SaaS Founder Interview with Kunal Patel, CTO & Co-Founder of BrandXR
Tony Zayas 0:06
Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of the SaaS Founder Show. It’s Tony Zayas joined by my co host, Andy Halko. Andy, how are the bees treating you there and in the hive?
Andy Halko 0:20
Pretty good. You know, I’ve just got stuck maybe 15 to 20 times. But my reality is not too bad. I can’t complain. How are you doing?
Tony Zayas 0:29
Doing well, doing well. So we got the team together there yesterday. So that was exciting. And we’re going through retreat this week and team building strategy, all that kind of stuff. So that’s been cool. So that’s why I mentioned the Bees, because we
Andy Halko 0:43
were he was over. And you know, I was just, instead of giving out, you know, 401k matches, I gave out, you know, Bees. What we do?
Tony Zayas 0:53
So, character builder,
Andy Halko 0:55
right. So I’m excited about today’s show, we’ve got something really cool. Something I enjoy a lot. Can you tell me a little bit about our founder? And who we’re talking to?
Tony Zayas 1:09
Yeah, for sure. So no, I think we have a great one. This week. It’s Kunal Patel. And he’s the co founder and CTO at BrandXR. And BrandXR is a platform that makes creating and distributing immersive augmented reality and virtual reality experiences super easy. So organizations can educate, market, or sell their products. So really hot area that, to me is always fascinating to talk. So with that, I will bring him on. Hey Kunal. How’re you doing?
Kunal Patel 1:38
Hey really good.
Tony Zayas 1:40
Awesome. Well, thank you for taking out the time to join us. Super excited to hear, you know, just the whole story and what you guys are up to. But just to get started. Can you tell us? Where did? What’s the origin story? Where did you come up with the concept? And how did it come to life?
Kunal Patel 1:59
Sure. So my background is in technologies, and, you know, 3D and game development. So I’ve just been in that world for a very long time. So I’m very familiar with like big teams, even small indie teams, and a diverse set of like talent, like, you know, 3D artists, 2D artists, UI, UX, experts, programmers, designers, producers, like a whole mix of people, that all have to make this like cohesive, interactive product. Like, it’s, it’s probably one of the hardest things to make a video game. And I just knew that it takes a lot of people a lot of time and money to do. And we had a project that we were working on for NASA, actually, for the Kennedy Space Center, where we were building three virtual reality experiences for them. And it, you know, we saw that it took a lot of money, it took a lot of time. And the team size was like, you know, getting big. And so the project went off, well, it completed Well, the product, like looked amazing, but it was like very unruly, like, you know, very cumbersome too, like, manage and operate that, you know, during that period. And you know, we just thought, okay, VR and AR and these like immersive experiences are definitely what’s like, what people prefer, when they go through it. It’s like an amazing way to teach something or Aaron Cain, somebody, but it takes just takes way too much time. And when I, I needed some VR headsets actually like some branded cardboard VR headsets, and when I found a company in California, that produced those actually went there and visited. And then I met the founder of that company, and we start talking about this problem about it taking too long. And, you know, we were like, we should have something kind of like Squarespace or Wix or Canva, where it’s just so easy to make something without knowing how to code. And, you know, when you can just drag and drop something, that would be so much easier to do. And then a lot of people would want to do this. And he was telling me like, Hey, I’m no programmer. I wish I could do this. I have so many ideas. And he’s like, but you know, you, you have this huge team that has to execute this. And I’m like, you know, I would love to do this myself, like way faster as well. So it really began there. And then it also turned out that both of us were from Detroit, as both of our childhoods were from there. So we just never met each other as kids. And then so we just kind of hit it off and you’re like, Hey, wanna start a company together? And then we went from there. So, branding star BrandXR really started as brand VR and then became BrandXR is all about creating that no-code way of creating a 3D immersive experience.
Andy Halko 5:18
And I think what’s interesting is you were in that business. And I think a lot of really interesting ideas come from when you build something that almost takes what you did out of necessity, you know what I mean? And so where are those kinds of thought processes? Look? Yeah, it does take all this time and effort to do it. But if I can build something that pretty much puts my old business out of business? Yeah, something really valuable.
