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What is GearEye? | OVERVIEW!
GearEye is a compact RFID scanner that was created to efficiently track and find professional equipment (allowing you to not only save time but also save thousands of dollars by protecting yourself from potential losses!)
It’s a very handy tool for professionals that are constantly on the go.
It’s also very easy to use! You just stick an RFID tag onto your equipment and tracking with your handheld reader will take care of the rest (there are even management features that allow you to make sure that you’ve collected all your items so that you never leave a venue without all your equipment on-hand!)
No doubt, it is a very ingenious invention, and thousands of people agreed. Proven by the number of people that initially backed it on Kickstarter alone — by the end, there was over $550,000 pledged to officially bring it to life!
But, okay, enough of us for now. We’ve interviewed the CEO and founder of GearEye Inc., Julia Lerner, below, to get some more behind-the-scenes insight on the subject:
Hello! We’re eager to learn more about you and your beginnings! Can you tell us where you believe your story began?
Julia Lerner: Regarding GearEye? The beginnings of it happened all the way back in 2015. I was traveling from Israel to Germany when I realized that I couldn’t find my passport! I searched everywhere for it, but no amount of looking helped me find it.
Suffice to say, it was a disaster! I had to pay around $500 to renew it. And, despite that fact, I was still late for my flight. And, what do you know? When I finally arrived in Germany a little while later, it was only just after I had settled into the hotel that I reserved that I finally found the old (now useless) passport — it had been in one of the outer pockets of my bag the entire time!
Anyway, this experience just made me think “What if I could find a way to stay connected to all my important stuff all the time?”
I’m an engineer, first and foremost, so making something out of thoughts like this has always felt natural to me. I started my research on the subject of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) immediately as soon as the thought came to me. And, by the time I made it back to Israel, I already had a good idea of how the product should look like and where to start looking for the right people to create a team that would help me make sure that it became a reality.
Did you experience any bumps on the journey while you were working on GearEye?
Julia Lerner: Well, the first idea that we had was to figure out a way to be able to track items with a smartphone. But, we faced significant issues there — seeing as the only tags that would work with a phone are Bluetooth tags (which are not only bulky but also contain batteries and can cost $20-30 each).
We ended up going for the cheaper and sleeker, RFID stickers (which are 10 cents each). The tracking distance for RFID stickers was limited (1-3 meters), but we decided that it would be enough to figure out whether an item was around or not. (I certainly would have been very thankful to have such a device when I lost my passport!)
Anyway, our first prototype of the RFID scanner was in the form of a phone case (seeing as we still wanted to make it accessible.) It was rejected by our campaign manager though, who was experienced enough to tell us that we would have a hard time finding people to buy it. This is why we ended up presenting two versions for our users: a cover-case and a stand-alone device (a mockup).
We ended up suffering through another mess of revision after that though. We thought that the cover-case and stand-alone device would be able to work pretty much the same. But two unsuccessful attempts proved that we would need new everything (antennas, batteries, and approach.)
Did you ever consider giving up at any point?
Julia Lerner: After two unsuccessful attempts at making a product that would work, and five years overall spent on development and trying to solve problem after problem, I did definitely entertain thoughts of just giving up and just letting things be.
Now though, we’re in the most exciting stage — the development has finally finished, mass-production has begun, and our device is being delivered to real customers!
We’re also finally collecting actual feedback that will allow us to continue improving the GearEye App, fixing bugs, and just making sure that our product continues to serve its main purpose — organizing one’s equipment and making sure that it’s not getting lost or forgotten.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Julia Lerner: It’s hard for me to judge other entrepreneurs, especially after I had personally experienced so many mistakes. Our crowdfunding was ultimately a success, we received over $600 K in crowdfunding, and there was a clear market need to fill worldwide, but… Well, I guess I can share what I ended up doing wrong and learning from, which included the following:
- I found myself immersing too much in development and not paying enough attention to the financial situation of the project. At one point, it got so bad that I had to stop the development to raise more funds — when it should, ideally, have stayed the opposite, since the financial part is the most important part in keeping a project afloat and existing.
