Most SMBs aren't exploring all opportunities, says Cappel

Industry veteran is working to help SMBs grow their business through augmented reality

Luigi Cappel left GeoSmart in July last year after eight years with the company but he hasn't strayed far from the geolocation business. He has since taken up the role of chief operations officer at Imersia, a startup marketing services company specialising in mobile, augmented reality and location-based services. When he's not at Imersia, he's also busy running SoLoMo, his own consultancy company, so a day's work in Cappel's life sees him moving in a variety of directions.

Imersia is currently working on setting up a reseller network, both local and global, for its services.

"We want to grow as a global company. To do that we need investors, which we are currently seeking, and we will develop a network of resellers and collaboration partners to take our technology throughout New Zealand and around the world," says Cappel.

The company is working on a number of concepts, including an application that allows people to point their mobile's camera at a logo or an advertisement image (or at a physical product) and see a video (for example on how to operate a cool new binding machine) and then get navigation instructions to the nearest reseller from their current location.

"We are about to start putting together a reseller network for this low cost solution which will bring direct mail, magazines and other print and visual media to life and make it exciting, and drive people to retailers and other businesses to buy product," Cappel says.

Additionally, Imersia is also working on experiential marketing games for brands (for example, 3D animated pets that users can play with, while at the same time being informed about pet health and other needs), augmented reality games, guerilla marketing (such as treasure hunts, etc).

"Augmented reality is about adding information to people in ways that they enjoy accessing it," Cappel explains. "It adds value to all industries including education, tourism, retail, health, transport, sustainability and government.Because we are in New Zealand and not Silicon Valley, we are giving fellow Kiwi businesses a chance to make exciting things happen in our own locality and time zone, whether they want to do this at a macro level as a SME, or grow into much larger businesses. It could be generating business for a little store in Tuakau or a global entertainment experience."

Cappel says these technologies offer "a huge opportunity for SMBs" and says he wants to collaborate with them to help them grow. "Are they [SMBs] exploring the opportunities? Mostly no they aren't, in fact most companies aren't. They can't because they are focused in their business and can't see the wood for the trees," he says. "I'm trying to help, particularly with presentations to groups, conferences, consultancy and also with my blogs and some books I am planning on writing this year. Last week I co-presented to a group of West Auckland tourism operators at ATEED, next week I am presenting to a main-street organisation in Tuakau. There are businesses looking for new ideas, but too many are not. The challenge for me is to challenge, educate and inspire them."

Cappel is currently busy working through go to market strategies with the Imersia team to help businesses make the most out of that "where" part of things. "For example we are about to launch an exciting new augmented reality solution for use in print and other visual advertising and we are looking at how to access a reseller network," he says.

Cappel remembers days of cold calling and says he learned a lot about business by knocking on doors. "Owning several small businesses myself gave me a thorough understanding of all aspects of business. Seven years at Monaco Corporation as a divisional manager with an awesome reseller network and some great brands gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about distribution, international business and using big data. Eight years at GeoSmart allowed me to learn an incredible amount about location based services which has led me to my latest journey," he says. "Other important aspects have been stepping up in unpaid community and business roles, serving on committees in the past including president of the Wireless Forum, vice president of SMEI, founding the Casio World VAR network, president of Glenfield Music Centre and others."

He believes this is an exciting time to be in the industry, in spite of all the economic troubles, and that those who persevere will come out on top. "History tells us that some of the greatest business names in the world came out of recessions. The issue is the mental attitude of the business leaders. Those who innovate their way through today's economy will be tomorrow's leaders. I get frustrated with companies who run their business decisions from a spreadsheet without talking to their customers and then wonder why they go broke. I love companies who open their doors and invite me in for a look," he adds.

Q+A

Where do you live now and where did you grow up and have lived before?

I was born in the Netherlands and came to New Zealand as a toddler. I then moved back and went to school in Holland for a couple of years and then back here again. I have lived most of my life in Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson.

Are you married? Kids?

Happily married for almost 30 years and so is my wife. We have two adult children, one a school teacher and the other a marketing manager and mother with an awesome 4-year old granddaughter who fights me for rights to use my iPad.

When you were little, what did you think you would be when you grew up?

A biochemist. I had an aunt who worked for Philips in the Netherlands looking for a cure for the cold. I also wanted to be a professional musician and did that part time, but not enough to pay the bills.

Do you have any favourite sports?

I used to race land yachts (I had a Winger Class 5) and love skiing. These days my main sport (for want of a better word) is walking.

And your favourite website?

I'm a serial networker and spend time each day on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Not exactly a website but Flipboard would be one of my favorite apps for staying in touch with the world.

What's your drink of choice?

Gentleman Jack followed by Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey which was launched the week I was at the Lynchburg distillery last year.

If you weren't in technology, what would you be doing?

I'd be a professional songwriter.

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