Founder & CEO of Alterface, Benoit Cornet, talks technology, travel and expansion in the Chinese Market
interview by Martin Palicki
Alterface has created interactive gaming technology for theme parks and attractions around the globe. InPark’s Martin Palicki spoke with Benoit Cornet on how the company is evolving to meet the needs of the Chinese marketplace and the importance of Asia to the larger industry.
ABOVE: Splashing UFO Rapid River. Courtesy Alterface.
How was Alterface first introduced to the Chinese market? How have you prepped yourself and the company to work in the region?
As is often the case, we were introduced through existing relationships and clients. Our first exposure to the Chinese market happened nearly 10 years ago. After a couple of years of working to acquire a good understanding of this market, we had our first sales and the work has been growing steadily ever since.
Doing business in China is all about patience. There is no way you can rush a decision. Sometimes you have to understand that an initial enthusiasm can lead to a great partnership, but not an immediate sale.
It is important to maintain a real presence there, and I personally visit China almost every month, together with establishing a very highly skilled team to be as local as we can. We truly enjoy working with Chinese customers, media vendors and equipment vendors. We are also happy to include consulting along with our technology for customers who might still be discerning the very specific aspects of such rides.
Do you have any tips for other European companies doing business in Asia?
Asia is not one geography; you have VERY, very diverse cultures and habits, so there is not one unique recipe. I would say that you really have to try and literally embrace this diversity and be eager to discover the specifics of each country you are working in. Being open and curious of everything is probably the most important quality.
How do you profile Alterface in Asia, and what communication channels do you use?
We deal with China through mostly personal contacts and social networks, in Mandarin. I personally have been learning the language for a couple of years in order to really develop a good feel on the market and how we can best serve it. China is a very connected country and it is easier to develop a personal relationship with customers than in some other places in the world.
You are personally taking a more prominent role in the industry. What events and organizations have been most important for you?
We are great fans of the Themed Entertainment Association [TEA]! This organization is really bringing a distinctive value to the industry and I truly believe that it will be instrumental in making the market progress in the future.
We are always taking part in the Asian trade shows although the investment required is large and some shows provide more return on that investment than others. We are increasingly active in between those events, as we believe that attractions and projects need to be experienced and discussed at length, which is sometimes difficult to experience at a trade show. I would like to see some of the trade organizations rethink how they operate in light of this, as needs are changing and competition grows.
In which directions are you hoping to move the company?
We have been active since 2001 in Augmented Reality, 3D vision, gesture detections and all sort of new haptic devices, so we are extremely choosy when it comes to selecting new directions. Our strategy in this respect is designed to identify long term needs, not surfing on the hype.
We are teaming up with universities and industry partners to make rides more emotionally evocative and experiences more intense. Oddly enough, we are a technology company that is not obsessed by technology. This is our very own approach to the world and we are proud of it. • • •