Kunal Patel 5:44
Oh, totally. Like, you know, I’ve always let me answer every, every founder like says this, they consider themselves innovative. But like, you know, you end up in this situation where like, if you are to set in your ways, then the entire industry is going to, you know, move past you. Right? So like, maybe, you know, for the different projects you’ve worked on, as one of them took nine months. And so it’s like, how do we take something that took nine months, and turn it into something that we can build in nine days, or nine hours or nine minutes? And like, that’s really what we were thinking is like, we need to do that? Yeah. And some other people might be afraid of that. They might say, like, oh, that’s going to take away jobs, or that’s going to take away. You know, it’s going to be reductive. It’s not going to be good. But no, I think like, that’s better, because the amount of content that’s going to be needed is going to be so much greater. And then we can focus on like, bigger and bigger and more complex things. So we were pushing for that, you know,
Andy Halko 6:45
Yeah, I think a lot of these tools that people create, like that end up being used by those companies to just be more efficient, innovative, move faster, all of those things. Yeah. I’m kind of curious about like the evolution, because I actually, had met a founder, five years ago that was thinking about this idea of like, low code in the VR space. You know, but I think they were too early. You know, five years ago, just I’m sure the technology, I’m just kind of curious, from your standpoint, you know, is that part of it is that you’re now maybe a little bit more of a turning point for something like this?
Kunal Patel 7:27
Yes, yeah. And I think like, that is a key thing that a lot of startups should be aware of, is that sometimes the timing is not right. Like, you may actually be a complete futurist, they should call you Nostradamus. But like, if the timing is not right, in the industry, in the marketplace, you could also be caught in a bad situation, because you have to wait it out, you have to wait for the right hardware to come into the marketplace. For people to be educated enough. You know, I A lot of times, when I give an analogy for like, where we are in this industry, this the shift to augmented reality, and 3D, I kind of say it’s, it’s, it’s like the mid-90s, where, you know, everybody’s using the Yellow Pages, to like, look up things. And then there’s this thing called the internet that’s coming out. And then you have some people that are like, I don’t get it, who’s going to go to this TV, and type in www.something.com, when they can just open up a book and see my full-color page ad. This is stupid, right? And then, like, you know, a few years later, like, if you’re not on the internet, and you’re only on the yellow pages like you’re an idiot, you’re a dinosaur, right? And you’re about to, and so, you know, we’re kind of we’re in that phase where it’s like, okay, some people, some of the innovators are using augmented reality, or VR to sell their products or give a better idea for the people that experience it. They’re like, wow, this is amazing. And then for others, it’s just like, I don’t know me, why don’t I just, I just have like, a bunch of pictures on a web page, or maybe a video. And that’s good enough for now. But that’s good, good enough for now, in the same way, that, you know, the ad in the Yellow Pages was good enough for them to so we’re trying to prevent a, a business mass extinction event, you know, whenever these platforms shifts happen, it’s like, you know, a giant asteroid is hitting and then a bunch of old dinosaurs, you know, dinosaurs die, and then the new breed grows, that just keeps happening, you know, with the internet and E-commerce and then smartphones and things like that. We’re just on that next cusp. And if we pull it off, people can just subscribe, you know, to our SaaS product and then be able to build the, you know, the content they need.
Andy Halko 9:54
Yeah, I won’t point out that you just caught a bunch of business owners, you know, dinosaurs that are gonna be extinct, but yeah, that’s You know, I totally get your point. And I would say, would you think you’re really democratizing? The idea of virtual reality in a way is because you’re making it more accessible for a much wider audience. Right?
