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Startup Spotlight Q&A: Minfo Americas

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, entrepreneurs around the world have been working hard to create new and relevant innovations to keep people healthy and germ-free. From self-driving disinfection robots to new kinds of testing kits, startups are helping us stay safe. Minfo Americas is one of these startups, recently adding touchless solutions to its repertoire. We sat down with Minfo’s founder Roland Storti for a great chat about their challenges, their efforts, and their many recent successes.

What’s your background?

With my background in electrical engineering and facilities/properties management, I live to solve problems. I started my career in telecommunications and have managed businesses and teams on multi-million dollar projects for more than twenty years. My first startup survived the .com crash with one of the first web-only solutions for managing buildings maintenance. The solution serviced public, private, and government clients, including the Victorian Department of Education in Australia, servicing 1,630 schools and over 20,000 buildings with millions of transactions from 2002 to date. Minfo is my second startup, and I first conceived the concept for it in 2011, while managing two other businesses. I am relentless in the pursuit of my vision for a world smarter and more safely connected using audio QR codes for info, media, and touchless solutions.

In a sentence, what does Minfo Americas do?

Minfo is Shazam for info, ads, product placement, and our go-to-market of touchless solutions all via our patented Universal App using audio QR Codes.

What was the problem you found, and the ‘aha’ moment?

There have actually been two ‘aha’ moments in our journey. The original vision came to me a few years ago as I drove home from work. I was listening to the radio when I heard an ad for a product I wanted to buy. A few calls later, I’d totally forgotten what it was. For me, it was a missed opportunity but for the advertiser, it was a lost sale because I couldn’t connect when I wanted to.

I thought ‘What if I could touch one button and connect with anything I wanted!’

While researching, we realized all offline media is one-way and non-interactive, with highly flawed attribution. These ‘lost sales’ happen around the world millions of times every day, forcing advertisers to buy more ad inventory to drive response. A huge problem we set out to solve with our universal app approach.

Here’s my second ‘aha’ moment. Last year I caught COVID-19. While recovering I realized we could also use our universal app to create touchless solutions. These would help deliver a safer ‘new normal’ world going forward by enabling a quantum reduction of germ and infection transmission via high-frequency, high-contact surfaces such as elevator buttons, restaurant menus, payment terminals, and more.

What makes your company/product different in this market?

We focus on one thing; enabling smartphone enjoyers to better connect and more safely control their everyday world via Minfo’s universal app. Our application partners, Oracle and Shift4, and elevator integration partners, Otis and Kone, as well as our pilot city (in discussions), have all told us that no one is using sound, audible or inaudible, to connect and no one is going for a universal app with a patented solution.

The vast majority of apps are ‘siloed’, meaning they do one thing, for one business. The Minfo universal app is architected to be accessible and affordable for all businesses, enabling them to leverage mobile for more effective advertising and marketing communications via all media as well as in public spaces. Being able to connect people instantly to what interests them in the offline world was described by Chris Sacca as the “holy grail” in an episode of Shark Tank. Moreover, providing brands and marketers with accurate attribution solves the problem captured in John Wanamaker’s 100+-year-old quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

What milestone are you most proud of so far?

Over the last year, we have completed integrations with leading global companies; Oracle, Otis, Kone, and Shift4. Being recognized by global leaders for delivering new solutions in an innovative way that has global scale potential as we move towards commercialization is tremendously exciting.

Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

Funding-to-date, during development, has been largely from founders and FFF. We have recently gone live with a Reg CF equity crowdfunding campaign and have documentation ready to lodge with the SEC for a Reg A+ equity capital raising. We have taken this approach because we want everyone, small as well as larger investors, to have an opportunity to invest on the ground floor.

We welcome all to view the details here: https://geni.us/RegCF Minfo was recently accepted into the Newchip Accelerator which will help us to better refine our messaging and with securing investors.

What’s been the benefits of any corporate startup programs or accelerators you’re taking part in?

Oracle for Startups (June 2020 — ongoing) has enhanced our touchless solution suite via integrations with their world-leading software solutions servicing leading companies globally.

The Newchip Accelerator (June 2021 — ongoing) is helping refine our messaging and funding approach.

What’s been the biggest success for the team?

Securing 3 US patents following on from our vision of creating a universal app solution and client-generated campaign/content platform using Audio QR codes to connect has been the biggest win. Similarly, Oracle for Startups’ mentorship program and subsequently successfully integrating with global leaders has also been a great win. We haven’t really celebrated yet, as we are still in the early stages of our journey, with each win paving the way to more work in order to get to where we are going. We will celebrate in a big way when we achieve various commercial milestones and wins, i.e. our commercial launch, our millionth download, our millionth click, our billionth click, our billionth download!!

What are the biggest challenges for the team?

A significant early challenge was remaining focused on our initial commitment to develop a universal app. We had a number of opportunities to effectively ‘sell out’ the vision, meaning our technology would have been owned and used by one business only. Overall, the single largest challenge has been solving the 3-word puzzle every entrepreneur hates to hear, “Chicken and Egg,” aka the two-sided marketplace issue. Marketers loved what we are building to deliver but would say “How will you secure downloads?” It was a real Catch22.

While recovering from a mild case of COVID-19, I thought “How can we use Minfo to help make the world safer as well?’ Hygiene anxiety around germ and infection transmission is even higher now. I first thought of ATMs but realized there would be too many security hurdles. Then elevators, restaurant menus, and payment devices came to mind. We approached Oracle, Kone, and Otis in mid-2020 and have since successfully completed integrations with their hospitality POS systems, hotel management systems, and elevator controls — all from the one universal app using our audio QR codes. This has led us to our go-to-market strategy, which will have the benefit of delivering volume downloads and recurring regular usage by consumers. We are working with a mid-sized US city towards a pilot smart city pilot and roll-out which will involve hotels, multi-story buildings, restaurants, bars, and retailers as well as media. This will form the template for other smart city implementations. By enabling engagement in ‘everyday’ activities and interests we will build brand awareness, download growth momentum, and regular usage we will solve our ‘Chicken and Egg’ challenge.

What’s something you’re constantly thinking about?

As with my previous startup, I am constantly focused on building trust through accountability, transparency, and innovation in our business operations. In many ways, trust is lacking in our lives and society today. Minfo aims to be the most trusted tech company. Minfo succeeds by delivering value to customers and consumers while allowing them to control their data. We exist and grow as a hub and connector between businesses and consumers, and they are stakeholders just as are shareholders and the business’s team members. The more value we deliver, and the more we are valued and trusted by our stakeholders, the more success we will collectively experience. It may seem a cliché, but I have always wanted to make business accountable, transparent, and focused on delivering value for all customers.

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Stories & strategies curated by the Startup Grind global community. Interested in submitting? Visit our submission form: https://airtable.com/shrShpeN89HrzCzOB

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