“One Year In” is a 5-part series that revisits entrepreneurs highlighted on Flatland within the past year. We check on the progress of once-fledgling startups, see how the local entrepreneurship environment is treating them, and get to better understand their long-term decision making. All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Before a technology reaches the public at large, it experiences niche usage in industry. From universities and the internet to the steam locomotive and mining, early adopters tend to have specialized needs.
Virtual reality is no different. Though it is now seeing implementation alongside cell phones and game consoles, its infancy was characterized by a high tech, small market vanguard. Tracy Ford, founder of Virtutecture, was part of that vanguard.
His company offers architecture, real estate, and design firms the ability to visualize their work in a virtual reality environment.
Ford explained the problem Virtutecture solves: “What got me to start out was when I went through architecture school, trying to find ways for people to understand your designs. So, what you have on paper and being able to actually visualize it. What you see on paper and what you visualize can be very, very different.” While Ford continues to work at an architecture firm, his company is expanding, with a national base of clients.
What has changed since we last spoke at BetaBlox 2015?
“A lot has changed since then. Clients are coming in, we’re being more recognized. People are getting a lot more involved with virtual reality. Since the Samsung Gear VR came out, people actually know what it is and it is becoming a more everyday thing for people.”
Why did you choose to enter BetaBlox? What did you gain from the experience?
“I entered BetaBlox because I needed help with the business, I’d never run a true business before and I needed mentorship, I needed to learn how to run it and I needed space. I had an investment that allowed me to purchase my VirtuSphere, but I didn’t have anywhere to put it because it’s almost eleven feet tall and it wasn’t going to go in my living room very well, so I had to find a place to put it. Being there helped me learn better ways to run a business, more efficient ways, ways of marketing, take things slow and ultimately how to get a business off the ground.”
What was your best business decision?
“What I’ve started doing recently for marketing, and that’s going to architecture firms and engineering firms: I buy them lunch and show them, hey, here’s what I can do and these are they ways that I can help you.”
“Looking back at some of things that I’ve bought and the way that I ran my business for the first two years, that I could have done it much more efficiently and saved a lot of money on that. Ultimately, that’s something I wish I would have done better.”
Is Kansas City a good startup environment?
“It’s getting better than it was. There’s become a lot more adoption for them [startups], I know the Sprint Accelerator has helped and now that we have techweek and LaunchKC it’s starting to help the startup community. Really, a lot of it’s going to come down to funding, whether people can give funding or help find funding.”
Is our current confidence level justified?
“It’s somewhat justified. Even in the couple years that I’ve been in Kansas City, seeing it grow and seeing the support that people have for it, I think that it’s justified that we’re as confident as we are. I don’t say that we’re overconfident, I think we’re at a good level.”
— Austin Kuehl is an entrepreneurship contributor for Flatland. To reach Austin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.