Kunal Patel 10:14
Yeah, absolutely. You know, part of this is realizing that we can’t solve all the problems. And like you mentioned, you know, in the past, like, maybe the timing wasn’t right with that other startup. You know, we started as brand VR. So this is in this 2016 2017 timeframe. We were brand VR. And you know, the thinking was like, okay, VR is gonna take off, but then it didn’t it did the Gartner Hype, the hype cycle, it took longer. And they even called that, like VR winter. And but the thing is, like, the technologies that we were building applied to 3d and applicable to augmented reality. And, you know, we also started doing Pro Services. So rather than a platform that was democratized for everybody, if not everybody was ready for that platform, then definitely the innovators were so we actually built VR and AR experiences for the big boys. So I mean, we were, you know, with Microsoft, and NASA and a bunch of other like, bigger groups that needed this. And in that process, we learned what was necessary. And then, and then when the timing was right. We accelerated the platform. And then now there are customers actually using our platform. And then we’re, we still have a separate team that’s doing Pro Services for the big boys. Like the big companies, and our findings from that then come into the platform. That’s for me, for everybody. And, and the thing was also everybody. Basically, everybody on earth has a cell phone. Like everybody’s got a smartphone. Mm-hmm. Right? Grandmas have smartphones, little kids have smartphones, you know. And that’s a computer and that that’s a computer with a camera that’s capable AR. So that was kind of that shift that happened where it’s like if we deliver to people’s cell phones right now. That will work in the future. Maybe there are glasses, AR glasses, maybe there are holographic windows in cars, maybe there’s whatever right but like today, the smartphone works.
Tony Zayas 12:28
Kunal just to back up a little bit, um, you mentioned timing a couple of times as far as like, you know, how mature technology is and whatnot. But going back to when you met who ended up being I believe your co-founder? Correct?
Kunal Patel 12:42
Yeah, moody moody Medan. Like, Verizon CEO.
Tony Zayas 12:46
Yeah. So once you guys connected, you know, you put your hands together kind of had a little bit of an epiphany. What did the timeline look like? And what were some of the factors that you had to consider to say, Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s build this business?
Kunal Patel 13:02
Um, well, you know, we were looking at the projects that were ahead of us. And just thinking, is this what we’re gonna have to do to accomplish every single one of these projects? Like, are we gonna have to go through like, a year-long process, hiring X number of people, um, and doing a lot of this stuff manually, like, so that there’s that, that feeling that daunting feeling? Um, we did, you know, we asked around, as well, like, we ask people in the market, like, what was your timeline for things are? How much money did you want to spend on things and, you know, definitely, like, at the highest end of things, like, you know, they have six-figure budgets or seven-figure budgets? But then there’s a huge like, like, Canyon, where, like, people didn’t have money. And then. And then some people wanted to have something for not a lot of money. They might say, like, I’ve got a $10,000 budget, a $5,000 budget, a $20,000 budget, and that’s like really tough to do. For a 3d immersive experience, like basically, you have a video game team, you know, it would cost you $200,000 To build a video game team that’s working on that kind of tech. So we’re like, there’s a lot of business for people that could subscribe per se, you know, to this. And when I say we probably spoke to maybe 200 people to ask them, you know, if you could subscribe to this, would you? And then how much would you pay? And, you know, we came to that, okay, like if somebody could spend, you know, 1020 $25,000 they would want to do this. And so it made sense. Like, okay, there’s, there’s something there. And we’re like, we looked around the room and it was like okay, we already had a team. We already had a team that was like working on this like NASA project, we already had 3d modelers, we already had, you know, game engine programmers. You know, I had my background in technology. I was also working for a SaaS company, I was part of the founding team, another Saas company. So it was like, all the building blocks were there. And they were like, Let’s do it, you know, there’s only one chance to be at the forefront of, of a major platform shift, right, like the internet or cell phones or whatever. So it’s like, if we consider that that’s what this is, this shift in a platform to more 3D, we should do it, and then we pull the trigger.
Andy Halko 15:44
I was I applied to try for, for BrandXR, I’m curious, you know, we talked to a lot of founders talk about the strategy of the evolution of how you’re, you know, go into the market, and you mentioned it a little bit is that you’re still providing services for some of the big boys, you’re building a platform that maybe we could talk about, for our audience a little bit as the go-to-market strategy and how you’re, you know, evolving from, I guess, this idea of services to a product and trying to, you know, scale. Right.
