What is the biggest challenge launching startup? As many start-up’s representatives say the main problem is to gather an excellent team of experienced professionals. What else? To do things you understand best and solve the real problems of society. We found a startup that fully complies with everything described above – it is called Pocket Virtuality. They develop sophisticated systems for VR/AR focusing on client’s needs – server apps in engineering and medicine.
Recently we had a conversation with Jan Hovora, CEO of Pocket Virtuality. Here is what we found out about such an interesting and quite a successful project.
What is Pocket Virtuality?
Pocket Virtuality is a startup focusing on AR/VR in enterprise industry. We develop our own technology and platform.
When and how did you get the idea to create such a project?
The company was established in 2016 when originally our target was a b2c segment at mobile VR platforms, but we soon recognized that it was too early for that segment and there was not enough interesting advanced systems that we wanted to develop. So we moved to HoloLens and AR. After my visit to Italy at the time of the earthquake I get an idea to develop a system for expert teleportation to place, we made some first implementation and found investors.
Why did you choose such areas as engineering and medicine (perhaps, there is something else) to provide your solutions?
We want to do something that will be really useful and make AR/VR more than just a toy. So we decided not to go into entertainment.
Another reason is a business side. I think that in the current situation happened in the industry the best way is to focus on enterprise.
Do you have any worthy competitors, and how do you deal with them?
We don’t know anybody who works on remote presence, but there are a lot of competitors that work on remote assistance. In production, 50% of success depends on the product. The same importance has an ability to understand your customer’s needs, understand their processes, ability to interconnect your solution to their systems.
What are your competitive advantages? What helps you to maintain a strong position in the market?
Unlike many of our competitors, we are developing on our own 3D engine and computer vision methods, so we have total control over our code. That is important from security and performance reasons and our customers know that we have a deep understanding of technology.
Are there any weaknesses in your product in your opinion? If yes, what kind?
As we are focusing on HoloLens and using our own technology, it’s our advantage but also a weakness – we are not a universal platform supplier.
Is this the first your startup or did you have another one previously? What are these projects and on what stages they are?
I was also at the beginning of Bohemia Interactive and its co-founder, so I spent almost 20 years there. That is the biggest Czech computer game company with around 400 employees.
If you do not mind my asking, what was the investment amount for project creation and initial promotion? Was it an investor’s money or your personal savings? If it was an investor’s help, could you tell us how you found him?
At the very beginning, we invested some personal savings, after that, we raised around 1M$ investment from the fund. We found them on startup exhibition.
What experts were indispensable at the stage of creating and launching a project?
Most of the team members have over 15 years of experience in real-time computer graphics.
Who are your customers? What kind of requests do they make?
Our customers are from automotive industry (Skoda Auto as a part of Volkswagen group), aerospace (Aero Vodochody), nuclear engineering (Skoda JS). We also work on some projects from smart cities area.
What were the challenges during the launch and how did you cope with them?
We are still in a stage of concepts proving, so it’s too early to talk about that. But what we can see right now, most challenging will be incorporating of our applications into infrastructure and processes of our customers.
What are the most effective approaches for your product promotion?
The best for us work exhibitions in cooperation with our customers and articles in professional magazines.
What startups do you have a partnership with and how does this help you promote your project?
We don’t have a special partnership with any startups. On smart cities project, we cooperate (using map data) with a startup named Mellown, but we don’t use it for any promoting.
How to start promoting a young technology project in your opinion?
It really depends on your product and your customers. In our case, the industry of enterprise is the best way to attend exhibitions and conferences that are focused on industry and digitalization.
What of your knowledge and skills were useful while launching the project?
As I am a co-founder of Bohemia Interactive, I spent about 20 years in computer simulation industry. Technologies developing by us are not far from principles that are used there.
Would you recommend to startuppers to subscribe for the pages of any Internet communities able to provide them with some helpful information? Which ones?
We use Slack with HoloDelevelopers group and MS developers forums. There are people there that try to solve similar problems and sometimes they can help, same as we can help them.
If there were no Pocket Virtuality, what another project would you develop?
Probably it is some general AI stuff. I expect that in the near future we will try to implement some machine learning algorithms also in Pocket Virtuality.
How do you see further development of your project?
We are still developing our platform. The next step will be to transform that platform as software as service (SaaS) to have scalable universal solution for much more customers.
What is the most valuable business advice you’ve ever received?
Never give up and focus on customers needs, otherwise, you will develop something that no one will use.
*Non-native speakers took part in an interview.
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