March 9, 2023

Revolutionizing In-Store Advertising Using Robotic Displays with Ionut Vlad

Revolutionizing In-Store Advertising Using Robotic Displays with Ionut Vlad

Ionut Vlad is the founder of TokiNomo. TokiNomo is an in-store advertising solution that uses robotic displays to increase engagement and sales. In this conversation, Ionut shares his journey creating Tokinomo.

For example, he recounts how he and a group of entrepreneurs had two weeks to create 30 prototypes for a beer company, which they managed to do with the help of a carpenter friend and some quick solutions from a shoemaker friend.😂

Tokinomo has had success with pilot and full-fledged campaigns, such as one involving a beer bottle that dances and talks and another called Maggie's Singing Pot Goes Rival which has had over 1 million views on social media.

Do you wish to connect with our special guest?

Visit Tokinomo’s website:

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Past Guests:


Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Irina Obushtarova, Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.


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#73 Eva Vucheva - How Bulgarian Startup founder Eva Vucheva is empowering producers to reduce their environmental footprint


Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website:

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at


Hey, for decades, retail has relied on the same old in-store marketing and visual merchandising technique. To increase engagement and sales, things like cardboards sampling campaigns, price cuts, but not anymore. My guest today is Romanian entrepreneur Ila, who founded Tokyo NoMo. NoMo is an in-store advertising solution for the modern age.

Imagine a robotic display that comes to life when it senses a person walking by with projected revenue of 2 million for 2023. I'm fascinated to chat with yo nut about this interactive approach to advertising. Iu. Welcome to Innovators Can Laugh Hilu, thank you very much for the invitation and I don't know thank you for watching us and hope it's going to be.

Yeah. All right. Let's start with a series of quick questions here. First one is, would you rather have $25,000 in cash or dinner with Reid Hoffman? I would say probably dinner because . I already have 25,000 in cash. I dunno, it's just arrogant of me to say that, but . Yeah, . Okay. Next question. What is an unusual object in your, in your home?

Unusual object. Unusual, okay. Okay. I. I, I have. Okay. I'm not sure if how unusual it is. It, it's a, it's a lantern, it's a, with a very strong light, red light that I use sometimes to heal you know back pains, for example, or rein injuries like you know, I rashes or anything like that. So it's kind of of an alternative method.

So it's not. I'm not sure how scientific it is, but I use it anyway. So does it work? I, I, I'm not sure if it's placebo or not, but I think that it works, so I use it . Okay. All right. Next question. A game of snooper or chess, what, which, which would you prefer? I would say no because it's more entertaining chess, although, I mean it requires math actually require a lot of skill, but in, no, you can play, I don't know, and have fun and lose in the same time while with chess.

If you're losing, it's simply, it sucks. So . Okay. Next question. Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? Yes. Yes, actually, so I have a story about it. There is a famous. Band of I dunno how you call them in English, is basically some gypsy popular Romanian music, but they are famous like throughout the world.

It's called the of the I think. I'm not sure. Maybe you've heard of them. They sang with in Paris with Johnny Tepp, who they've been in movies, I dunno, Jim Jamo. So they're quite. and I've been to one of their concerts. And in the break, during the break I was sitting next to one of the guys and he came to me and hugg me and asked me, how's my mother

And I said, don't, no. Why? She's fine, I guess. Yes. And he was a little bit bothered, but then I didn't disclose the fact that that was the first time I saw, saw himself . Okay. Okay. And next question for you. What is the most deaf. Defining act you've ever done. I, death defying act, death defining act.

Okay. Well it was something stupid, so don't try this. , they all are right. The the most I know. So I was quite young. I was like I dunno. About maybe 13 or less, I think. And with the couple of my colleagues, I actually I traveled with the tram, but between the how do you call the railroad tracks, the tracks.

Yeah. You see, you know, the, the, the tramps Yeah. Have different, how do you call them? The different like side mirrors or doors or No, no, there is, it's like two pieces combined together. The joints, the connector. Yeah. Yeah. Connecting connect. Right. So how do you call the individual? Like in the trains you have multiple, what, how do you call those?

Yeah. You have the automotive and then, oh, the caboose. It's not really the caboose, but you can just refer to it as the caboose. Okay. So I travel outside the tram basically, and I was literally shitting my pants. Sorry for the language. I, it was the most stupid thing ever. And the people in the tram imagine that they were yelling at me.

To to come down immediately while the was, was working, you know, was driving. So that was like, because, you know, it's, it's really, I think bits you know gliding or, you know, How long were you, how long were you riding like this? Well, a couple of stations like three, four. Because I, I needed to go home, you know, , so it was not like you know, we have the grads to do that, so of course I do.

I, you know, I'm man, and but that was like, you know, very stupid. , not so much. I had, I had an uncle who took the train. But he rode the train like that and the train was going so fast there wasn't a stop near, near the house. So he jumped off while the train was probably going about, I don't know, maybe 70 kilometers.

And he heard himself really bad and he called us from a payphone and we had to pick him up and he was in agony and paying the whole night. We should have taken him to the hospital, but luckily you're okay. It sounds like you didn't have to jump off your train, right? Yeah. Okay. All right. So how do you, how did you get started in combining advertising and technology together?

