Vijay Narayanan, Grenoble Ecole de Management class MBA 2012, creates Bixi, the first fully contactless gesture device.
Searching for a solution
While earning his MBA, Vijay simultaneously worked as a Project Manager for ST Microelectronics in Grenoble. After graduating in 2012, he continued working for the company, but knew his eventual goal would be to become an entrepreneur. During his daily bicycle commute to work, he found the perfect opportunity to break into the start-up world which led to starting his company, Bluemint Labs, in October 2015.
After realizing it was both inconvenient and dangerous to maneuver a bicycle while constantly reaching into his pocket to answer calls, change his music or control his GPS, he knew he needed a better solution. In a world where time is money, he wanted a way to easily control his smart devices without the need to pause his activities. It was then that he came up with the idea for Bixi -- the first fully contactless gesture device.
Differentiating the device
You may be thinking that using contactless gestures to control electronic devices is far from a new concept – but Bixi is different. The small, portable gadget simultaneously works across multiple devices. Users only need to master 8 intuitive gestures, instead of learning the guidelines for each individual device they want to control.
Bixi is practical, even for those of us who deem themselves technology-challenged. Vijay believes that Bixi’s simplicity is a strong point: “It’s useful in a simple, intuitive way so you don’t need to be a geek to figure it out”.
When developing the idea, the two most important aspects were durability and convenience. Named after a turtle in Chinese mythology, Bixi’s hexagon-shaped corning glass has both the appearance and durability of a turtle’s shell, but according to Vijay, the gadget thinks like a turtle too! “A turtle is said to be an intelligent and wise character, and Bixi follows this path by being the only ultra-portable solution that achieves complete gesture processing locally in the device.”
Collaborating with Current Students
Every year, Business France chooses 25 startups to represent France at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. With it's unique idea, Bixi was selected in 2015 to represent in January 2016. Vijay wanted to align the launch of a Kickstarter campaign around the same time as CES, and thought it would be a great opportunity to involve GEM students.
Grateful for his own experience at GEM, he reached out to Marie-France Derderian about a possible live business case collaboration with the MSc Business Development students. A group of five students were assigned to consult for the project and conducted several market studies to better determine how a variety of consumers envisioned using Bixi, what journalists would be important to speak with, and also helped brainstorm ideas and script the video for the Kickstarter campaign.
Although each of the students contributed significantly to the project, according to Vijay, Robin Zank, GEM MSc 2017, stood out among the group because of his dynamism and mature thought process. Vijay decided to bring him to the CES conference in Los Vegas to show his appreciation for Robin’s contribution as well as provide him with a real opportunity to pitch a product at a major event.
Vijay is grateful for Robin’s tremendous contribution at the tradeshow: “Robin took the lead giving demos at the booth which really allowed me to focus on my business meetings. He was a crucial part of the whole process. I wish I could bring him again this year!”
A Family Affair
After the initial prototype, his wife, Pavithra Govindarajan GEM MIB 2010, asked if she could use it while cooking. They also realized they could use it at home to help with parenting by directing the blame away from them.
He recalls when their young son developed the bad habit of being glued to the phone screen to watch cartoons: “We’d just shut the app off using Bixi. Since we didn’t technically touch it, so we weren't the bad guys. But since it mysteriously shut off, we’d tell him to find something else to do.”
You can also contribute to the recently-launched Kickstarter campaign.