RecFaces lifehacks: how to enter the international market and change your business framework
A challenging but productive 2020 has come to an end.
There are many plans for the next 2-3 years for interesting and challenging projects, new customers, and product line updates. But no matter how ambitious the plans are for the coming years, one always needs to remember how and where it all started. Starting from 2013 RecFaces has had a multidimensional development history and can also give advice to those who are just starting their start-up journey in the international arena.
THERE ONCE WAS AN INTEGRATOR
RecFaces company has relatively recently obtained the status of a vendor, a developer of biometric solutions, but we’ll get to that.
2013—2014. RecFaces started out as a classic sales story as an integrator, who got many hard knocks while implementing projects. Based on one of such projects, a key conclusion was made: there is no ready-made large-scale biometric product on the domestic market. This conclusion boosted the creation of the RecFaces biometric story. It was possible and necessary to create a cool biometric product that would break the mold and bring real business value to both companies and potential partners. However, everyone at RecFaces knew that developing their own biometric algorithm would take a tremendous amount of time, which simply wasn't available! But we couldn’t wait any longer. We decided to find partners who would be interested in cooperating with RecFaces as a company with the idea of developing its own biometric platform available to everyone: banks, oil and gas companies, shopping centers with fitness, absolutely all segments of the business. At the time, RecFaces conducted a series of negotiations with domestic developers of biometric algorithms, which have failed. Hence, the RecFaces team started to look for alternatives in the foreign market and the choice fell on the Japanese technological leader Toshiba.
Historically, the benchmark for biometric facial recognition for RecFaces was NEC Japanese technology.
East Asian countries are far advanced in the identification of people, so it was a very good decision to choose them as a reference point in the development of our solution.
The experience we gained as an integrator of biometric solutions and the established cooperation with Toshiba served its purpose. We created a product based on Toshiba SDK, which was called Id-Me, a Russian biometric platform based on Japanese technology. All the team's thoughts and ideas turned into working tasks, and soon a technology partnership agreement was signed.
The first international project was also with a Japanese IT integrator called CSP, which taught us a lot. It made us realize how the product was supposed to work and what could be added to make the solution operate better.
The long correspondence and negotiations with the Japanese companies led to the start of joint activity in Russia in 2017.
RecFaces and Toshiba announced the joint product.
The Japanese colleagues not only helped RecFaces to get off to a good start but also shared a systematic approach to business. This experience has resulted in the conclusion that in order to communicate with foreign partners, who in turn were also vigorously interested in biometric technology, it is necessary to package their product with documentation so that any client request will have the appropriate material prepared in advance. Then the Id-Me platform will have a chance to hit the masses.
YOU NEVER GO FAR ALONE
Having developed a great and functional biometric product, one would think that the RecFaces team achieved its goal. But who, how, and through what channels we will sell it? Thus, we decided to focus on business strategy and a systematic approach, which our Japanese colleagues had taught us. It was important to fix the solution in the market and not to turn the story created by RecFaces into a one-time project.
There was a clear understanding that the Id-Me platform would operate with other systems such as VMS in one way or another. The technological partnerships with other vendors would make it possible to reach the desired scale.
PELCO was among such partners, it was a part of the Schneider Electric group at that time. RecFaces specialists started to transfer all the experience they had accumulated with the Japanese to the American vendor, an expert in the field of video surveillance.
Thanks to the partnership, Pelco and RecFaces have jointly created an integration plug-in for the VideoExpert video surveillance system and called it VxFaces. This plug-in added biometric functionality to Pelco's existing VMS capabilities, which expanded the product’s competitive advantages. VxFaces quickly gained popularity in the foreign market, and soon the plug-in was implemented in several major projects such as the Jockey Plaza shopping center (Curitiba, Brazil), Nairobi International Airport (Kenya), and many others.
It was during this time that RecFaces transferred from an integrator model to a vendor one. RecFaces already had its own ready-made product, experience, knowledge, and a set of documentation to launch any facial biometrics projects.