Because you're an advertising man, so when was that moment that you thought, Hey, I, I think I have something here. Well, it's so I, I think technology by itself doesn't mean much. It's how you use it. So for me, technology is not a purpose in itself. It's more like a, a mean to do something. So, yes, I had a big one in advertising that led me to the Tomo idea and to kind of revolutionize the Torical advertising.

And by, in order to do that, I needed technology. I have no idea on technology. I was completely. Well, I, I had some, some skills in programming because I was like it was more like a hobby. So I read some books. Nothing professional, but I had some, you know, ideas about it. But especially on the hardware side, I had absolutely no clues.

Whatsoever, but you know, I had to do it. So this is how I ended up doing it. Okay. What was the first I guess the first experiment, the first customer, the first brand. That you had the the opportunity to install, you know, a to NoMo or what, whatever you referred to it back then. So who was that first client?

Mm-hmm. . Well, the first client, I would say it was a big beer company. And we went to there headquarters presenting two prototypes. And they said, yes, we like it and we want in two weeks. Campaigning 30 stories. The trick was that we only had two prototypes, you know, . So basically we needed to make 30 more prototypes.

Yeah. Cause we didn't have a complete product at that time. And we work like crazy night and day in a garage. We had a friend who used to be a Carpent painter and he had a garage. And we worked there, you know, all nonstop basically. So we literally finished in the Dell and we finalized the whole process in the day of the installation, I remember the last thing was putting the labels on the boxes, and that was then at the print shop across the street from his garage.

So it was, it was crazy. What did the prototype do that was, that caught the attention of the beer executives? Well, it was the same concept, so it was, Well, pretty much in line with our current product, except you didn't have any any connectivity. So it was quite simple, it was quite bulky and certainly not reliable.

Actually it was let me tell you some some funny parts because we managed to make those Prototypes we went to with a couple of friends in the stores to install them. And then I remember next day I had like I was in a meeting because I was working, you know, I was an employee. And I had like 20 missed calls, , and then I, after the meeting, all the, all the devices were basically not working anymore because the beer was quite heavy.

We didn't take that into account. The beer was quite heavy and did damage somehow the, the mechanism. and we needed to find a quick solution. And we tried the following things a turtle seat cut into pieces to put some pieces in the machine to, to you know, make it more sturdy. Okay. We also used erasing.

And then the final solution. Now another solution was you know, rubber fit sauce. This is how you From the shoe. Yeah. Where this guy, guy, the friend was, he had a friend who was a shoemaker, right. And by the way, he was drunk at that time. It sounds like you guys are just looking around the garage, like, okay, let's try that over there.

Okay, let's try that over there. This is why we did, we did it. And then finally we found some solution with some bent aluminum you know bars. And that helped, you know, but that was a disaster. I mean, the first few days we, we were, I mean, it was completely, but we managed to solve it right in, I mean in the four, in 24 hours, we managed to, you know, make it work and repairable devices.

So that was like crazy. You were driving to all the stores, were they in the same city, the stores? Yes. That helped. So the city, the it, they were rolling because, and Oh, I heard a couple of friends, we were like six guys driving by crazy you know, in the night asking the shopkeepers to, you know, open the door for us and this kind of stuff.

Yeah. Yes. And we, we were repairing them in the parking lots, you know? Yeah. We, we, we had the, you know, car with the, with the trunk and all the tools. . So, because we didn't have time to bring them back to the garage. Yeah, yeah. . Okay. So what were the shopkeepers. Or the managers of these stores or, or even customers that were walking by that you got to see their reaction.

Like what was the initial reaction that you saw people who first saw this, do you remember? Well, we didn't, honestly, that campaign I don't think we paid attention too much to that because we were too stressed to make to, you know, for the device to work. So that was our top priority. But then we managed to, we had to, you know, more and more either pilot or full-fledged campaigns, and we actually started to look and record those.

We have a couple of interesting videos about that, to see the live reaction of people. And of course the, yeah, I cannot say that, you know, everybody loves what we are doing, but the reaction in general, it's it's pretty great. You will see people you know, laughing. And talking with the, with the product.

And you know, we have some you know, instances where kids especially are, you know, like crazy about it. And for example, actually with the beer campaign, I have one reaction. There was a lead girl with with her mom, right? And the girl said to her, mom, mom the beer is dancing. It, it is picking with me and the mother replied, no, it, it cannot happen.

It's like you are inventing stuff. This, I'm inventing this stuff, you know? It's not real and no mommy, I'm telling you it's real with me. Come on. Nothing for this. You are clearly making this happen. And then they went to the shelf and saw the bottle. You know, really. Dancing and talking with the, with them

Okay. Now, for anybody who goes to tokyo, there's a lot of different campaigns that you can look at. There's one I wanna ask you about Yoou, and it's the Maggie's singing pot. Goes rival. This one sounds very interesting. What's really special about this one and and why do people get fascinated with it?

