Author: Yolanda Wang, Translator: Kevin Wang, Editor: Yunchieh Tsou
As the city sleeps in the dark hours of midnight, a security guard dozes off at his post in a building. Suddenly the monitor screen flashes up and sirens sound, and a message pops up on his smartphone with an image showing that something is going on outside the building. The security guard jumps up from his seat, and in the nick of time stops an arsonist from committing his act.
This is Umbo CV’s AI surveillance system at work: technology developed by this Taiwanese startup allows surveillance systems to actively identify potential dangers and prevent accidents and crime, all without requiring someone glued to the monitor 24/7.
Actively preventing tragedies with AI learning and identification
Says Umbo CV co-founder and CEO Kuan Yu-hsiang, “For the most part, conventional monitoring systems serve only as evidence for when a case is brought to trial. In contrast, the ‘CV’ of Umbo CV stands for ‘computer vision’, which, combined with artificial intelligence, can help prevent accidents from happening in the first place, and allow first responders more time.”
The Umco CV camera can identify fights and brawls, robbery, arson, and unauthorized intrusions. In addition, it can also notify security personnel of potentially hostile crowds or suspicious behavior, and has the ability to improve its recognition abilities as it collects more image data.
Kuan: Teamwork, product and sales strength all key in attracting NT$9.2 million funding
It was this combination of revolutionary technology and hardware that proved key to attracting funding. A young company only in its second year, Umbo CV attracted NT$92 million (approx. US$300,000) in seed funding in March 2016, with AppWorks, a Taiwanese venture capital, as the initial lead investor, and Phison Electronics, Wistron, and Mesh Ventures among its co-investors.
How did the company secure such indicative investors? Kuan lists three main aspects that investors look for: the respective potential in teamwork, product, and marketing and sales ability.
Startup investors take into consideration the background of all co-founders: their capabilities, experiences, how they work as a team, and if they have the charisma to continue to attract others into the team and allow the company to expand.
Of the four co-founders of Umbo CV, Kuan, as head of the team, previously worked as a sales manager in a professional surveillance company, and is experienced in everything from expanding clientele to IPO preparation. This has given him ample working knowledge in surveillance products, system integration, and marketing channels.
The company’s crucial AI recognition software was designed by two PhDs in computer and robot vision. CTO Chang Bing-lin is a graduate of Imperial College London, and has had years of experience in robot vision and automatic navigation.
Wu Ting-fan, the lead scientist, is a two-time national winner of the DARPA Robotic Challenge, and was one of the early employees of the emotion recognition company Emotient, recently purchased by Apple.
Ke Chi-wen, the team’s hardware specialist, served as director of hardware development at HTC, and previously founded a startup that developed intelligent IoT electrical sockets.
How innovative and unique are the company’s products? Does the company have mass production capacity? These are questions that investors inevitably ask.
Umbo CV is distinctive in being one of the very few surveillance companies that designs and produces every single aspect of their product in-house, covering everything from software, cloud infrastructure and backend services, security, frontend interface, algorithm development, AI learning mechanisms, hardware design, contacting manufacturers, hardware testing, and firmware development.
Marketing and sales:
In his previous surveillance company job, Kuan covered sales and marketing for the US market, and was well experienced in B2B marketing, having personally visited thousands of clients. Even before their product entered mass production, Umbo CV received large numbers of orders from schools, warehouses, residential communities, commercial buildings, and cash crop farms, as well as attracting interest from numerous major European and Asian cities looking into intelligent urban development.
With their clear vision and prospects in all these aspects, Umbo CV has received much interest — and funding — from startup investors.
Morale hit hard by early setbacks
Starting his own company was no stroll in the park for Kuan, however: in his words, the most difficult part in the early days was building and maintaining his team. In the very beginning, he visited and wrote to hundreds of experts in the field of artificial intelligence, trying to find someone who could join his team, finally managing to secure the talents of Chang and Wu, and bringing Ke on board as co-founder.
Getting a team together was one thing, but keeping it together was another. One of the robot vision technicians left to return to academic research, finally returning after some persuasion. As if that was not enough, Ke was then nearly paralyzed in a car accident. Thankfully, he underwent successful surgery and rehabilitation, and the team could finally proceed as one.
Kuan: Set short-term goals every two months to encourage progress
Kuan offers a few suggestions for maintaining team morale and togetherness: “The basis is a strong common vision. Also, don’t have only a long-term goal in your eyes, because you’ll easily lose your passion and confidence if you aim too high too quickly, and find yourself not achieving any targets in a short period. My suggestion is to set goals to achieve every two months; that way you’ll be able to quickly adjust your direction as needed, and have a sense of achievement to keep up team spirits.”
Chinese Version: 種子輪就獲 9,200 萬資金！Umbo CV 解救人腦，用 AI 革新保全監控業