affordable product for people in need
“It’s a paradox: we’re selling something that we would prefer not to be necessary. And sometimes, I wished we had more time to consider long-term strategy. But because of all the uncertainty, we just followed the simplest of business models: sell an affordable product to people who most need it. That’s it,” says Van den Heuvel.
“I am most proud of the fact that while we were also hit hard by the coronavirus, we were able to quickly see and execute an idea that now helps companies in the same situation.”
Read more startup news from around Amsterdam.