- My over-focus on development also distracted me from consistently communicating with the backers who supported the project. They started to feel ignored because of it, which was not only bad for the company’s reputation but just generally unfair for the people who had been supporting us all that time.
- Now, I also would probably never crowdfund a hardware project ever again. It’s much too complex and time-to-market is unpredictable. I have also learned never to promise that it would take a year to develop a hardware project (since it will always take more time.)
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Julia Lerner: One of the direct impacts that we experienced from the Pandemic was delays in delivery for the main components for the project (electronic elements, PCB material, and plastic parts). Some of the tags we wanted to provide with our kit also had to be taken out because delivery projections had items coming in over a year! Both the chip crisis and China’s quarantines also influenced us pretty badly.
The pandemic did come with its positive impacts, however. For example, with e-commerce booming, there are endless opportunities right in front of us — the logistics sector still lacks an affordable delivery assurance solution and, now, we can help all those Last Mile delivery companies suffering from misdeliveries and package losses.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Julia Lerner: Our use of low-cost tags makes tagging 50-200 items a day very doable. It’s the main reason why Bluetooth tags (such as the ones use for AirTag or Tile) were just never going to be an option for us.
We wanted to provide a solution that would allow for the tagging of even small objects (which is impossible with Bluetooth tags, which are generally too bulky). Bluetooth tags are also notorious for their short battery life and expensive cost as well (as mentioned, each one will cost $20 to $30 each!) That makes the low-cost RFID tags and stickers that we use the only feasible solution for professionals. The GearEye RFID tags that we use are all below $1 each (with most being $0.10!) And, while some may say that the 20-meter distance Bluetooth tag is more efficient, the RFID’s 1-3 meters coverage that we use is usually enough to solve the problem.
When I was looking into RFID tags and readers the first time, I also noticed that a lot of the devices were industrial, bulky, and expensive. Also notable, was the pricing! The cheapest RFID reader I found at the time was around $1000!
Our main purpose was to make RFID affordable and accessible to professionals all over the world (and not only for the big enterprises.) In accordance with this goal, GearEye now costs below $300 — with a variety of 40 tags and stickers included!
What would you say are your company’s values? And, how do they match up with yours?
Julia Lerner: GearEye was built out of my own personal need for the technology as well as for the sake of my fellow professionals who also suffer from ADHD — whose tendency to focus on the important things tends to distract us from paying attention to the little things, resulting in a lot of lost or forgotten things. This is a problem that I’ve been struggling with since I was a child, making it very personal indeed.
I created GearEye with the intention of improving upon the world, but I can’t deny the fact that it definitely improved my way of life personally too. I constantly have GearEye in my bag. I never travel without it either. It helps me make sure that I never forget my wallet or ID — AND! It’s even solved my earlier problem with my passport (now I never lose it!)
Our company’s values are to continue improving our technology. In doing so, we hope that we are able to help others. Especially those that supported us all this time.
Now, for our final question, do you think that talent in entrepreneurship is something you are born with or something that you learn along the way?
Julia Lerner: For me? It was definitely the latter. I never wished to be an entrepreneur, and never thought that I could — until I felt this urgent need to start on this venture of mine. At the time, the idea had haunted my thoughts so much that it refused to help me sleep! It was an idea that just continued to hammer at me until I had no choice but to just jump right in. It’s almost unreal, in a way. But yes, while I never would have thought that I would become an entrepreneur, once the idea took hold of me, it was very difficult for me to look back.
I was also incredibly fortunate, of course, that Israel had such an amazing startup ecosystem. Just like magic, there were people and opportunities right there for me to take. There were free courses for me to learn from, competitions that I could join, meetups and events where I could meet industry veterans that I could learn from, and many other opportunities to connect with my other entrepreneurs and investors.
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