Illinois State entrepreneurs look to shake up e-commerce industry
A startup that received a big boost from Illinois State University is looking to make waves in the e-commerce industry.
Prisma is a collaboration between Illinois State seniors Isaac Dallas and Christopher Richards. Isaac’s brother Jacob handles operations and product engineering for the startup. Prisma started in 2016 after Richards and Dallas met while each was running campaigns for student government.
“Needless to say, we didn’t win any elections,” Richards said. “But we found out we work well together.”
Richards approached Isaac Dallas with some ideas he had concerning augmented reality technology. They credit Assistant Management and Qualitative Methods Chair Terry Noel with helping them refine their ideas into a business plan. Through this process, Prisma was born.
Fundamentally, Prisma allows companies to streamline the process of uploading product images and specifications through automation. According to Isaac Dallas, managing this information on e-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay is a major problem in the industry. Gathering images is time-consuming, managing the content is unwieldy, and the entire process is expensive.
It can cost businesses about $2,000 per product for photographers to take these kind images of products in a light-controlled environment. Prisma is focused on delivering this product information to retailers in a more efficient and cost-effective way.
Despite the difficulty, managing this information is important. Online consumers want to simulate the experience of going to a store and see a product from all angles.
“Managing and generating product content is really hard,” Isaac Dallas said. “But it is worth it. A study conducted by eBay showed that you can increase revenues by up to five percent simply by having higher quality content.”
To capture these images, Prisma’s team has constructed a large dome structure that the scanned item is placed in. Within the dome, there are rows of lights that can be adjusted as needed, which allows them to eliminate unwanted shadows. From here, cameras capture high definition 2-D, 360 views, video and 3-D models of the product and upload them to their content management platform, called XSPACE. The dome is constructed in a way that allows it to be scaled larger or smaller as needed.
The product data are saved within the XSPACE software platform to be used for e-commerce websites. Companies can purchase these data from Prisma for a fraction of traditional product photography.
The George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has offered critical support for this project.
“The Means Center was able to help us supply a grant from the Yarger Entrepreneurial Support Fund that allowed us to expand from a simple robot to the structure you see today,” Isaac Dallas said. “They were also able to get us into a deeper network of entrepreneurs and get us contact points to potential clients. The mentors they put us in touch with are as valuable as any grant.”
“They also helped us navigate all of the legal pratfalls that come from starting a company,” Richards added. “It was great to meet people who have done this before and have scaled up a company.”
Prisma is currently operating out of Charleston, Illinois, but will soon be moving to its permanent headquarters in Chicago. It is in the process of finalizing the terms with its first major client. The team is attending startup expos in the coming months, including an event in Portugal in November. Through these events, Prisma hopes to pick up additional funding and expand its client base.
With the support Prisma has received from Illinois State, the company is ready to change e-commerce one photo at a time.
“We have been told by people within the industry that if we solve this problem, we will revolutionize the e-commerce industry,” Richards said. “Thanks to Illinois State, we are well on our way.”