After the successful release of the VxFaces plug-in overseas, the possibility of additional biometric products based on the Id-Me platform was clearly obvious. Not long after the creation of VxFaces the RecFaces team presented a new product called Id-Guard. As a matter of fact, Id-Guard has already existed before, as the functionality of the VxFaces plugin was the foundation for the new solution.
Id-Guard is still the flagship product, as it should probably be for the firstborns. Speaking about its working principles, the video streams are connected directly to the Id-Guard software, and as soon as the biometric profile is loaded, the solution starts the recognition and instantly informs the operator about the recognized or unrecognized faces, their list membership (stop list, VIP list, etc.) and stores all detected images for further security incident investigations.
Id-Guard was the first boxed product based on the Id-Me platform. It was the beginning of an industrial products line, which encompasses more than 10 products now and the number is growing.
INTERNATIONAL MARKET VS. THE RUSSIAN MARKET.
Having implemented a number of complex and important for RecFaces projects in several countries, the difference in sales markets was obvious, especially in the business approach and attitude to project implementation.
IT projects abroad focus on the quality of products, their functionality, simplicity, and convenience. Without these aspects, no one will be interested in the product because it will not be useful for business. Why RecFaces biometrics were quickly implemented in Brazil, Kenya, Australia, and several other countries? Any product based on the Id-Me platform can be installed on a customer's infrastructure in just 20 minutes, no special training is required. This demonstrates the simplicity of its launch, installation, and high-quality documentation (administrator, user manuals, and other documents). A systematic approach to business and the accumulated experience are also required. That is why the foreign partners and customers loved RecFaces products.
As a matter of fact, implementing the established business process turned out to be much more difficult in the domestic market than abroad. Since the Russian economy sets out its own rules of the game, the RecFaces team still continues to develop and scale the line of recognition products based on the Id-Me platform.
The bottom line
The RecFaces specialists not only developed their own high-quality biometric platform but also provided it with one of the Tevian algorithms, the most popular Russian algorithm from Video Analysis Technologies LLC, which is currently used in almost all projects. The algorithm was developed about 10 years ago by graduates of the Laboratory of Computer Graphics and Multimedia, Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics, the Moscow State University, the leading research group in the field of computer vision in Russia.
Today several major projects have already been launched in Russia, namely in the banking sector, at sports facilities, in industry and the fuel and energy complex. The number of projects is growing, which means that RecFaces is on the right track.
THE TOP 5 RECFACES TIPS FOR STARTING INTERNATIONAL SALES
Spell out the ideas and tasks of customers and partners.Our company, like many startups, tries to take each and every project, as at this stage all of us tend to believe in any ideas of a potential client. You may dream and get inspired, but then make sure to make your future client specify their dreams into the terms of reference. Well, or help him capture all of his wishes and turn them into a document that will clearly spell out the requirements for the project.
Look for business partners.
Don't build a business alone, as it’s better to find the right companies in your sales chain that will be mutually beneficial. You will add value to their final product with your solution.Learn from your potential business partners, share experiences, and create joint ideas and mutually beneficial synergies.
Test and standardize.
All of your dreams and ideas should be well tested and ironed out. Take the time to prepare documentation and meticulously test the result. And don’t forget to double-check before you present it to the customer.You can't always be with a partner or a customer when launching projects overseas. The product should be fine-tuned so that anyone can launch it. Once launched, the solution should demonstrate a stable operation. Your software product should become an integral part of the project infrastructure so that the customer would be happy to use it.
Learn and train others.
Carry out regular training and webinars for your partners and customers. First of all, it allows you to build closer cooperation and trust with your partners. Secondly, they will get to know your products in detail and gain the necessary competences. Try to make the training regular and interesting.Don’t forget to train your employees, in their turn, they should also know the software products of the technological partners. The exchange of knowledge is going to accelerate the joint sales.
Become an extrovert.
Share what you've learned, talk about yourself and your team, be open and friendly with your business colleagues. When you start a new project, you become a single business team with your partner with a complex task to carry out a project. If the communication is open, the project implementation will be much easier.Finally, do not be afraid to go ahead, try, learn, analyze your experience and the experience of your partners and always strive to move on, and you will be able to do anything!