‘A Look in the Labs’ is an Information Age series profiling the high-growth startups based in our labs – what they do, their ambitions, and the advantages they’ve gained being based at the ACS Innovation Labs.
This week, we speak with David Francis, CEO of Virtual Method.
Business Virtual Method
CEO David Francis
Based at Harbour City Labs, Sydney
What does your business/product do and how does it help people/other businesses?
Across many diverse verticals, we audit the enterprise end-to-end, from B2C/B2B marketing to training; learning and development to field operations; and identify where immersive technologies can add value, digitally transform and future-proof the business.
We then identify, create and integrate the very best, proven augmented and virtual reality platforms, hardware and content, and work with stakeholders to ensure ROI is proven and adoption is successful.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I stumbled across augmented reality in 2010 and instantly fell in love with it.
As a print media expert, technologist and formally-trained stage actor, all my skills came together in this brand-new medium.
I started to work with some of the world’s leading companies and eventually convinced IVE Group to create Australia's first full-time AR/VR leadership corporate role for me, in 2013.
But in 2016, I saw the technology was developing too quickly for me to keep up with it in a corporate role, so I left and founded Virtual Method.
Was being an entrepreneur always one of your life’s goals and what have you learned about being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur wasn't a life goal – but I think anyone who has ever employed me and/or tried to control me, coerce or silence me, would tell you otherwise.
What I've learned is to develop and follow your intuition, and don't order the champagne until there is a document with a signature on it.
What has been the biggest challenge and the biggest milestone for your business so far?
The biggest challenge has been to know when to go all-in on one area of technology.
There is undoubtedly a universal convergence that will happen between all the different areas of AR/VR – but our MO has been to acquire as much very deep technical and industry-roadmap knowledge as possible, to ensure we are well in front of the wave at all times.
The tech evolution and demand are pulling us into certain areas we could never have predicted, which is exciting.
The biggest milestone for our business (by far) is happening right now. We just can't talk about it....yet.
Where would you like your business to be in two years?
In 2 years, I suspect we will have about 40-50 staff and will have opened offices in the US and UK. Carli (my co-founder) and I would likely base ourselves in the UK.
That said, a lot of big players don't yet fully understand how big this industry will be, and will discover just how much 'special knowledge' this industry relies on, so there will undoubtedly be a lot of acqui-hiring happening.
So, we'll see....
What is the best business or life advice you’ve ever been given?
My acting training at VCA set me up perfectly for what I do now.
We were made to develop our own very strong self-assessment mechanism – because plenty of people will tell you you're amazing when you are performing poorly but you're seen to be 'succeeding', and plenty will tell you you're awful when the chips are down, but you are doing good work.
So, the key is not to listen to the lovers or the haters, just listen to yourself and just do your best work for you, always.
What made you decide to move into the ACS Innovation Labs and how has it assisted your business?
We do a bit of work with another resident company, and met with them in HCL just after they moved in.
We were extremely impressed by the facilities, but also how it didn't look or feel like a ‘start-up space'.
All the companies in HCL are focused on real growth, not a bunch of founders who are addicted to 'the struggle', the startup lifestyle and over-sized hackathon cheques.
The professionalism and grounded-in-reality nature of ACS Innovation Labs won us over and has kept us here ever since.