RunBlind : Specialist in Augmented Audio applied to universal guidance
THE ENTREPRENEUR AND THE START-UP.
Philippe Le Borgne, co-founder and CEO of RunBlind, has a multi entrepreneurial background in different fields such as software publishing, renewable energies or e-learning. Since 2020, he has been working on the RunBlind project which recently became a company.
Resulting from the Centre de Mathématiques Appliquées (CMAP) of the École Polytechnique, the start-up is the result of ten years of research conducted by François Alouges, co-founder of RunBlind, in 3D sound. Philippe and François have known each other for many years.
More precisely, the team behind RunBlind is developing a product in the field of everyday use of 3D sound. This is a challenge that requires a good mastery of numerical analysis and algorithms optimized to run on low-power processors, but the start-up has the technical expertise to develop the technology and will soon have its product on the market.
RunBlind's third co-founder, Sylvain Ferrand, defended his thesis last year. His PhD was on guiding the blind with dynamic 3D sound, which allows the sound to be projected in front of the person on the path to follow. Philippe joined the team in a more commercial and entrepreneurial role to answer the question: how can we create a product and a company from this technology ?
After answering several calls for proposals and going through the X-UP incubation program, the idea is very clear:
"To make a universal guidance system that integrates this dynamic 3D sound technology into the Bluetooth headsets of all connected devices - including connected glasses as well - , all linked to any navigation application."
This is just the beginning of what they want to do.
What RunBlind offers is a general navigation tool (to be used anywhere), but it is natural. For example, if you listen to your music, it can be your music that guides you. RunBlind's technology positions the sound absolutely on the person's trajectory. RunBlind overcomes the technical limitations of Bluetooth - especially in terms of responsiveness (latency).
RunBlind already has a few early customers, and in the business model, they sell their software in two ways: by embedding the engine in Bluetooth headsets and by connecting it to any navigation application.
The startup believes we are at the very beginning of exploiting 3D sound as an everyday use. Big companies are starting to file patents in the video game sector, but not for everyday life where RunBlind is positioned.
Finally, according to Philippe, the sound interface will have to be standardized in the same way as, for example, the graphic interfaces on telephone screens or computers. RunBlind has concluded a partnership with the Vision Institute to start working on this point.
Another important partner/client is Jooks, a company that makes audio guides in cities. Their app offers users audio walks with descriptions of monuments or what's in the city. RunBlind is in the process of integrating into their app.
Regarding the financing of the start-up, they have won several awards, grants and subsidies. The last one was the I-Lab 2022 competition, which is an award given by the experts of BPI France. It is a national recognition of their Augmented Audio technology. Thanks to this prize, the technical development and the diffusion of their products will take another dimension with their partners. In this sense, it is possible that RunBlind will go to the CES in Las Vegas in January 2023.
X-UP AND X-TECH INCUBATION PROGRAM.
On the X-UP program, Philippe underlines all the consultants they have seen on industrial property and patents. The workshops on this subject were very important and essential for the beginning of a business in the field of Deeptech. Also, the legal advice and the support during the structuring of the company are very good.
Moreover, according to Philippe, the training on how to approach the market is very complete, but it is the founding team that has the technical skills to find the right market. In fact, it was during the incubation that they changed their approach to the market, but it is still going on, almost 2 years later.
Today, the start-up is incubated in our X-TECH incubator and benefits from
- The hosting
- Prototyping space
- Connections with the X/IP Paris laboratories
- The X/IP Paris entrepreneurial network (start-ups in residence, alumni, expert teachers, etc.)
- Connections with companies on the Paris-Saclay plateau
An advice for the Promo #14.
"Speak only after filing patents, including to partners. For a startup, the only way to exist in front of potential big partners is through patents, it's not the brand."
According to Philippe, this is a must for deeptech startups, like most of those that pass through Drahi.