Babak Mirzaie is the co-founder of Expivi, the 3D-product configurator that provides web shops with a totally new experience in a 360° format. “With 3D and augmented reality, Expivi creates the wow factor.” Expivi won the AIA18 in the theme Living & Working. The jury particularly praised its user-friendliness and efficiency.
What is Expivi?
“A next-gen web shop system. Expivi boosts companies’ online sales with realistic 3D visualizations. Products in web shops you are given a totally new experience. You can view the products directly in 360° in your browser. Every web shop can work with Expivi, we have a fitting product configurator for every single browser.”
How does it work?
“Everyone pursuing serious online sales needs a web shop. In most of the current web shops, searching for products is, in my opinion, a real tragedy. As a customer, you can, at best, zoom in and out on the images, while the measurements and specifications are listed. Expivi offers you the option to look at the product from all angles. Besides the 360° view, you can personalize the product. For example, you can change a couch’s color or upholstery that matches your personal choice and is within the possibilities of the assortment. And then see what it looks like in your home.”
How does Expivi stand out from other product configurators?
“Everything happens within the browser. That is where we create the wow factor, with 3D on the website and augmented reality (AR) on your mobile phone. IKEA comes close with their product configurator, but what they are doing is customization that is only suitable for the AR app. So, for the website they need to use a different solution and update two different platforms.”
Why did you start? And how did the idea arise?
“In 2000, my family had to flee from Iran and ended up in the Netherlands. In 2009, my brother and I started Golabi Studio, a creative company that develops games and apps. What got us on the Expivi track was a project to invent a home configurator. This configurator had to be childlike simple, so clients could configurate products on a platform, comparable to WordPress. We came up with a solution in the browser, where we used the power of webGL. It had not been demonstrated before.”
When did you know Expivi was viable?
“When we presented Expivi at Autodesk, the software developer that a lot of people know through AutoCad: the technical drawing program. Because of agreements in our work, we got into contact with them. When they saw it, the room became silent. Apparently, they had been working to reach the same goal with a lot more manpower.”
What have you accomplished through AIA up to now?
“Publicity, recognition and valuation. When you are announced as the winner of AIA, I believe you can say that your startup is doing well. The lesson in the run-up to the finals was: ‘Know where you are going’. You’ll get a clearer view of where you are standing now, what you want to do and when. For example, it gave us an insight on the right timing to go to the market.”
What was the decisive factor for the jury to announce Expivi as a winner?
“User-friendliness and efficiency is the core of what is written in the jury report. That we’ve really thought things through. That is demonstrated by the ease of use of the system. As a user, you can configure your product in just a few simple steps.”
What challenges are you currently facing with Expivi?
“The biggest challenge is to answer the ‘what is new’ question. It comes down to persuading people of Expivi’s added value. That feels like bridging the difference between a Kia and a Bentley. What helps, are events such as AIA as well as Slush 100. There, we have been voted in the top 100 as the only Dutch company. And we came into contact with Salesforce.com, what could be a great step for Expivi to grow internationally and become a standard practice in e-commerce.”
What trends do you see in the market of Expivi during the coming years?
“What will happen in the future, is that it will become easier to find products that fit you perfectly. I anticipate that a connection arises with machine learning. Currently, you probably still get lost in Google’s search results when typing in your wishes, you’ll then immediately receive options that already closely resemble the couch that perfectly fits you and your interior. When taking advantage of this trend, products offered on Expivi could become available ‘on demand’. That is very beneficial to the seller – who does not need a stock anymore – but also to us.”
What is your golden tip for innovators?
“I have multiple, and every one of them is just as valuable to me. Never give up. Always go to extremes. Believe in what you are doing. Think ahead. Take the view of the user instead of the designer.”