TL; DR: We presented at Demo Day. Yay. Look for Sarabeth reppin' at 31:30
Stitchbridge presented at AlphaLab's Demo Day on Nov. 2 at Stage AE in PIttsburgh. Along with a strong cohort of companies which include AR, FinTech and AI Wearables, we pitched a 5 minute summary of our company, its progress and demo'd our VR experience to the attendance of 500+ investors, entrepreneurs, community members and press. See us here, and Sarabeth (in all her orange-shirted glory) at 31:30, or skip around to the other companies / product launch announcements.
AlphaLab comes to a close, and it's been a crazy experience of learning everything we didn't know we did not know about starting a business. But now, we know, right? As we think about the lessons learned over the last few weeks, the biggest takeaways for us are obvious lessons for new entrepreneurs. There’s a reason that whole industries have flourished under the guise of offering advice to would-be CEOs and founders — we do not aspire to give advice.
These thoughts were relevant for us, and since we have a blog, it demands content! And *Content* it shall have! Enjoy:
- Concrete tasks to accomplish concrete goals - similar principles behind SCRUM, but this keeps things in perspective as the monumental delusion of your decision to start a company threatens to overwhelm your soul.
- Practice and perfect your message - fluency in your company mission and product details grants confidence, which grants legitimacy which hopefully gets people to hire / invest in what you offer.
- Lose the naivete - handshake deals won't pan out. It's worse than dating, honestly.
- Public speaking will never stop being scary - unless it never was in the first place, you freak of nature.
- Monthly recurring revenue - this is like the MSG of startup life - gives umami, can't quite pinpoint how much you need, source of consternation for many.
- If you are a woman founder or POC founder, you will be on all the promotional materials. Make sure you don't have messy hair.
This short post was disconcertingly exhausting to write, so we shall abandon any pretense of trying to be insightful, and fill the remaining space with pictures!
About 2 weeks ago, Jack and Jaehee set off to Oculus Connect 4 in San Jose while Sarabeth held down the fort in Pittsburgh.
Jack's experience at OC4:
On the announcement for Oculus GO and Project Santa Cruz:
It's great to see Oculus make the VR device more portable and convenient. Since the price goes down, this will help spur more people to embrace the medium. In my opinion, the main advantages are:
- Users will be able to have more chances to experience VR.
- Developers are able to design better VR experiences without the cord limitation, which in turn will help inspire more people to try VR.
- Once VR's accessibility improves, demand will surely grow in both the consumer facing and B2B sectors.
After this announcement, I felt very excited - it's a great time to work in this field and develop in VR, especially since technical innovation continues to be a priority for the big companies (like Oculus) in this space. A better future of VR is coming soon!
During Mark Zuckerberg's opening address, he talked a bit about the possibility of VR in healthcare, and how it can improve both the patient and provider experience. (Check it out here, starts from 1:24). He talked about this before announcing the new devices, which means that the value of VR is worth looking beyond games, and has a real potential to change the world in meaningful ways! This resonated with us because we've been exploring these same use cases within our won business. We (and others) share this vision of VR being a platform to change the world for the better.
On this note, I attended a session called "Improving Healthcare Education Through VR" moderated by Kumal Jacob with a panel including Dr. Todd Chang (Children's Hospital LA), Devi Kolli (AI Solve) Dr. David Axelrod (Stanford School of Medicine). They talked about the limitation for people in learning solely from a textbook, and that VR could simulate in a truer, more realistic way the emergent issues in healthcare - in other words, build more real world knowledge than reading a case study. Both the hospitals and patients can learn from the perspective of one another, through collaborations in VR experiences.
Another session I enjoyed was "Scaling Immersive Media on Facebook" which I think is important because the issue of scale comes up frequently when we talk about VR, especially in the context of media and content production. When will VR development become "worth" it? Well, developers in the space certainly find value in this kind of content creation, but what will fuel the majority of the content in this space? For Facebook its seems obvious to point to user-generated content, its bread and butter. In the session, Facebook made the point that more and more 360-video content was uploaded, with over 70M photos and over 1M 360-videos out there. Many different 360-video cameras are already affordable and available to the consumer market, and as more people upload and share these videos, services and ways to access this content will improve.
Finally, I'll touch on one final session, "DAGER System (Disability Accessibility Gaming Rating)" by Josh Straab of DAGERS. He talked a lot about making VR accessible to all, and how it should be at the center of the development process. Spears from DAGER and ILMxLAB discussed best practices to create accessible content for more people around the world. They shared a lot of valuable design experience based on their work and feedback from different audiences. They expressed how much impact VR could give to improve the quality of experience for disabled people, again with the theme of VR's impact beyond games.
