My Startup Dream
At the beginning of 2016, myself, Tuomas and João drafted out a skateboard business in Brazil. João, blasé about his electrical engineering endeavours, desperately wanted to practice skydiving and live abroad. He was down to whatever to accomplish his goals, and so he was alright with the much lower endorphin that skateboarding was proving also. That was great, because besides being a great and funny friend, he was also a truly handyman, and we needed that kind of person in our business.
Tuomas on the other hand, had a large experience as a salesperson and was also interested in fashion. So as soon as we settled our mind about starting up, Tuomas quickly began to catch up with people in Finland to understand a bit more about businesses in general. And I, well, I was still working at Intel and just hanging out with them.
We were pretty quick on meeting a local skateboard company and also to ship a few boards to Europe for some professional skateboarders. Tuomas and João travelled to Santa Catarina, in a textile industry region in the south, to get in touch with people producing clothes. We also started to do some fabric cutting, sewing and measurements. Things were full steam on prototyping!
But then the summer in Brazil ended and Tuomas – who was already living on my flat’s couch for nearly three months – needed to return to his country, Finland, due issues with Brazilian Visa. So we thought about continuing our business in the European summer instead. Why not, right? Tuomas flew back, João sold his car and packed “all his life” in a backpack and I took some vacation days to follow them.
In Finland, we thought it would be smart to rejoin and brainstorm our business ideas by spending Juhannus in Leppävirta first, then road tripping for 3 weeks in east Europe, and ending up in a street-hockey competition in Tampere – which seemed more like a summer festival instead a sport event. For obvious reasons, our business didn’t last. Myself and Tuomas gave up on the business on its first bump, leaving João without work, without a place to live and without a country (he had no Visa to live in Finland either). Quite foolish.
Or maybe the business didn’t last long because Tuomas wanted to “pay back” my couch courtesy at the Ilmajuka flat in Espoo, by sharing a bed with Linda (the dog!). Anyhow, the first startup attempt failed. Note for my future self: Unnecessary meetings may kill your business!
In the year of 2000, when it was more cool to be dork instead of having a skateboard, all we cared about was video games, music and going to bars. In other words, Warcraft, On-line Guitar Archive, Napster took up pretty much of our time. That’s what we, teenagers who were “born with a silver spoon in the mouth”, would do in Brazil back then.
We also used to walk with os piás, “the dudes”, towards Largo da Ordem basically every Friday evening carrying-sharing-and-sipping a 5L bottle of cheap wine. Those walks during evenings, which would take about 1 hour and half to get there, gave us enough time to contemplate about the future: half of the dudes dreamed about playing in a progressive rock band while the other half only cared about getting drunk. But me and a few others, including Igor, started to have a not-so-innovative idea: to open up a nightclub! The entrepreneurship blood was most definitely running through our veins. Oh yeah. Thankfully (or not) we were broke and the hangovers back then were pretty rough also, which made most of our plans disappear the day after.
But somehow other things started to get on track quite quickly. We began to compose our own music, the João Lanterna band was formed and we started to tour around playing in some of the regional psychedelic-hippie festivals. Although Igor used to be crazy enough to be together with the band in those Psicodália Festivals, he never managed to play any instrument. So he made his own way into cinematography and communication, while the other half of piás' entourage went to study Computer Science.
Finding a Purpose
After spending many years working within the film industry in large Latin America cities like São Paulo, Buenos Aires and others, Igor was looking for a career renaissance. He moved to Foz do Iguaçu and, later on a bit, enrolled in Anthropology studies at the local university. An unexpected moment in my career was also going on at that time due Intel’s major restructuring, which wanted to send me back to Finland or to the US instead. And after spending almost a decade working for big corporations I also started to contemplate much about deeper purposes on the professional side.
So around June of 2016, an occasional churrasco in Curitiba, triggered that same entrepreneurship feeling again. Igor talked a lot about Virtual Reality and ways to mix our background experiences, including possibilities with training and digital education, something we dreamed independently in our paths for a long while. Igor was always good at convincing, you know. Krapulassa’s feelings on the following days distilled (pun intended) some great mix of geniality and the right amount of incentive to go all-in for my startup dream. That business would be the perfect fit for what we were both looking for in our life and career. And Imersiv was born right there.
Yes, it sounds very weird to hear now but the first suggested name for the business was actually Imersiv. It was a name that lasted for some good months until it got denied upon office registration.
Before wrapping up this story, there’s something that puts everything into perspective for me and that, thinking back now, made the success path so obvious: The founding team was really creative.
We didn’t know anything about business and besides, we also needed an angel investor. That’s where Mauro and Rudi, two video production savvy masterminds, accepted the challenge to invest in. So we got covered in these initial aspects. The other side of the business, the artistic production machinery, with Camilo and Rafael joining the forces, was great also. Camilo has built a camera rig and invented his own methods of stitching 360 captures like no one else back then. And Rafael, well, we joked about him being a “whole studio” because he would solely produce a full 3D art pipeline in a matter of days while other professional studios with many professionals involved would literally take several weeks. That was really dope!
Then my fierce companion, Gabriel, came along. Gabriel, who studied with the brilliant Alexandre Direne, a computer scientist pioneer and one of the fathers of AI in Brazil, was a bit bored working for the government and really wanted to do games. So it was not difficult to snatch him in to help me with some software architectural decisions – that later on would be boosted by the great help of all ridiculously competent interns. He would also manage our team of passionate VR developers in the following years. A wise, calm and extremely honest gentleman, throughout the years Gabriel would undoubtedly become the closest professional partner in my career! I really love this man.
Mauro and Rudi’s good connections were also crucial to spawn Imersys first and foremost project: Itaipu VR. Built onto a game engine and using spatial audio, photogrammetry and other hyper-realism (back then) advanced digital techniques, this project would have been recognized worldwide, for instance when Facebook opened their keynote conference talk by highlighting such work. We would then humbly recall Itaipu VR as our “masterpiece” due to the fact that we pitched and demoed it so much later on. It was definitely our tipping point.
Being Persistent (Without Selling Your Soul)
Was the juice worth the squeeze? So much sacrifice is asked of us by the world. The push and pull to succeed sometimes is so tough. Anxiety to validate an idea, to finish a product, to grow further, to bring revenue in. How to live with integrity while still being productive? What is productivity after all? Was all this effort making me get closer to my friends? Or closer to nature? The price of success asks for nothing less than everything and we wonder at times whether we are selling our soul - Was I selling my soul? I don’t know.
The following years marked an absolute perseverance of this team of “New Peoples” working relentlessly. Imersys survived the startup valley of death, the co-founders learned to embrace conflict, we crossed the Virtual Reality “winter”, recently the pandemic and also our country’s steepest recession. The rest is history and I am glad that one of the largest educational groups in Brazil believed in this team.
That was my startup dream.