The idea for the Volterman smart wallet came to Armenian tech entrepreneur Azat Tovmasyan when his daughter Natalie lost her wallet. Combining sleek design and smart technology, that idea has now developed into a prototype wallet packed with digital technology. And EU support is helping the start-up he co-founded to take the product to market.
Volterman combines 5 smart functions: a built-in power bank, distance alarm, global GPS tracking, worldwide Wi-Fi hotspot, and thief detection camera.
According to Tovmasyan, the idea has come a long way since his daughter lost her wallet. “Some time passed before the idea evolved into a product. This journey started with Volterman bifold, now we have a cardholder, a travel wallet, a trackable passport cover and wireless charger. We are particularly proud that our products are marked 'Made in Armenia',” he notes.
For him, the uniqueness of the product lies not only in the electronic processor packed into a slim and elegant wallet, but also the idea to combine several features that customers need in something that they already use in their daily life, i.e. the wallet.
In 2017, the start-up received an EU-SMEDA Innovation Matching Grant (IMG), funded by the European Union under its EU4Business initiative. The company developed the first version of its product in 2017.
“Although the developed technology was sustainable we realised that we needed to improve it to meet market expectations. In order to do that we applied for and received an Innovation Matching Grant. We used the grant to cover some of the costs to develop the Volterman 2.0 series. The grant helped us develop more advanced technology that Volterman will use in all our products to be sold in retail markets," saidTovmasyan.
He added that EU countries were the primary target market for the Volterman wallet:
“EU customers are technologically advanced and like to have products that add efficiency to their lives. Also the average income of individuals living in EU countries make the EU one of our desired target markets."
Tovmasyansaid a recent crowdfunding campaign had given them the opportunity to test the market:"According to the results, the interest in the EU market for our product has been spectacular,” he added.
Getting this far has not been easy:“It was about working 24/7, overcoming challenges and correctly laying the path to the next stage of development. The biggest challenge was the hardware design of the technology since it was unique not only for Armenia but for other countries as well. The other issue was to find staff able to work with foreign markets and do customer support in line with modern requirements. We managed to find qualified people for these tasks and we were very much rewarded,” said Azat Tovmasyan.
In November 2018, Volterman was one of just six 6 start-ups from all over the world selected to participate in the prestigious AdAge Next innovation event in New York, with the opportunity to pitch live during the 'Next Titans' event before a panel of industry leaders.
“We are an IoT company and one of our goals is to permanently offer to the market new products that will use technologies and create new values for the customers. For the coming year we plan to present several new devices, particularly Volterman for Women wallet and the Volterman Smart Backpack,” concluded Azat Tovmasyan.
Since 2017, the ‘Support to SME Development in Armenia’ (EU-SMEDA) project, which is funded by the European Union under the EU4Business initiative and implemented by GIZ in cooperation with the Enterprise Incubator Foundation(EIF), has been supporting Armenian startups with two types of grant – Innovation Matching Grants (IMG) and Science and Technology Entrepreneurship (STEP) grants.