Co-Founder – Shashikant Burnwal
Website – Trillbit
A master in the new revolutionary world of IoT technology called the ‘Internet of Sound’, a set-up of Boston and Bengaluru, Trillbit is rapidly growing as one of the unique and innovative startups in this field of IoT technology. As of now, it is finding its relevance in areas like proximity intelligence, retail, smart venues, and TV/Radio broadcasting.
HOW DID IT ALL START
In the year 2017, Trillbit, a deep-tech startup was founded by IIT Kharagpur and ISB alums- Bhaskar Deo, Shashikant Burnwal, and Mrigesh Parashar, that aims at disrupting the authentication space by designing the ‘Internet of Sound’. Trillbit’s proximity intelligence technology platform allows standard audio speakers, smart gadgets that communicate and authenticate without the need for the internet and any additional tools or hardware. COO of Trillbit, Shashikant Burnwal share their personal experience of listening to a talk show on a car radio which led them to establish the startup. “There are many shows that mention visiting their URL at xyz dot com, but since you are driving, you don’t have the time to go to the URL and later when you want to check it you might have forgotten the link by that time. It was then that we thought of how can we transfer this into a smartphone as everyone carries it today which can then reveal these links anytime later,” he shared.
The group of three started researching alternative options and realized that there is only one solution that would not require any additional tools or hardware. Burnwal said that they began researching for sound as an alternative option to send data and started exploring more use cases with time in this area. It took them eight months to design the whole technology platform and solution after which they started to connect with clients. With time they had the opportunity to use it in industries such as retail, where retailers even needed to communicate to their customers in real-time to expand their customer reach, marketing, and many more. The startup, Trillbit states that the fact that differentiates them from others is, they are researching larger avenues of using this technology and is able to help transfer the data in the larger market. “When we started we did not know if anyone is working on that on not and thought it was a novel idea. But later we found out that there are companies across the globe working on similar ideas. In India also there are companies that use sound technologies for payments which allows payment transfer between two mobile devices using sound technology,” Burnwal said.
TRILLBIT AND THEIR IoT GAME
The startup serves its customers with a unique and innovative technology called data over the sound, where they take the help of sound waves in order to transfer or exchange data. Burnwal says that this technology is somewhat similar to a communication protocol, where its users compare it with other technologies such as Wifi, internet, or data communications that are also used to transfer data.“We have chosen sound as a medium because there are more speakers than the people on earth. There are audio speakers everywhere such as the shopping mall, retail stores, and more. Audio speakers have become data transmitter for us and at the same time, everybody has a smartphone which can act as a data receiver and there is a hyper-local data communication between these two devices,” Burnwal adds.
TRILLBIT’S GROWTH AND FUNDING
Recently, Trillbit has created its place in the Top3 among Lockdrop(Canada) and Shaxware (Japan) at the well-known and prestigious global FIDO alliance developer challenge for its deep technology. The startup is also awarded by the Nasscom, TiE, IoT India Congress, Economic Times Power of Idea.“Trillbit’s aim is to lead the IoT authentication space with the most secure and seamless solution, and the funds will be used for business development activities in the USA and other geographies. Not only will we be catering to existing use cases of device setup and authentication but we see a bigger opportunity here. Voice commerce is expected to explode and so are deep fakes which is a big problem for voice commerce. We are the only protocol that is PSD2 compliant and truly brings authentication to voice commerce and circumvents deep fakes, ” Bhaskar Deo, Co-founder and CEO said in a statement.
This Boston-based startup with its office set-up in Bengaluru has raised $1.5 million in funding from an early-stage venture, Refex Capital and from early-stage venture capital, Good Growth Capital. This funding will be used for business development activities.
Exclusive Interview with Mr. Shashikant Burnwal
What made you strike this business idea? What inspired you to start this company?
The idea of Trillbit came when Bhaskar Deo & Mrigesh Parashar (two of the co-founders) were listening to NPR TED Hour on a car radio. A web link was mentioned during the show, which they couldn’t recall later. Thus, came the thought of how to send information from any device like Radio or TV to a phone without the need of any pairing or additional hardware.
Both were acoustic engineers at Schlumberger so, the first solution that they looked for was whether sound can transfer the data.
What started as a small project, soon lit up the imagination because the applications are endless, and this technology has a huge potential. We can convert any audio speaker into a data transmitter and a smartphone into a data receiver. We created a communication channel between a speaker and a phone for data exchange and proof of presence using this ‘data over sound technology.
And if you see our company’s name, we kept it Trillbit i.e. Trill=sound and bits=data.
When did you start your business?
We started working in mid-2017. When we started, all 3 co-founders were on 3 different continents and then we all moved to Bengaluru and started working on this together.
What does success mean to your company?
We want to become a de-facto way for facilitating user authentication and proof of presence. People now have fatigue with current authentication methods like OTP, Call based verification, etc and at the same time these methods are not secured. We want our technology to enable millions of authentications every day that not only provide a good user experience but also more security. And with 6 billion smart devices coming with at least one voice-based technology, we see the adoption of our technology in new emerging areas such as voice e-commerce, personal identity verification, etc.
