It all began five years ago in Grenoble, France, at CEA-Leti, the institute known worldwide for its work in micro/nanotechnologies. Tristan Hautson, Jean-Luc Vallejo, and Timothée Jobert, iskn’s three future founders met in an open innovation lab.
Taking advantage of the variety and complementarity of their expertise—engineering, marketing, and user experience—they began thinking about the various ways in which everyday objects could be used to interact naturally with the digital world.
Before long, they had the idea for a magnetic ring that could be tracked by a network of magnetic sensors. A team led by Tristan Hautson developed a solution that incorporated a user-centered approach to both writing and tangible, 3-D interaction.
The Success of a Crowdfunding Campaign
CEA-Leti’s 70 years of expertise in magnetometry were invaluable to the three men, who soon had something so promising that they decided to gauge its market potential: a device that could digitize lines drawn on paper would be a disruptive innovation, indeed.
Using the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter (and with Clément Rosset now on board), they decided to introduce a protective smart cover for the iPad that could digitize writing in real time.
Launched on September 10, 2013, the iSketchnote project was hugely successful, raising almost 350,000 euros in 30 days—ten times the initial goal. The project had 2,500 backers from 58 countries and received 300 mentions in the media.
Support from Eager, Big-Name Investors
Bolstered by their shared vision, the three founders decided to combine their complementary skills, founding iskn on February 14, 2014.
In the months that followed, they raised $2 million from big-name investors who were keen to back the product: Pascal Cagni, General Manager and Vice-President of Apple Europe from 2000 to 2012; Xavier Niel (Kima Ventures); CEA Investissement; and, leading the round, Partech Ventures.
French-Made, One of a Kind
Based in Grenoble, iskn quickly added a branch in the United States to reach its adoptive market. The company continues to consolidate its unique expertise to increase its technological lead.
To do this, it relies on a team of specialists in embedded systems and on the laboratory that it shares with CEA-Leti. A portfolio of about 20 patent families (to date) embodies the company’s singular expertise.
Design, production, and distribution for the Slate are based in France, meaning that iskn benefits from the knowledge and industry excellence of partners such as ST Microelectronics and Eolane. The Slate—made in France—has been available to the general public since October 1, 2015.