CEO Julia Lerner Talks About Seeing a Project Through Start-to-Finish! | Unveiling GearEye!


Quote: …I had kind of just looked at it and thought, “You know, why isn’t there a way for me to track my important gear?” It didn’t have to be a complicated matter, my brain insisted. I knew that it was possible… And as such, an idea was born.

Julia Lerner and her team of talented software developers and engineers at GearEye have been working on a project for the last half a decade (since 2016!)

This project had been Julia’s “baby” if you will. Something that she thought up to solve a problem she had dealt with and knew that many others would appreciate. And, sure enough, it didn’t take long before supporters began popping up for their crowdfunding efforts.

Now, she shares with us the lesser-known details of “Geareye’s” journey from start to finish to help other hopeful entrepreneurs find the confidence they need to start their own ventures (and, by doing so, avoid the mistakes she herself had made while working on her own personal project.)

Continue reading this in-depth interview to learn more about Julia Lerner and the conception and development of the “GearEye Scanner”!

First! An introduction! Please give us a brief introduction that our readers can get to know you from! Who is Julia Lerner?

Julia Lerner: Well, you can call me Julia! I’m the founder and CEO of GearEye Inc. The GearEye scanner was truly my baby for the past half a decade or so.

But, before that, I worked as a software developer and engineer for medical imaging companies (like Philips and General Electric!)

What made you decide to invent your Tag&Find product?

Julia Lerner: It really was just something that came to me at the time. And, because of personal experience in managing and developing other similar projects (for other companies, of course), I decided to give it a try for myself.

How did you end up getting the idea for the GearEye Scanner?

Julia Lerner: I think my experience wasn’t all that different from what others interested in inventing might have felt at one point in their lives.

The idea had truly just come to me during a trip from Israel to Germany. Kind of like a flash of inspiration, one that kept beating me over the head until I worked it out — and continued to take residence in my head even after I had exhausted myself in research.

Please tell us some more about this flash of inspiration! Don’t hold back on our account, any details you could share would be great!

Julia Lerner: As mentioned, the idea came to me during a trip from Israel to Germany. It was 2015 then. I was really looking forward to this trip, but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find my passport! Of course, not wanting to miss my flight, I rushed to get it renewed.

I ended up having to pay $500 to get a new passport. And, regardless of that fact, I still ended up missing my flight. I had to take another one — much later than I had intended.

Only to realize upon getting there that I had actually had my old passport the entire time! Picture that. I was in my hotel in Germany, having already made use of my new passport to be allowed on to my flight. Then, once I got there (late), I find my old passport!

And it was in the most obvious place too! Not even hidden under anything, I had just stuffed it in one of the outer pockets of my bag.

In understandable despair, I had kind of just looked at it and thought, “You know, why isn’t there a way for me to track my important gear?” It didn’t have to be a complicated matter, my brain insisted. I knew that it was possible. RFID tags and stickers as well as RFID scanners existed back then. Just not on a non-industrial scale, usually. And as such, an idea was born.

What was the early development like for you? When it was just you, trying to work out how this new product could reasonably be developed?

Julia Lerner: It was… inspired. That’s the only way I could describe it. Because that’s what I was at the time. Just very very inspired and excited to fill this niche in the market as soon as I could.

I remember starting my research on RFID tracking and other forms of equipment monitoring while I was still in Germany. And, by the time I was on my way back to Israel? I already had a good idea of what kind of product I wanted to create.

Before we go deeper into the development process, can you tell us a little more about GearEye? Just to make sure that our readers who are unfamiliar with it will have something to stand on.

Julia Lerner: GearEye is what we like to call “The Ultimate Gear Management System.” With it, you can both organize and track your gear — so that you always have what you need, when you need it. To put that in perspective for you, let’s go back to my passport experience…

At that time, if I had GearEye with me (and I could very well have if it was invented back then, as it’s both compact and affordable), I would have been able to find my passport in an instant by using the GearEye scanner. So long as I had tagged my passport beforehand, it would have been included in GearEye’s equipment monitoring.

This makes it a very good tool to have for professionals who are constantly on the go. The handheld reader is very intuitive and making use of the RFID tags is equally as simple.

Alright, now that we’ve reviewed what we’re talking about. Are you open to talking about the process of actually getting GearEye developed?

Julia Lerner: Sure! And, well, the first thing I did was find people — the right kind of people, of course, who were willing to join me in my goal to make this product a reality.

I was very fortunate on the account that Israel had a generous fountain of opportunities and connections. There, I not only found people that I could learn from, but also other entrepreneurs and investors that were willing to listen to my hopes for GearEye. I spent a lot of time there, just learning from the veterans in the industry and taking in the world of entrepreneurship.

I never saw myself as a natural entrepreneur, to be honest. But, after GearEye, I was invested in learning all that I could to make my hopes into reality.

If you want my advice in this regard, I suggest that you make connections and hoard any opportunities that you can, whenever you can — until you’re content with what you’ve learned (which, from a certain perspective, you should never be!)