For me personally, there is nothing prouder than seeing our technology used in daily lives. For example, one of our clients, Chalo, is now using this for bus ticketing validation for Best buses in Mumbai. So, for us, hundreds of thousands of authentication daily happening through our solution signifies a big success.
How are you performing currently?
From the onset of 2020, our business got impacted by Covid as many of our enterprise projects were put on hold by our prospective clients but at the same time that gave us an opportunity to focus on building applications for authentication and we emerged stronger in 2021. From going back to zero revenue in 2020, we are now on the track of $1 M ARR by 2022. At the same time, we have now a strong sales pipeline that will give double-digit Millions of dollars of revenue in the next 2 years and a few great partnerships with companies like Knowles that would help us to integrate our technology into millions of IoT devices for authentication use cases.
Also, this pandemic taught us how to be capital efficient so, if you compare us even with very big start-ups, we are very efficient in working capital to sales ratio.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote fits well for us ‘what does not kill you, makes you stronger.
What is the biggest risk to your company?
The biggest risks we see are mainly two –
Since our revenue ticket size is huge per client so the sales cycle is long and generally takes 3 to 9 months to see our first revenue from an individual client.
People think of us as just providing a technology piece and not a product solution and think our technology will not solve their authentication problem end-to-end.
But this second risk actually now became an opportunity for us and forced us to build a security product that really is a complete solution for our clients’ needs. Just at the end of last year, we started working on it, made good progress and our authentication product was recognized as a good security solution on a global platform like FIDO. Trillbit’s security product SoundAuth has been judged among the best 3 IoT security products by FIDO.
What are your plans for the funding?
We had raised $1.5M in August last year from Refex Capital and Good Growth Capital. Now, to grow further we are looking to raise $4 million which will help us to reach $10 million ARR. Half of the round has been committed and we are looking to close the round by March.
What is the biggest challenge you faced during your start-up setup?
Hiring has been the biggest challenge for us since this technology has been niche and required deep signal processing expertise, we needed really good engineers to develop the technology so that technology works well with all smartphones and in real noisy environments. Finding great technical talent within a tight budget has been really a challenge. But our endeavour paid off and we were able to bring people who are really passionate about this technology and supported us by even joining with reduced salaries. And we are really proud and grateful that our first two employees Saurabh and Roopa are still with us and contributing to our journey.
What does growth mean to you and your business?
We just look for hard metrics as a proxy of our growth and two among them is a daily number of authentications enabled through us and the second one is annual revenue. Currently, we are at 100K authentication per day and hoping to reach 2 million authentications per day by the end of this year. And at the same time, in two years we would like to reach an ARR of $10 million.
How does your product stand different from others in the market?
One thing we were very clear from the beginning is that as we are selling our solution to enterprises, our technology should be the best in the industry because all these enterprises always evaluate multiple options before buying from you. They care about cost but for them getting the best product matters more. And that’s the reason we just put our heads down to build technology that is best in the industry in terms of data transfer speed, accuracy, and range. And that started giving us a competitive edge in authentication products because our solution has become comparatively faster and more secure as compared to our competitors.
Secondly, we also went beyond only building the technology and became a complete product solution that any client can use as plug and play for authentication use cases.
Where are your start-up services spread?
We have India and USA as our primary market but now we have started getting clients from Japan, and China as well.
What does it feel like to be the founder of your start-up? How does it feel to get up every morning and get on to work?
Being a founder has been a hell of an experience. The learning I got running my own start-up was more exponential than my stint in other companies like Ola Cabs and Tata Motors. During this Journey, we committed many mistakes, made a few bad decisions but at the same time the excitement, autonomy, and ownership you bear running your company is unparalleled.
Where do you see your business standing in the next 5 years?
In 5 years, we are expecting our annual revenue to be in tune of $75 M-$100 M if our product gets adopted by clients as we are expecting. With voice commerce emerging and growing, we are really excited to build an authentication solution for that.
At the same time, we have plans for building an authentication product for crypto and web3.0 that will truly signify decentralization, the fundamental on which web3 is based.
Who supports you to stand this business and how?
We are extremely fortunate to have a great team and investors in Trillbit who always supported us mainly in our downtimes. Our angel investors like Anup Pai and institutional VCs like Refex, Good Growth Capital, IvyCap, and Techstars provided critical lenses to achieve product-market-fit and helped us in building our business.
And at the same time, our team has always been in execution mode no matter what comes our way. And for that thing, we are really grateful as founders.
Lastly, I really appreciate our clients who supported us during our difficult times, and here especially I want to name our one client NIUM, and its CEO Prajit Nanu. He gave us the contract when we were struggling to make payrolls for our employees and a fellow entrepreneur like him is really what makes a startup journey fulfilling and exciting.
The business model of the company?
We charge clients per transaction or authentication with some tiered structure.
How many employees are working?
We have two offices. One in Boston and the other in India. We have an employee strength of 25 distributed among these two geographies. But as we are growing, we are expecting to add another 20 people this year to the Business Development, Sales, product, and technology team.