Oriol Tort: “Never give up chasing your dream, no matter how complicated it may seem”
Catalan entrepreneur, Oriol Tort, aged 33, who graduated in 2007 from the International Master in Management, attended EADA Startup Day last May to explain his success story to participants currently studying the same programme. After working for a number of years in the consultancy business for Internet firms, in mid 2013 he decided to set up his own business along with three other partners. One of them was an expert like himself in technology consultancy issues and the other two were engineers working in the field of artificial vision who were beginning to develop technology solutions for counting people.
Oriol immediately identified a big business opportunity in these technologies that the two engineers were researching. He thought this could be of great use to companies that wanted to find out the number of people that interacted with them and who visited their physical spaces. All these companies wanted to improve their service and at the same time enable them to better foresee contingencies. That’s how Counterest was born at the end of the same year, a company that provides a technology solution that counts people traffic in crowded places.
Developing a reliable technology
As Tort explained during his talk, “one of the main challenges was to make headway in developing this technology in order to make sure it was going to be the most reliable on the market and thus enable us to convince large institutions and companies”. So they created 3D sensors that counted the number of people in crowded places such as museums, stores or on public transport. It was a cutting-edge and very reliable system –it detected the exact number of people in a particular place– and was very user friendly –all you had to do was install the sensors in the place you wanted and the generated data were directly uploaded on the cloud–. At the same time, they started to seek out customers and approached distributor partners –providers of security solutions and technology solutions for the retail sector–.
One of the main challenges was developing the most reliable technology on counting people in order to convince large institutions and companies
Finding customers and investors
They landed their first big customer sooner than they expected, no other than London Underground. This institution was running a joint project with Cambridge University to optimise public transport schedules and set up a predictive model for passenger traffic. They showed an immediate interest in the Counterest technology because it not only allowed them to redesign their schedules but to adjust them to user demand– for example, increase frequencies during peak hours or predict greater passenger flow due to changes in the weather. And so they installed a sensor in London Bridge station and following its success, they plan to extend this to other tube stations.
London Underground interested in Counterest technology in order to optimise public transport schedules and set up a predictive model for passenger traffic
Their first big customer gave them the international recognition they were looking for, and this brought in new customers, from museums –such as the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and La Pedrera, in Barcelona as well– right up to retailer chains, concert halls and discotheques, casinos and other public transport operators. Counterest has begun selling their technology in other parts of England as also in Rumania and soon plans to sell in Latin America. And, in addition to attracting various important investors, their solution have already drawn the attention of the prestigious Berlin based accelerator Startupbootcamp. Apart from this, Counterest won the BBVA Open Talent 2014 Europa prize which has opened up doors in the banking sector as well.
Main pros and cons
Clearly, getting to where they are now was in no ways easy for Oriol. “Jumping into a startup adventure creates a lot of doubts at the beginning about whether the project is going to be viable or not and whether you will one day get your investment back”, he pointed out. But, despite all this he assured us “when you have an entrepreneuring spirit you must give it a try and make your dream of setting up your own business come true, although you may fail and have to start all over again”.
When you have an entrepreneuring spirit you must give it a try and make your dream of setting up your own business come true
In his case the most difficult aspect wasn’t the financing part “because we had a cutting-edge reliable technology that could provide companies with a lot of data and come up with conclusions that would optimise their processes”. For Tort the most complicated thing of all was dealing with big customers such as London Underground, because Counterest was a very small startup whereas on the other hand they came from large corporations and organisations who were used to investing a lot of time and money on resources”.
The lesson that Oriol has learnt over the past years was that when you are working with data you have to be very realistic and make the appropriate investments, otherwise the company may go under”. This young entrepreneur gave yet another piece of advice: “Never give up chasing your dream, no matter how complicated it may seem, because with effort and perseverance you can accomplish what you set out to do”.
In the following video you can see some comments of Oriol Tort about his experience in running his own business: