ISSUE #65 – Guillaume Sachet, Head of Social at Mediacorp (left), and Marc Rakotomalala, Founder of start-up Mentorica (right), share about their partnership, the start-up incubation programme Mediapreneur, and about their work on retail and advertising intelligence.
What does Mediacorp’s start-up incubation programme Mediapreneur aim to do?
GUILLAUME: Start-ups admitted to the Mediapreneur go through a one-year incubation programme; they are housed at our Mediacorp Campus and receive seed funding in exchange for equity. Start-ups get help and guidance from eight experienced and digitally-savvy mentors. They can tap into our IP, platforms (TV, radio, digital) and tie up with our business units. So far, our start-ups have forged more than 36 partnerships across Mediacorp.
We started Mediapreneur in 2013 and our first batch joined in 2015. We receive about 100 applications per year and, to date, Mediacorp has invested in 21 start-ups over three batches. We have founders representing nine nationalities: French, Italian, Russian, German, Polish, Chinese, British, Canadian and Singaporean, the latter making up about 62% of all founders. We have incubated two French start-ups, eOasia in our first batch and Mentorica in our second batch.
Through Mediapreneur, we hope to:
- Have a window into disruptive media innovation and emerging technologies;
- Find opportunities to engage innovative, nimble and digital companies;
- Be a catalyst for culture change at Mediacorp.
We are also hopeful that these new technologies will make our content better, our analytics more accurate and our ads more effective. We believe that for the right companies, we are a better fit than many other investors because we can be both a partner and a customer. We’re also an amplifier. Partnering with a high-profile broadcaster like Mediacorp increases your chances of becoming a household name.
Several start-ups in our Mediapreneur programme are fast gaining traction: Vostok VR, a window into AR/VR technology, BeLive, a live streaming app, Popular Chips, a front-runner in influencer analytics and Popsical, the smartest and smallest streaming karaoke system.
Mediapreneur shows that Mediacorp is innovating and adapting to the massive changes and disruption in the media industry. Through Mediapreneur, we hope to turn start-up companies with innovative ideas into successful technology businesses. It’s a great opportunity for Mediacorp, and for the start-ups!
How did the partnership between Mediacorp and Mentorica come about?
GUILLAUME: When Marc started his company, Mentorica, he shared with me his ambitions and desire to join an incubation programme. As he was about to join a competing accelerator programme, I introduced the Mediapreneur to him. In 2016, Mentorica applied to Mediapreneur. While Mediacorp doesn’t have any retail spaces, we saw the potential and decided to accept Mentorica into our programme. And just like that, Mentorica gained a major customer as well as a real-world test bed for their technology.
For Mediacorp, Mentorica’s technology is a great way to add value to Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising. It uses facial recognition and AI to figure out in real time who is looking at the ads to ultimately deliver targeted ads to passers-by. The technology is also able to detect the mood/reaction of passers-by. Currently, Mentorica is working closely with our OOH team to pitch its intelligent advertising displays. Although it uses a camera, this is not privacy-invading technology. The ads are in public places, and they only collect summary statistical data. Mentorica’s technology does not store any record, any footage or stills.
We believe Mentorica’s analytic software can be applied to a wide range of other functions apart from OOH advertising, bringing together online and offline behaviours to give companies a better idea of what exactly is happening in their stores and on social media. This technology has great potential.
For Mediacorp, Mentorica’s technology is a great way to add value to Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising.
Could you tell us more about the technology Mentorica is developing?
MARC: Traditional retailers are suffering. In the US, the number of retailers filing for bankruptcy is headed toward its highest since the global financial crisis in 2008. In recent news, department store giant Sears expressed doubts about its future. And even with players as strong as Amazon, which has taken the route of opening brick-and-mortar stores to pursue growth, analysts are worried, drawing parallels with Sears, noting that Sears had switched from being a successful mail order business to opening stores.
We’re observing the same retreat and closure of stores in our part of the world.
In the face of this dire situation, analysts say it is imperative for retailers to reinvent themselves. “Omnichannel Analytics” is now trending – that is to take data from disparate channels, and unify it into a more holistic view of performance.
That is just what Mentorica’s retail analytics platform allows. It captures customer data at every touchpoint with the retailer or the brand, and then mines it to develop actionable insights, with the goal of knowing the customer better and increasing the conversion rate.
Our platform is designed for retail business users, not PhDs in statistics. However, our team’s skillset is centred around Analytics, AI, Machine Learning, and Computer Vision.
How else may this technology be applied to change the landscape?
MARC: The retail landscape has dramatically changed. Yesterday’s linear path to purchase has been replaced by today’s informed shopper path and its series of shopping moments – online, on social media, and offline. Retailers are responding by doubling down on efforts to send customers targeted ads, rejuvenating the retail space experience and looking for means to influence the multi-channel consumer purchase decision-making process.
In short, the grail in retail is in bridging the gap between online and offline data. To this end, retailers need to turn to technologies such as AI algorithms, bots, or intelligent sensing devices, to gather data and improve the shopper’s experience.
This necessary adoption of technology, however, comes with a great deal of challenges, namely how to collect, unify, and store large amounts of disparate data in a way that is simple to access and easy to analyse, while your comparative advantage and skill set are in designing clothes.
To illustrate this point, Mentorica is currently assisting a major automotive manufacturer in sifting through its APAC online customer data accumulating in its vast data lake.
In our solution, AI algorithms allow real-time classification of the anonymous online customer (a potential buyer or a random user), after only a few clicks, and the building of a dynamic sales funnel towards a call to action. Along with other sophisticated tools (chatbots, facial recognition, etc.), we allow the building of a smoother customer journey by putting together interactions and feedback from each online and offline touchpoint.
Interview with Guillaume Sachet, Head of Social, Mediacorp, and Marc Rakotomalala, Founder, Mentorica
Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #1 2018 “Ready? Start-Up. Go!”