Emeline Cadot and Luiz Strecker – the co-founders of Paperplane left Paris to enjoy what everyone calls work-life-balance. Between the beach and palms, their office is located close to the sea in beautiful Nice now. Emeline, born in France, worked as head of an event agency for 2 years. Luiz originally comes from São Paulo, Brazil and studied technology and innovation at the Sorbonne University before he founded Paperplane – an augmented reality startup – together with Emeline (Lili)
I met them both for the first time at WebSummit in Lisbon and we were drinking coffee together while they pitched their idea to me. Their vision was to develop an augmented reality app which connects people all over the world: Paperplane.
Working for Metaio, my colleagues were dreaming about the same. With our AR browser Junaio we couldn’t only scan printing products but also access GPS and location based points of interests. You only saw the most relevant information like geo-tagged Instagram pictures, tweets or PoI’s like available cabs and busses, or the nearest restaurants were overlayed on your screen. Paperplane is going one step further: The most relevant information for the user are personal 3D messages by your friends and family.
I was delighted by their idea and asked them to give me an interview. And here we go, Lili and Luiz told me more about their story:
How was your first contact with Augmented Reality? And what did you think in this moment?
Lili: We stumbled upon augmented reality by the end of summer 2016. It was the time in which we were looking for the right technology for Paperplane. We started doing research on the internet and found documentation and videos on augmented reality. The first thought we had was: „Why is this not a big thing yet!?“ And than, after weeks of deep research, we found out how deep the AR rabbit hole goes.
How was the idea of Paperplane born? And what is your vision for the application?
Lili: Both of us don’t come from a technological background. That was key in the inception of Paperplane, because we didn’t know what was technologically possible to build. And so we let our creativity free one afternoon and came up with Paperplane. The defining question was : What If I could send you a virtual paper airplane and you could take your camera and see it flying towards you? (hence the name)
At the moment Paperplane is purely an A.R. messaging application, but in the near future we’ll be much more than that.
The future idea is to create an AR platform on top of which a lot of interesting and creative content can be built in the future.
Why do you think Augmented Reality is the best technology to transfer your idea of connecting people at different places with each other?
Luiz: Let me answer this important question with an easy example: Let’s say it’s your birthday. You receive a short message from a friend containing: „Happy Birthday.“ There will probably be some part of you wondering if your friend really cares about you. If he decides to call you and say: „Happy Birthday!“, you would already feel a lot happier. And the reason for this is, that even though a call and a text contain the exact same information, you can not transmit the same amount of emotions with a SMS than you can with a phone call, audio or video message.
Now, let’s take this idea further. The perfect message, has three dimensions: information, emotion and context. The context defines how, when and where I see the message. For decades the tech-industry has tried to make the perfect messaging experience, with all three dimensions. But nobody was able to do it.
Last year, we at Paperplane found a solution using augmented reality which enables us to put context into messaging.
I can now send you an informative and emotional message and also place it at a specific location and make sure you see it a certain way using AR. It’s a very subtle, but highly important step, which will shape the future of communication.
Paperplane connects the world
When founding Paperplane as a startup, did you exactly know where you wanna be in some years? How do you finance the development of the application? Where there any funding programs you choose to participate in?
Lili: We started Paperplane in a dark 14 sqm apartment in Paris just 8 months ago. The first Paperplane draft was created on an ironing board, because we didn’t have space nor enough money to buy a table. We didn’t even know how to pay rent for the following month, but we knew we had to build Paperplane.
It was clear to us that the first company that gets users into the AR world and makes them stick, will be the winner of the next decade. So we’d better make sure it’s us. Today, of course, we have a pretty clear view where we want to be in the next years and also what kind of company we want Paperplane to be. But back when we started, we had no clear idea, nor enough personal confidence to know that we’d able to do it.
In terms of financing, we are very lucky to have a team with us, that is so involved in the project and loyal to us and the vision. Nobody, including ourselves, is getting paid anything since October last year.
Many friends in the industry have supported us with free tickets, vouchers and credit, so all development hosting and infrastructure is basically for free for us. We have looked at funding programs for a long time and having some cash would help us immensely of course. But at the same time, we need to find the right funding partner for us and our industry sector. Be it a program or an angel investor.
We started our kickstarter campaign now to give us a little bit of leverage.
How many people are working with/for you at the moment and in which working environments?
Lili: We are now 6 people internally. All strategy, business development and design is done in our small home-office in Nice. Most programing is done online with one person in London and another one in South Korea. We have product talks over Skype every day and because of the insane time-difference, we manage to get product work done 24h a day. While we sleep in Europe, development continues in South Korea and vice versa. We’d love it if we could have product development in-house with us every day, but at the moment we can’t afford to pay anyone to be here with us.
We started Paperplane without knowing how to build a company nor how to build a tech product. We had no money, and we didn’t know anyone in the entire Augmented Reality Industry that could help us out.
The only reason we’re still around today and growing every day is because we were able to attract wonderful people to work with us and believe in us. And thanks to all of them, we now have have a fighting chance to succeed.