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Startup interview with Trillbit, let’s explore the journey

How did you get the idea or concept for the startup?

The idea of Trillbit came when Bhaskar & I (Mrigesh) (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 devices like Radio or TV to a phone without the need for any pairing or additional hardware.

We both were acoustic engineers at Schlumberger so, the first solution that they explored was whether sound can transfer the data.

What started as a small project, soon lit up the imagination because the applications were endless and the sound technology has 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= sharp sound and bits=data.

What was your vision for Trillbit at the outset?

We want to emerge as a de-facto way for facilitating user authentication and proof of presence. People now experience 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, 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. Witnessing thousands of contactless authentications per day by our solution indicates a huge achievement to us.

The key person behind this vision

Bhaskar Deo, CEO & Co-Founder, Trillbit:

Bhaskar Deo leads the company strategy, investment and core technology development at Trillbit. Before starting Trillbit, he worked as a Senior Earth Modelling Scientist at Schlumberger (USA and Egypt) (2011 – 2016). During his stint with them, he has led teams on advanced Seismic imaging techniques such as Full Waveform Inversion and Seismic guided drilling in Egypt, Kuwait, and India.

Mrigesh Parashar, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder, Trillbit:

Mrigesh Parashar leads the product and technology stack at Trillbit along with Marketing and Branding. Prior to Trillbit, he has worked as a Geophysicist at Schlumberger (USA) (2011-2016) as a project lead for several advanced seismic imaging projects with state-of-the-art earth model building techniques. He has also worked on advanced acoustic technology for Oil & Gas Exploration and some of the products he built are still being extensively used by the industry.

Shashikant Burnwal, Chief Operating Officer & Co-Founder, Trillbit:

Shashikant Burnwal heads the business development, sales and operations at Trillbit.His work experience includes a stint as Senior Manager at Ola Cabs, where he led projects that included launching Customer Relationship Management and Customer Complaint Management System along with structuring the entire Customer and Driver (Partner) Support. He has worked with different business teams for various category launches and defined the entire support experience for both customers and partners. He also worked as Manager at Tata Motors.

What is Trillbit’s data over sound technology?

Current authentication protocols (Bluetooth / NFC/ QR) are not designed for Internet of Things devices and pose cybersecurity risks.

Trillbit proprietary technology encodes any data into a series of sound frequencies. This encoded data gets played by a sending device by their speaker in form of Trill tones, over the air, to a receiving device where it is received by the microphone and decoded by Trillbit SDK. Data-over-sound presents a compelling solution for many device-to-device connectivity applications, particularly for use cases that require frictionless, low-cost connectivity with nearby devices.

What is the USP of your start-up?
Some of the main advantages of data over sound protocol for the Internet of Things devices, are: Device interoperability, Frictionless UX, Physically bounded within spaces and rooms

Low or no cost of hardware, Works offline. Data over sound unlocks a multibillion-dollar market opportunity for voice transactions by securing them according to international protocols.

What are the processes involved in simplifying IoT devices? How do you ensure its safety and security?

Currently, Internet of Things devices is facing two big issues: device provisioning and security.

Trillbit data over sound protocol is solving both of the issues with ease of setup and robust security — by offering an SDK for reliable ultrasonic links among consumer-grade voice-enabled Smart Devices. Trillbit is device agnostic and provides a fast and secure method of proximity communication without the dependency on the Internet.

What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the AI and deep learning space?
Sometimes AI and deep learning are used as a buzzword and treated as medicine for every problem. Thinking deeply about whether AI will solve your problem statement is the first step, and then the second step is having a proper data set. A correct dataset is critical for better training and an effective model.

What services/products do you offer?

Our core technology is “data over sound” where we use inaudible sound waves to send desired data. We are enabling various use cases-

  1. Payment: Easy, frictionless, and secure proximity payments between peer-to-peer or between merchant and customers. Our technology covers the following payment situations: i. Offline digital payment ii. Contactless cardless ATM withdrawal
  2. User Authentication: Contactless digital ticketing for any transportation without the need for expensive hardware. Eg Contactless Bus tickets, Contactless Metro / Train tickets, digital secure tickets to secure venues such as stadiums, etc.
  3. Digital Id: Any digital ID without the need for a physical card or signature. A great example is the Government digital ID based on eAadhar Verification. Technology can enable extremely secure digital driving licenses, digital ID cards, digital access cards for secure locations.

Your thoughts on the current crop of deep tech start-ups?

There is a significant number of deep tech startups have come out of India in the last 2-to 3 years, Which was not the case earlier. Breakthrough innovations are happening at a rapid pace, but early-stage funding is still a problem especially for a deep tech startup at a seed stage, as they need higher upfront costs and has a longer revenue cycle.

Could you elaborate more on the current problem in your sector and how Trillbit provides solutions?
Setting up a device is very cumbersome, hence consumers avoid doing it multiple times. According to a global consumer survey, 22% of consumers returned a device due to issues faced while configuring device settings. Also, implementing secure authentication is a huge problem in IoT devices, especially headless devices that do not have an input interface. Voice authentication is both ineffective and unreliable for use cases such as payment.
Trillbit’s Data over sound technology makes device setup and authentication 10x faster and ultra-secure. We are the only protocol, globally, that makes voice assistants compliant with the new payment directive (PSD2)

What steps can the Government take to encourage entrepreneurship, especially in the emerging tech space?
As I mentioned earlier early-stage funding is a problem for deep/emerging tech startups, Government should increase the number of grants for seed-stage to help more deep tech startups.

Tell us about your last round of funding? Are you looking at raising another round in the future?

We had raised $1.5M in August last year from Refex Capital and Good Growth Capital. To grow further we are looking to raise $4 M with a vision to reach $10 M ARR. Half of the round has been committed and we are looking to close the round by March.

Future plans of Trillbit

Data over sound technology is the next big thing in smart homes and the Industrial IoT environment. It can simplify the operations of service-based companies across multiple sectors and can deliver results even in unfavorable situations. Trillbit wants to be adopted as the standard for data over sound communication protocol.

What do you think?

Ravi Tilekar

Written by Ravi Tilekar

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