Vincent Castro and Eric Solie were the 2016 UAF Arctic Innovation Competition Main Division 1st place winning team for their idea, Attently. This idea is a cloud-based software service, which utilizes a video feed from a standard webcam or smart phone camera, calculating both the number of faces in view and the percentage of those faces which are actively paying attention in the direction of the camera.
The idea for Attently came out of Startup Weekend, an event held every year for aspiring entrepreneurs in Fairbanks. Attently’s creators were fascinated by facial recognition technology, which falls under the category of computer vision – or when computers understand how to see and pull information out of images. They were also drawn to public speaking, so trying to think of a technology that could combine those two ideas was key.
Taking a Chance
“At the time of the AIC competition, we had won the Startup Weekend, and I was very excited to have won that and getting a spot in AIC was the cherry on top,” said Eric. “As we got closer to the competition, I realized it was a much bigger deal, a much bigger competition with a lot of people, a lot of competitors, and a lot of money on the line. I started getting a more excited for it and a little bit nervous. Walking onto stage there with a big crowd looking at us and giving our pitch – which we had refined somewhat by the time we got there – was a very cool experience.”
Into the Future
The group’s plans for the next year is to finish the customer discovery phase, figure out who their first focus target market is, and then to develop their product. Their dream for the company is to develop something that is effectively and efficiently solving big problems for a lot of customers in various segments of the market. They want to develop a product that everyone is talking about, so that when people are giving a speech or speaking to an audience they will immediately ask: “What was the Attently score on that?”
Words of Wisdom
“The advice I have for anyone looking to compete is to go for it,” Eric said. “It can be a little bit intimidating with the application you have to fill out and the people you have to get up in front of to pitch your idea to, but it is also a hugely valuable experience.”
Hear more about what has happened over the past year from the expanded Attently team!