Laura Bücheler is Managing Director and Co-Founder of “GHOST – feel it”, an artificial intelligence startup based in Berlin. Her startup is developing intuitive tactile feedback technologies in order to enable everyone to create haptic (tactile) user interfaces at the highest level. Haptic or tactile technology, which relates and proceeds from the sense of touch, can be used in many fields. For example, it could be used in the automotive industry to create haptic seats in cars to give feedback to drivers or it can be applied in medicine to make amputees feel their prosthesis.
Laura studied Engineering Science and Biomedical Engineering in Munich, German, and Glasgow, in the UK. After graduating she worked several years for a sensor company in sales and product management, where she handled customer requests in order to improve customer-specific products and supported management in restructuring measures. Today she is leading business development at her startup “GHOST – feel it”. She co-founded it with Isabella Hillmer, who also studied at the University of Munich, however at a different time. As the CEO of the company, Laura focuses on building the bridge between the technical team and customers.
technology which is related to the sense of touch
We were very excited to interview Laura, especially, because there are very few female founders in artificial intelligence. She is a true role model for all who dare to disrupt this male-dominated industry.
How did you come up with this idea and what motivated you to create your startup in artificial intelligence?
My co-founder, Isabella Hillmer, has a background in neuropsychology. While doing her second Masters in Industrial Design she got an idea to make amputees feel their prosthesis on their backs and told me about it. On the one hand, I was convinced it was technically feasible, but the brain wasn’t up for the job. And on the other hand, she was convinced the brain was up for the job, but the technology was not there yet. So we started this company to prove that we were both right!
When and how did you meet your co-founder Isabella? And how did you know she was the right person to work with?
I have met my business partner Isabella in high school. Even though, after graduation we went different ways, for example, I chose the path of biomedical engineering while Isabella was studying psychology and neuroscience, we stayed in touch during all the studying period.
We were studying and living in different cities. However, it did not stop us from our cooperation. On some point, we started to discuss possible innovations which became the core of our today business. We both contribute equality, from the various sides of our project, allowing it to grow and evolve most effectively.
To start a technology company might require a lot of funding? Did you have any financial support?
In the beginning, the main support we received was from the German government. We received EXIST Business Start-up Grant. It supports students, graduates and scientists from universities and research institutes who want to turn their business idea into reality. This funding we used to cover our major expenses.
Currently, we are bootstrapped. Nonetheless, the situation is going to change soon since we are starting to grow. Besides, we are looking for investors and are open to new opportunities.
What were the most challenging moments while building your company and how were you able to overcome them?
You meet a lot of people who support you. At the same time, you meet a lot of people who doubt you and challenge your beliefs.
My biggest challenge was to learn how to recognize valuable feedback and whether to use it to start another validation of your product. However, the most important thing is to be the biggest supporter of your idea and take every necessary step in order to reach your goal.
Which developments do you expect to see in the nearest future?
Since we have grown so far quite rapidly, I can see further implementation of our technology in a more broader sense. In a few years, I can see reaching more active users who can apply our technology to create and build new products.
Additionally, we work on gathering data which can generate more patterns and be used in developing artificial intelligence systems. By saying patterns, I mean the generation of movement patterns. So for example, when you feel something on the right side you would automatically turn to right side and not to the left side. Naturally, to create such complex technology takes a lot of time and energy. Nevertheless, we feel inspired and motivated to go forward.
What exactly drives you every day to move forward?
I really love what I am doing. I think our business offers a completely new way of human-machine interaction that has not been possible yet. Although, when I started my startup, I didn’t have as much knowledge as I have now, we still happened to make significant progress. We made huge improvements and now we are happy to be where we are. And it is amazing to be here: to see what we have already achieved and what could still be achieved!
Which learnings would you share with our community of female founders?
Go out and tell others about your idea! It’s never too early to validate your products with your target group.