Overall, what I found most engaging was the momentum and discussion around VR's potential to help the world in real ways. That's what ultimately leads to something meaningful, and I think as developers, we're all looking for ways to create something that achieves that.
That's all for this post, folks! Look out for some more updates as we approach Demo Day.
Nov. 2, 5:30-9pm, Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
Sarabeth (hello!) joined a panel of other AlphaLab entrepreneurs at Akron, Ohio's Flight Conference on August 25th. Afshan from IW and AL Gear (the hardware focused accelerator) moderated. Our panel included Vivek, Vivek, Daniel and yours truly (switching to first person here b/c it's weird to type out in 3rd person) to talk about being a startup in the IOT, Big Data & VR worlds.
The event was really fun (the 4 hours driving round trip not so much...) and I had a great time talking to different folks in the Midwest (sorry *Mid Atlantic*) startup space. I had a spirited back-and-forth with an audience member who did not agree with me about preferring good teammates over "difficult geniuses". Can't win 'em all, folks.
Looking forward to sharing more about our journey, especially as we enter our final stage in the accelerator cycle. Sad that summer has come to an end.
Jaehee and Ralph made their way to this year's Games for Change festival back in August. They presented a talk about the ETC project Injustice, and lessons learned from a VR filmmaking experience. Injustice was a student project at CMU back in Fall 2015, using the Oculus DK2, voice recognition and gaze detection to cover the topic of witnessing police harassment.
Jaehee and Ralph have been making the conference rounds on this subject, most recently participating on a panel at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation in July. They'll be back at it in October, presenting their work and design ideas at the Context Conference in Pittsburgh.
Psyched to be in Cohort 18!!
AlphaLab is one of the top accelerators in the US, and the best place for entrepreneurs and innovators in Pittsburgh. We are so fortunate to have been included in this summer's cycle, along with our fellow ETCers Music Everywhere. Thank you to Jim, Aaron, Cat, Ilana and countless others from Innovation Works team for working with us to help us prove that VR is still an exciting space for startups like us. Right now, we have been making good use of the sweet office space in East Liberty, meeting the large network at IW and receiving our MBA-lite degree. We're using this time to further develop our software, and hope to present our technical and project traction by the end of the cycle.
Save the date for Nov. 2 aka DEMO DAY! Coming at ya live, at Stage AE.
-Sarabeth, Jaehee & Jack
Wow, what can you say about such an amazing opportunity?
For our project, we were tasked with making 2 VR films about the Holocaust. We knew that the environments of the Camps (particularly Auschwitz) would be difficult to capture in a powerful way - there were too many people - so we focused on creating one CGI (computer graphics) experience and one 360-film experience, focusing on Warsaw and Krakow. On the trip we took both 360-video footage (RIP camera #1, that breeze really took you out) and reference photographs for the computer animation.
Warsaw is such a modern place, and yet the sad and brutal history is conspicuous in its absence. It's hard to describe, and perhaps no words can really articulate what we experienced. Between seeing 3 death / labor camps, meeting Howard (the Survivor on the trip) and hearing his story of survival and escape, we're still processing much of what we felt on the trip. More to come as we finish up production on our first piece, the CGI experience of the Camps.
Thank you to Ralph Vituccio, who brought us on to create this project, and CMU's Dietrich School for making the project possible. We were fortunate to work with Classrooms Without Boarders, a Pittsburgh based organization, who allowed us to tag along with their tour group to Poland. Shout out to the other half of the Media Team, Jose and Danny, and finally thanks to Kuk and Julian who have been working hard with us in post-production to create a powerful final experience.
Signed, sealed and delivered!
What a week. We attended this year's GDC back in March. Held in San Francisco every year, GDC celebrates the world of gaming through industry talks, workshops and the expo swag-athon. In the middle of all this excitement, we received our legal documents from our lawyers. Presto, change-o, we became a company! At the time we signed, we did not yet have our first project confirmed, let alone have a plan to apply for AlphaLab. We were talking the other day, and agreed - this process feels like we both started yesterday, but also ten years ago.
Please stay with us as we begin to put the pieces in place for our company's online presence. Blog and website are slowly coming together, and we have so much more exciting news to share with you.
Sarabeth, Jaehee & Jack