Meet Anna Lukasson: CEO and Co-founder of Computer Vision Startup Nyris
One of the most difficult challenges for any startup founder is finding the right partner to build a startup with. Founders need to find someone with the right mix of talent and temperament who can compliment them and form a well-functioning team.
For Nyris CEO and Co-founder, Dr. Anna Lukasson, she knew who her co-founder would be long before she even came up with the idea for her startup itself. “I founded Nyris with my brother, he and I are both engineers, and the idea of founding a company together was in our heads for forever, but we always put it off because of career or family reasons,” Lukasson said. “But finally we each came together with a different idea for a business and we decided to see which one got support from investors and his idea won out, and that became Nyris.”
Nyris, which is currently participating in Microsoft ScaleUp Berlin, is a computer vision and AI startup that provides a solution for enterprise customers to integrate visual search into their products. The solution is used primarily by retail companies and is also being used increasingly in the industrial sector to help identify items such as spare parts and other equipment. The company already counts giants such Lidl, one of the largest grocery chains in Europe, and Daimler as customers.
“With Daimler, we are working with them specifically on their trucks. They are using our technology in an app used to run checks every morning on their vehicles,” Lukasson said. “With the app, a driver can simply point the camera at a part of the truck, it’s identified and then married to data about that part. For instance, the driver can point the camera at one of the truck’s tires, it will identify that tire, and then show information such as tire pressure to the user.”
Lukasson described the unique benefits of having her brother as a co-founder. She sited the incredibly honest and valuable feedback she receives as being the most important. However, she admits that sometimes they also have heated arguments that mirror those they had when they were children. “We fight like hell. So early on, some people on our team thought the company would close-down because of the way we fought. But that familiarity allows us to make important decisions super-fast.”
We spoke to Lukasson ahead of her appearance at the European Women in Technology conference this week in Amsterdam. She will be speaking in a panel with Microsoft’s Noga Tal on Wednesday at 14:10 that will look at “the unique opportunities and challenges women face as entrepreneurs.”
There has been a very active conversation about women in tech and female founders this past year. Where do you see the conversation going next?
“This is in an important question, and the conversation is certainly needed. Yet at the same time, I feel like we aren’t having this conversation in the right way. When we discuss female founders, there is always a certain connection to a fear factor.
“If all we are saying to women, as an industry, is that it’s so much harder to get a job, or harder for them to do a good job, and they will earn less, etc., it can be hard to hire women, because they say ‘well, it doesn’t really sound all that fun.’
“So, we need to bring in a fun factor as well. I really want to share the message that working in tech is fun. So, I tell women who are thinking of becoming founders or working in tech to just go for it. There are women who did it, whether they thought they were ready or not. Forget whether you have the skill, or you don’t have the money, or you can’t do it. You can.
“And I must add, we have so many examples at Microsoft. It’s really been so great seeing that. I don’t know any other tech company that has as many women in leading positions as Microsoft. Iskender [Dirik, Managing Director of ScaleUp Berlin] is so proud because he told me that his three managers above him are all women. Isn’t that great? I really think it is.”
What has your participation in Microsoft ScaleUp been like?
“Prior to joining ScaleUp, we had been part of the Google program and GCP, but we thought ‘let’s see what Microsoft can offer.’
“Once we were chosen for ScaleUp, we began to recognize what the entire program was about. For us, the most important part of the program is the sales connection. Now we are connected with Microsoft OCP, and I have very frequent phone calls with Microsoft team members. It’s really great to have such a close relationship with Microsoft’s sales teams. Microsoft has the right teams and processes in place, and now we are directly connected to this sales power and that is really the major advantage.
“We are still in the early stages of our collaboration with Microsoft, but we have already had opportunities to meet potential customers through events Microsoft has hosted and this has resulted in several leads. For instance, we participated in Slush with Microsoft. We were at the Microsoft for Startups booth, which was really cool because it was the best representation of the Slush idea on a corporate level.”
As an AI startup, what advice would you offer to companies in that space?
“There is so much hype; AI is over hyped. And there’s also fear, so I think it’s important to demystify AI.
“The people who try to sell AI, who understand what it is, should be aware of the fear so many people have about AI replacing their job. So, our message to those people and potential customers needs to be: AI can help speed up and optimize processes, but AI is far from replacing a doctor or engineer.
“Part of this process is explaining the boundaries and limitations of AI. Explaining, for example, how much power and energy you need just to recognize a product. We still have cases where it’s more energy and cost efficient to outsource a request, and have the work done by a human, than to have it done by our engine.”