By the summer of 2015, VIAR was nearly bankrupt. The product — virtual reality tours to help architects show clients future construction — just wasn’t gaining traction.
The end seemed near for CEO Jernej Mirt and his team but then an unexpected request changed everything. A local company asked if VIAR could make a custom-branded VR headset, like the ones they’d been using for virtual tours.
“We were not going to decline someone wanting to give us money,” said Mirt. “As soon as we got back to work on our software, we had another request for custom-printed VR goggles.”
He quickly realized there was a market for custom-printed VR headsets and VR apps for companies looking to use new technology.
“We went out to look for a client that would buy a custom VR app and custom VR headsets,” said Mirt. “It took us 10 days to find and close the first customer.”
As VIAR moved in a new direction, the team realized there was yet another pain point to be solved. Many clients found it difficult to distribute the apps VIAR had built for them. They began work on a content management system that automated the process and eventually launched Viar360, a publishing platform for VR apps.
“The platform went into public beta at the beginning of September and is already generating revenue,” he said.
We caught up with Mirt for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “You don’t really have to know how to code to build a webpage, right? You just go to Wix or Squarespace and make it in seconds. Well, Viar360 does the same — it allows someone to easily combine 360-degree videos and pictures to create virtual reality experiences with no coding involved.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We realized that we were building a lot of virtual reality applications that were very repetitive and easy to build. We wanted to make the process easy for ourselves. Eventually, we decided to build a product out of it, so that our clients could build VR experiences on their own.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “I think bootstrap is the best way to go when you’re looking for a problem-solution fit. Once you have that angel financing you really zone in on the product-market fit. When you’re ready to scale, go for VCs.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Coca-Cola and homemade chocolate with olives that power our team — plus, being open-minded and listening to what clients tell us. If we need to change something, we will.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Build a bootstrapping source to make us less dependent on outside financing.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not going into an accelerator program sooner.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “I don’t personally know any of them, so it’s hard to say. We value good people that give great advice at the right time.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “BBQ and beer.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Define what’s the person’s future development trajectory.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Follow the money.”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the startups in 9Mile Labs’ fall cohort. The companies will debut their final products at the Milestone9 Graduation Day event Oct.13.