Kunal Patel 16:17
Um, so, you know, what we found is, some companies want to have this experience. And they, they sometimes don’t, they don’t know how to build it. Or sometimes they don’t know what they want, exactly, as they know, maybe have 70% of what they want, but they don’t know the other 30%. And we found that even though they wanted the SaaS product, they still wanted to have their handheld, you know, or maybe there’s a portion that they couldn’t do, like, maybe they had the whole thing designed and sketched out, or they had the call to actions or that they wanted to have a product shown, but they didn’t have the 3d model of their product. And, you know, we’ve felt like, Okay, if we can plug in those gaps, then we can reduce all of the gotchas, or the reasons for No, in moving forward in business out there in the market. And so, we, when we paired up Pro Services, with our product, we saw that there was, like more customer success, so to speak, like, you know, there’s, there’s, what we’re finding is like, there’s an attach rate, you know, between the two, so like, somebody can subscribe to our platform at this point for basically $1,000 a month. You know, which some people say is like, not that much. And some people say it’s too much. You can also have different tiers, right? But I’m okay if you were to do that, and it’s totally okay, do it yourself. Maybe there are some people out there who can, like totally roll with it, they can have like, they already have their 3d models, they can like, you know, type in everything themselves. And they can have, you know, augmented reality, like, deploy to iOS and Android phones. But there’s some. Yeah. And there are some people like, I don’t have 3d models are like, hey, I need Can you explain how we will create graphics for this? Or can you help me think through some things in my experience? You know, some of our customers have told us, like, Hey, I’ve tried other things. But I just end up wasting a lot of time, because I don’t know how to solve it. Or, I’m suggested to go to multiple places. So like, maybe they dealt with a competitor. And they’re like, Okay, hey, you could just like, go to Fiverr. Or you could go to this, or you could go to that and like, try to like plug in the holes. But for us, it’s like a one-stop-shop, where, because we have those Pro Services teams around us, we can just plug it in. And so then the subscription is a lot easier. And I imagine eventually, the number of pro services that people, you know, also pay for will decrease. But at least we’re like, we’re kind of acting as a supportive bridge to all of the subscriptions we sign up for. So some people might ask for $50,000 worth of Pro Services to go along with their $12,000 subscription, annual subscription. And some other people might pay the 12,000. And they might be like, Hey, I just yours 2500 bucks, I need this thing done for me. That so that that it’s just that having that is supporting the subscriptions. And I don’t think it’s I don’t it’s possible to like enter a new market or build a new market unless you have that support.
Andy Halko 19:54
I mean, we’ve had some amazing founders here where I think the same strategy and I think more software companies should think of it that way is that, you know, sometimes just the tool doesn’t solve the problem and solve it well enough. And I think we’ve had a lot of founders that really found that magic where you combine product and service, you know, to still be extremely efficient, but also deliver the quality that’s required. So I think he’s really smart.
Kunal Patel 20:22
Yeah, no, no, I appreciate that. Like, we’ve had a lot of investors like, beat us up over, like, Oh, you have pro services like that, you know, that’s, that’s a red flag, or like, we don’t, we don’t think it’s possible to like, build a really great product and have Pro Services. And I just think to myself, like what, like, you know, we have multiple teams, you know, and, you know, we’re winning business. But I understand, like, generally, when you have a small team like you were trying to do both, it becomes a problem. But like, you know, we had the history of like multiple game teams. And I actually call like another SaaS. Startup a year ago, they actually did video advertisements, as a company called Vungle. And I remember meeting the founders there, and they were actually doing video production for their subscribers. So they would fit this is like, almost like early on, like when people are doing video ads within video games. And they were like, people wanted that, but they didn’t have a video. So like, they just had a bunch of content. So we just actually edited for them, and then gave it to them. And then they put it on our platform to be distributed as ads. And they were being beaten up for the same reasons. saying like, hey, that’s distractive. But they were just solving their customer problems, and pain points. 100%. And yeah, I mean, that’s what it’s
Andy Halko 21:46
About, right? I mean, we’re here at startups to solve problems. And I think there’s an evolutionary idea to it, too, is that you’re right now solving a problem, the best way to do that is a combination of product and service. But it evolves into where the product continues to become more efficient and said those services go down and, and especially in something like, you know, virtual reality, augmented reality, all these pieces. I think as you said, we’re still on the upswing. Yeah, the products being built, and that, you know, when we get to that, you know, peak, it’s, it’s magic when it would come together. So that’s great.
