Recently I caught up with Margaret Martin, the President and CEO of Merlin Mobility. Margaret was basking in the glow of Merlin’s recent victory in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition for the Southeast. You may have seen Merlin making presentations around town. I saw them at Venture Atlanta this fall and was impressed by the progress they are making. There is a buzz surrounding certain early-stage companies in town, and Merlin Mobility definitely has the buzz.
Much of the buzz comes from Augmented Reality (AR), the same technology that makes the yellow down line appear in football broadcasts. Merlin Mobility helps consumer product manufacturers shorten the learning curve about their products, by integrating AR. 80% of consumers go online to research products before they purchase them. Merlin takes their research a step further enabling them to “try” the product before buying. The consumer simply downloads an app to access a life size, AR version of the product, which is viewed through the camera of their iOS or Android mobile device. Prospective customers can closely examine controls, test their functionality, interact with the products, compare products and even try them out in their own space.
Once purchased, Merlin streamlines product registration and delivers AR-based support by visually displaying instructions directly over the product, such as “lift cover here”. Related products such as extended service plans can be up-sold as well. Merlin’s content is created by the manufacturer via Merlin’s SaaS platform, providing easy updates, instant deployment and a dashboard for analytics. Check out their demo at: http://merlinmobility.com/demo
Merlin Mobility appears to have the ingredients required for a successful technology start-up. First of all, the start-up needs a strong team, and this begins with the CEO, Margaret. This isn’t her first rodeo. Margaret is a serial entrepreneur, and Merlin is her second Georgia Tech company focused on learning technologies. (If you take an online university level course, chances are that you were utilizing that technology.)
Second (or arguably first), is a strong technology. Georgia Tech is legendary for spawning tech companies. Merlin Mobility is a Georgia Tech VentureLab Company [venturelab.gatech.edu]. VentureLab is Georgia Tech’s center for technology commercialization. VentureLab helps faculty, research staff and students form and develop startup companies based upon their research. Margaret’s colleagues from Georgia Tech are experts in the field of Augmented Reality. Maribeth Gandy, a Senior Research Scientist at Georgia Tech, has been actively involved in the AR research community for more than a decade, and is widely published in the area. Scott Robertson has been a Research Scientist at the Interactive Media Technology Center since 1994.
Finally, a company’s chances for success are greatly increased by participating in the Atlanta technology community’s ecosystem. The centerpiece of this ecosystem is the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) [www.atdc.org], a startup accelerator that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and build successful companies. Merlin Mobility was selected to be an ATDC Select companies, based on readiness for acceleration.
Of course, it’s a long road from promising startup to enduring performer, but with these ingredients, the future of Merlin Mobility seems unlimited.