What did you do after recruiting your team?

Julia Lerner: With the right people on board, we started working on the first iterations of GearEye almost instantly — just so that we could have something that we could show to the people who would, in the future, help us fund the project.

The original plan had been to find a way to quickly and easily track items on a Smartphone. The idea was feasible at the time, but I wasn’t quite content with it. The only tags that would work for phones were very expensive (a.i., Bluetooth tags, which cost $20-30.)

It also didn’t fit the image in my head. Since those tags were usually very bulky (and required batteries, besides). So, we scrapped that idea and moved on to the next.

How many iterations did GearEye end up going through?

Julia Lerner: We made two attempts before settling on the final one. That took us several years of research and development spent solving problem after problem.

This, as you can guess, was pretty mentally exhausting. To give you some perspective on the kind of issues we had to work out: Because we weren’t content with the bulky Bluetooth tags, we opted for RFID stickers instead. We had to compare the benefit of a slimmer tag profile and cheaper price tag (RFID stickers cost only $0.10 each) to the longer-range Bluetooth tags.

In any case, we came out with the two prototypes, as mentioned. A cover case for smartphones and a stand-alone device (or a mock-up version of it that we ultimately ended up having to redo because of all the revision we did) was created.

At what stage of production are you in now?

Julia Lerner: With people finally having received their own GearEye scanners, we’re way over the initial development stage.

The only development we’re doing now is working behind the scenes to continue making improvements to equipment monitoring in the GearEye app and fixing bugs as they are reported by our customers. I guess you can say that, now that we’ve finished production, our only goal is to make sure that it manages to continue serving the purpose we created it for.

Which, as we like to say, is: “Let your mind focus on the work, let GearEye focus on the gear.”

Now, skipping back the process a bit, can you tell us a little about what crowdfunding was like for you?

Julia: Well, I could confidently say that our crowdfunding was ultimately a success. There were plenty of people eager to join in on our enthusiasm for making GearEye a reality. This left us open to developing the product in full.

So, you were able to get through the experience without any problems?

Julia: Oh, I would definitely not say that. In fact, I made quite a few mistakes when it came to managing our financial situation. As mentioned before, my work history set me firmly in the ‘research and development’ department as far as expertise went.

In my excitement to be as involved as I could be with the production of GearEye, I became kind of blind to our financial issues. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that, at one point, the situation got so bad that I had to stop development to go back and raise more capital.

That’s definitely not something I would recommend anyone else ever doing, by the way. It should always be the other way around. Otherwise, it gets very very difficult to keep a project moving forward — or, in some cases, existing at all.

What other problems did you run into that you think other entrepreneurs can learn from?

Julia: Don’t forget your supporters and backers. If you’re intending to go with crowdfunding as we had, this is of the utmost importance.

Again, at some point, my hyper-focus on development blinded me to this issue and it hit the company quite hard because of it… Suffice to say, I know better now!

How about more recent issues, have there been any problems in manufacturing?

Julia: As you might have expected, GearEye, like everyone else, was impacted by the pandemic pretty significantly. Perhaps not to the extent as other companies, certainly, but we’ve had to adjust our plans accordingly on several occasions to account for all the limitations.

For example, we’ve had to deal with massive delays on the components we needed for manufacturing. Some of the tags that we had hoped to include in our kit also had to be removed (because those companies were also suffering through delays.)

What direction do you wish to take GearEye in the future?

Julia: We plan to continue making improvements, of course. As mentioned earlier, our goal now is to make sure that we’re providing the kind of product that we promised.

There are other tag-and-find-items products that have recently come out in the market. How, would you say, is GearEye better than the competition?

Julia: In the end, it all comes down to the value in the product that we’re offering.

There are definitely similar other products out there, but I believe that our GearEye is able to stand strong by existing in its own space. Getting down to more technical aspects, we were, of course, very careful about every single feature that we came out with.

For example, our tags, in comparison to other competitors, are very low-cost. That makes tagging even several hundred products a day very doable — if that’s something that you require! Said tags are also very slim and have a solid 1-3 meters in coverage.

The final price for our handheld RFID scanner is also comparatively less than other competitors out there. When I had been initially researching RFID products (this is way back during my trip to Germany), I had been surprised to find that the cheapest RFID scanners at the time were around $1,000 each. Comparatively, our GearEye, which costs below $300, is much more affordable. (And this comes with a kit with 40 tags included, by the way!)

Do you use GearEye in your day-to-day life?

Julia: But of course! There was no way that I wouldn’t. I can easily and shamelessly admit that I’m quite ADHD. I’m not very good at focusing on important things and get distracted by just about anything. So, you better believe that I’m making the most out of having such a tool so readily available in my arsenal! I never go without it, in fact.

You can take this as personal pride, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, because I’m definitely 100% proud of what we accomplished. But, I’m not sure I could live without it now that I’ve had it, you know? It’s just that kind of product for me.