Kunal Patel 22:26
Yeah. You know, I, I think I’ve heard this as a cliche, but it’s like, you know, you’re building the airplane while you’re flying it. Like, I definitely have that feeling, like, a lot of the time.
Andy Halko 22:39
Yeah, I love that I Well, the the version that I always hear is, you know, you’re trying to build the airplane after you jump off the cliff. And I yeah, I always enjoy that. So I agree with you. Yeah.
Tony Zayas 22:52
Kunal, I’d love to hear a little bit about the dynamic between you and your co founder, what that relationship is like, and then how it is, how it has changed in the business, you know, since the inception?
Kunal Patel 23:04
Yeah. Um, so definitely, I’m, I’m the more technical person, you know, I’m the CTO, you know, he’s the CEO. And he definitely comes from more of a business and marketing background. So I mean, he has an MBA, he’s just generally been in those kinds of roles. And I’ve definitely always been in a lot of technical roles. But the interesting thing is, like, there is a Venn diagram, almost of like, you know, he’s, he’s, like, definitely more business, and marketing. And he’s had experiences with tech companies. And we’re relatively close in age. So it’s not like he’s like an older CEO or anything, but like, and then for myself, I’ve, you know, I have a computer science degree, I’ve been in very technical roles and things like that, but I found myself in a lot of sales and marketing situations, like, over the past, you know, 15 years or so. So, to the point that I always, consider myself the least socially awkward engineer. And because of that, I end up in a lot of like, leadership positions, and, you know, you know, so I lead, you know, tech consulting companies, I’ve had to do presentations, I’ve had to travel all around the world, like, you know, meeting people forging business, you know, working on leads, like in doing all that, so I kind of feel like I can, I can live in that world, but then I have to also, maybe I’m better able to, like, go and talk to the technical team, you know, to actually understand what’s going on and translate what are the business needs, what are the marketing needs, why does it even matter? And then in turn, like, take the technical jargon, you know, that, that that’s on the tech side of things, and then bring it back To like sales and marketing and too moody, so I, I work as like a translator, you know, on maybe both sides of the fence. And I think that’s been, that’s been helpful. And definitely over time, I would say like, maybe that part had, that need has probably increased, you know, like, because like, in a startup, as a co-founder, you have so many roles, and then there’s the actual, you know, role yourself of like CTO. And so I have to like juggle both. Where I have to think about the technical roadmap or site, the technical side of things. And then there’s the co-founder side of things of like, the actual, like, overall business and things like that. So I feel like there are two sides to Kunal like, and I have to, like, balance both. Moody has become more technical over time. And in perhaps I’ve, I’ve had to, like think more on the sales and marketing side. Overtime.
Tony Zayas 26:08
What is some? What does the process look like for the two of you to do your work, you know, on the business, so the strategic planning, looking at, you know, three years down the line five years, you know, what does that vision look like? And periodically, how do you guys go about that? And then how do you go about, you know, sharing that with the team? And I do want to get to talk a little bit about Yeah, sure. We’d love to hear how you guys approach that.