That's an interest, also an interesting story. It was an idea who came from a guy in Bolivia and our partner there pitched the idea to Nestle and they did it in a couple of store. What they didn't expect was the vital aspect of it because they filmed it and they put it on Facebook, I think first Uhhuh

And they had like something like 1 million views over 1 million views. Oh, wow. Well I think obviously it's a special exhibition. It's not uh, so common to see singing pots you. In you know, life in a, in a store. So obviously it's and you could see the people's reaction. It was a simple thing, you know, it's a simple idea and quite a simple execution.

But obviously it's memorable, so it's something that I, I believe. It shows the potential of talking all because you can make this kind of special moments with the shoppers. You know, if you can, if there's a brand, you can make the shoppers, you know, laugh, interact, talk about it. I mean, that is, I think gold.

You know, normally number people in the shop, they are no board. They just want to get out of there. Yeah. They have a shopping list. It's nothing interesting in a, in a supermarket, let's face it. But if you can. That interesting. And make it, you know, entertaining. Yeah, I think that is super. Yeah. Okay. Here in Bucharest right now, is there a store I can go to and see a campaign live right now?

Yeah, I think so. I, I don't have them back heart, but I, if you want Yes, I can send you the list because we have, you know, the list in our cloud, so I guess I can Okay. Yeah. When you get time, tell me, so what's coming down the road in the next 12 months that you're really excited about as it relates to your business?

Hmm. I am most excited about the products that we are going to launch. Launch. I'm not gonna tell you too much about it. But I'm quite excited about them because look, we, we've initially we started this as a one product company. And then so it was an idea then it developed into a product, then it developed into a company, and now we need to take this vision and to apply it further and we need to expand on it.

So we want to build a company around interactive in-store marketing, technology and data you. Advanced data. So this is what we are doing, and we are about to launch a couple of interesting products. I think they're very much in line with what is happening currently in the world with some of it might solve I mean they might solve some of the, you know, issues with you know, getting more accurate data to be able to analyze the market because these are challenging times for the.

And also we have a solution that might be you know, easier to implement, more scalable which in times like this, I, I think it'll really help, you know, to make it more even affordable for the brands to have something innovative at in their stores. Yeah, in the stores. So I think we are, you know, ready for the challenges ahead, and I'm excited.

Bring those products. Cool. What kind of data can brands get right now if they're if they're, you know, using tomo? Mm-hmm. , well, we have a kind of like a standard package and that is Let's say we, we can get you an estimation on the foot traffic and also the number of interactions between the robot and the, the clients.

But on top of that, one of the products that we are about to launch I think we will be able to get the brands almost all the data they can think of in terms of. You know, what the shoppers are doing around the, their product, if they are looking at it, how much time they spent what is their gender, age, their moods you know, so almost everything that you can think of in terms of customer behavior in, in or around the product.

Okay. Okay. So listen, you, you're, you're very innovative and I'm just wondering, have you had any ideas for businesses. That you're not necessarily starting or working on, but you think, Hey, someone should really try to capitalize on this, on this idea. You're wondering why hasn't anybody done it yet? Yes.

Yeah. I, I have plenty of these ideas and I'm always know, frustrated that I cannot do it . But sometimes I you know, pass along with this idea, sometimes not. I have this habit of thinking and you know, imagining things, things, and of course some of the probably are crazy. But some of them, I think they can actually, you know, work or give us when one for example 1, 1, 1, I have many.

I'm not sure. It was a couple of, I think two years ago I had this conversation here in the office with my colleagues and I told, now look how about if we are using you know, regular people as kind of mini influencer? On social media and we kind of, instead of paying a lot of money to one influencer, you could have, you can pay very little to a bunch of you know, nobody or many influencers.

And that was nothing then, you know. But now, while even in Romania, there are two companies doing that. And one of them actually is quite, you know, good and they're. I think it's, it, it's a thing. But back then was, you know, nobody had this concept. So, yeah, of course I didn't do anything robotic. And of course my colleagues said it was a stupid idea.

I forgot the amount that's been going into influencer marketing, but it's, it's definitely growing and surpassing a lot of other channels out there. Last question for you, EO Newt, instead of a fear of failure, You have a fear of. Blank, fill in that blank for us. Instead of a feel, fear of failure, you have a fear of mm-hmm.

Well, I'm gonna be quite you know, banal here and nothing fancy. I think it's a human thing. I theory. Probably disease a lot. I mean, this is like heart disease, like something that will make it hard on me and my family. I think that's the, I mean, death, you know, if it's quick, then I think it's okay.

Okay. But disease, lung disease, and. , you know, something like cancer and that it's quite nasty and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. . All right. All right, IEO, thank you so much for being on. Innovators can laugh. For everybody listening, I will include links to Tokyo NoMo in the show notes. And if you enjoy this episode, find us on YouTube, Oromo Tokyo NoMo , find us on YouTube or TikTok, and feel free to give us a review.

Thanks ou for coming on the show. Appreciate you. Thank you, Alex, for having me. Yeah, my pleasure. Okay, bye.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it if you could give us a review and star rating. Also, don't forget to sign up for the ICO where you can get the bio and details of each guest. Thanks.