Interview: Alexandre Desilets-Benoit & Benoit Martel

Proximity HCI: Enabling New Forms of Human-Computer Interaction

Meet the two co-founders of our most recently incubated company Proximity HCI!

Proximity HCI provides a software-only development toolkit that enables human-computer interactions beyond the touch screen. They leverage machine learning techniques applied to vibrational and electromagnetic properties of devices and their immediate surroundings.

Alexandre Desilets-Benoit, Co-Founder & Technology Lead and Benoit Martel, Co-Founder & Business Lead tell us more about what brought them to TandemLaunch’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EiR) program and their journey thus far.

Alexandre Desilets-Benoit & Benoit Martel

 

Tell us more about your background!

ADB: I hold a B.Sc. in Physics, a M.Sc. in Condensed Matter and Material Physics and a PhD in Experimental Solid State Physics from Université de Montréal. I am also a member of the American Physical Society. Physics always got me excited because it explains how the world works. I am also keen on programming: I started coding when I was only 10 years old and the first video games I played were the ones I created.

BM: For the past fifteen years, I have been launching companies in the media, entertainment and software industry. FOG studio started in the early 2000 as a visual-effect studio for American movies. We expanded the company from 2 employees to 10 completely bootstrap. The company merged with ‘’Le Bureau de Post’’ and is now called ShedMtl. In 2006, I started BLVD MTL focused on sound for advertisement. Under my leadership as Managing Director and Partner, BLVD MTL grew from 3 to 35 employees and doubled revenue when we opened a new office in New-York (Interstate). In 2013, I imagined and assembled Talk Management Systems, a project management SaaS for advertising, television and film production.

What made you join TandemLaunch as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence?

 ADB: I had already had the chance to work as a Python Software Developer in a Human Resources startup in the past and I had also enjoyed working in innovation as part of my Postdoc. Coming to TandemLaunch and starting my own venture was the natural next step. I knew I would never get bored here.

BM: To me, there are five good reasons to join TandemLaunch:

  1. TandemLaunch builds deep tech product companies that generally have higher valuation than services companies;
  2. These companies are all significantly based on intellectual property, which means that success does not solely depend on the raw talent of contributors;
  3. The model makes it possible to launch companies that require a significant amount of initial investment;
  4. The Partners and Core Team are always there to facilitate things at various stages;
  5. You are getting paid to launch a company and your initial funding is secured: that’s nuts!

What has it been like since you joined?

ADB: It’s been a “wild ride” compared to academia! Here I can go as fast as I can. It is very interesting to see that I am not only working to solve an intellectual problem but actually have a concrete deliverable in the end. It’s really motivating me; I feel I am flourishing here!

You do not only focus on a specific problem or solve linearly a bunch of problems but you have to be tackling everything at the same time.

Partners acts more like mentors than supervisors and they are a pleasure to brainstorm with. I have never felt as supported as here.

What are you working on and why?

 BM: Smart watches are unfortunately not bringing all the value they should. Interaction is limited given that the screens are so small. We are helping smart watch manufacturers differentiate themselves from competitors by providing end users with additional ways to interact with their wearable, and not remain limited to touch screen. Our demo video shows a potential application.

ADB: The cool thing is that we can expand to any other wearable but can also tap into smart phones, computers or connected TVs, to name a few. There is a need and it is not yet addressed. We are working with patented technologies in machine learning, and leveraging vibrations and electromagnetism to overcome the existing challenges.

What advice would you give to incoming Entrepreneurs-in-Residence?

ADB: Do not limit yourself to your primary expertise. Not having a degree in Computer Science does not mean you cannot be an amazing programmer. Be curious and explore. There is nothing more rewarding than creating something tangible derived from abstract concepts!

BM: Keep in mind that starting a business is 80% effort and 20% talent. What matters is not the amount of effort you put but rather how smart your effort is. Set deadlines and do not miss them: having self-discipline is key when you are juggling various tasks. Remember that the most important thing in a startup is communication within your team: respect and empower everybody. Finally, leverage others and surround yourself with experts.

A big “Thank you!” to both Alexandre and Benoit for taking the time to share their thoughts.

Excited about Proximity HCI? Contact [email protected]

Have questions or comments about the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program? Contact [email protected] !

 

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