The startup 4tiitoo specialises in gaze control for computer operations. We report on the latest financing round and what kind of challenges the team had to tackle in order to expanse their product range.
3.1 million euros – this is the amount that venture capitalists (also from the BayStartUP network) invested in the tech start-up 4tiitoo in October 2020. Directly after the round, the team tackled its second product launch.
The special know-how 4tiitoo has lies in the gaze control application and the associated data lakes with tens of thousands of hours of computer interaction data. The solutions of the Munich team are designed to replace a large part of mouse interaction at the computer workstation with natural gaze control. This can mean up to twelve percent time savings. The AI-based, self-learning software also recognises individual user behaviour after only a short period of use, makes increasingly precise predictions and actively suggests expected user inputs.
The company's products address several important current issues that have also convinced their investors of the success of the business model - e.g. the change in computer use, especially at home and in the office, today's ever more effective usability of user interfaces and ergonomic working. One of the main value drivers of the platform is not only the company's technological know-how, but also the fact that 4tiitoo has been building up the data themselves with which they feed their algorithms since 2011.
The economic paper "Wirtschaftswoche" describes the solution as an important technology supplier for data glasses. While this might rather be a medium- to long-term issue, eye-tracking for a better overall video call experience is a need that already exists in the market - and one that the team can map via its products: the German technology magazine "c't magazine" confirms the latest product NUIA Full Focus, which works with MS Teams, Zoom etc. "as an extremely practical tool for video calls and conferences".
Originally, a second closing at the end of 2020 was planned as a supplement to the October round. "But that was no longer necessary," says Tore Meyer, co-founder and managing director at 4tiitoo. "We were extremely well positioned after the October round. That's why we decided to take the next steps at once." There has been no shortage of work – the company now has more than 50 customers, including eight DAX companies such as SAP, Daimler and Siemens.
The fresh capital went into the marketing and further development of its gaze control software platform, as well as a new video conferencing solution called NUIA Full Focus, which helps users make and maintain eye contact with the person they are talking to. The tool is also expected to play a key role in the further development of the business.
The further development of the products was about more than the technical aspect
With a kind of software that most customers have never used before and which is largely 'invisible', 4tiitoo was also faced with the question: how does the product itself communicate with the user?
Tore Meyer, Co-Founder and Managing Director at 4tiitoo:
The way we use computers is changing rapidly in our society. Our product can do a lot – however we need the users to participate, learn and want to tap into this potential. One of our tasks in the months since the financing round has been to map out this challenge, especially in sales and communications.
Second product, new distribution channels
The launch of NUIA Full Focus then took a little longer than 4tiitoo had planned. "It is one thing to bring a product technically to the market, to optimise it and to incorporate customer feedback," says Meyer. "We also had to expand our sales strategy." Instead of 'just' sending larger units to customers, the new solution also brought in individual customers, whom the company now addresses.
This not only had an impact on the development of their digital sales platform. "Fulfilment has become different. Before, when the smallest customers bought 20 units, it was one single process. Suddenly sending single units all the way to Dubai fundamentally changed this." Setting up the logistics for these now processes, shipping the company's own technology internationally within a few days of receiving the order, and becoming well-versed in topics such as international tax laws were further important milestones after the financing round.
Corona as a business driver?
"In recent months, we have seen a shift in awareness towards home office and ergonomics among our customers, which we then had to follow promptly with our products," Meyer explains.
When entering the market, 4tiitoo's sales pitches focused strongly on the issue of effectiveness in computer use, which was demanded by the customers. Users become faster in their interaction with computers when working with 4tiitoos's software, as it reduces actions performed thousands of times a day. Moving the mouse from A to B, for example, is no longer necessary thanks to eye control. With Corona and the rising issue of home office, the company then focused more on the health aspect that their products can serve.
This is because the eye-tracking solution reduces the ergonomic strain on the hand, arm and back when operating the mouse, which employees experience at less than ideally equipped home workstations. Workplace ergonomics are improved, for example, by allowing users to control links, elements and input fields directly by eye and to scroll content automatically, adapted to the reading speed. "It is becoming more and more relevant how much you have to do at the workplace with the mouse and what you can do with your eyes," says Meyer.
After the first 50 years of computer use were characterised by us humans adapting to the possibilities of the mouse and keyboard, the time is now beginning with speech recognition, gesture and gaze control in which our devices perceive us humans in our natural interaction.
Eye tracking can be a central element that finds its way into everyday office and home office life through the growing importance of ergonomic and effective workplaces. It is to be expected that eye tracking will be installed as a standard sensor in laptops and monitors before the end of this decade. 4tiitoo has positioned itself as one of the market leaders in this area in order to actively help define the new standards of computer interaction.