Kunal Patel 26:36
So we do, we do touchpoints, like so you know, before it in the very early days of a company, it’s like, just a mess. You know, like, you’re, you’re building product, you’re trying to win a deal. You’re emailing at all different times in the night, you’re, it’s just, it’s all a mess, every startup is a mess in the beginning. And then, maybe weeks go by or months go by and you go like, Oh, shit, you know, did this thing happen? Like, oh, wait, I forgot this part, or like, hey, you know, we need to think about this. And, and more not, it’s been a little while now. But like, you know, I would say in the past, like, year, we’ve, it’s like, we’ve become more and more structured. And so, you know, we have, you know, weekly meetings on like, marketing and PR, we have weekly meetings on operations, we have weekly meetings, on sales progress. We have an all-hands meeting on Friday. Because we were just finding that like, you could go weeks, and there’d be new features or whatever. And then the sales and marketing team doesn’t even know about it. Like they don’t know it exists. Or maybe it was mentioned, but it’s not fully understood. Because you’re, everybody’s always like heads down. Or maybe they’re in the weeds of what they’re working on. So the all hands is kind of like, where every aspect of the business gets a little bit of a spotlight on like, what’s new. And I felt like that, that it that helped out a lot. And it even helped, it helped me as well, like, both I and moody are supposed to know everything or know of what’s going on in our own company. But it’s so easy to be lost in maybe what’s our main focus. But when we have that all hands, it allows us to kind of reset a little bit and go like, ah, you know, that that’s the results have like, you know, this, these cycles like are these sprints are like, Oh, that’s the result of like, what marketing is doing? Or like, oh, that’s the result of like, what sales are doing? Oh, those are like, three really cool customers that are like going to be coming up. Or even like, hey, this was a customer that we lost or a deal that we lost. And why did it happen? You know, so that highlight has helped. And I think it’s helped the entire company that everybody feels like they’re more in touch that what they’re doing has like a butterfly effect, you know, that that reaches out into other departments or other functions?
Tony Zayas 29:18
Got a question that actually came in, I’m gonna jump in and share this one. But Michael asked just so Kunal is you’re structuring the startup? How do you avoid paralysis by analysis? Right? It’s so common. Yeah, love to hear your take.
Kunal Patel 29:36
Uh, you know, I would say you need to have differing viewpoints. Some people are just more that way I consider myself I fall into that trap sometimes. You know, I might be a little too cerebral about a lot of things. But if, if you have enough differing viewpoints Sometimes you can just see like, Okay, I got to know another viewpoint, you know, that makes sense. Let’s and then let’s go in that direction. And I think you have to set time limits to, like, if you say, if you have these weekly touch points, like you have weekly operations or weekly marketing or weekly sales are all hands. You can’t go too many weeks without it. Now looking old, you know, whatever decision that you’re, you’re stuck on. Because you can’t be like week seven of us not answering this question. You know, like, so it kind of forces you to, to make a decision, if you say that, like, hey, we have to make a decision within this week, or within these two weeks, you make that decision. And sometimes it could be wrong. But you know, like, sometimes a wrong decision that’s done very fast, could be, can be fixed. So you know, I, there’s a saying here, like, we always say, like, you can’t edit a blank sheet. Right. So like, you have to have something down. And if it’s wrong, then you can edit it, you can realize what went wrong, and you you improve it or you course correction. But if you wait too long, it’s, it’s only going to create problems, it’s going to get become a bigger problem later. So, so we try to do that, like, we try to have some version of it, some version of good, and, and then go with better invest later.
Andy Halko 31:29
I love that you can’t edit a blank sheet. You know, I always talk about like, well informed gut decisions. You know, it’s, uh, you have that good founders make gut decisions, but they are, they’re based off of information that they’ve gathered and people that they’ve talked to, and they’re not truly just like, you know, out of the blue, I’ve actually appreciated I have someone on my team that lately in meeting says, you know, we’ll talk about something for a half hour, and there’ll be all these different viewpoints, and they’ll go, Andy, what’s your gut tell you? And I think there is something to that, as far as you know, that, that you have to leverage both and balance them logic and, and gut instinct.
Kunal Patel 32:09
That’s very true. Like, robots can replace, you know, entrepreneurs and founders yet? And, you know, there, there’s a Yeah, it’s a lifetime of experience, you know, to develop that gut. And, you know, the synapses are firing and signals are being sent. And, you know, I think you have to trust it, sometimes.
Andy Halko 32:35
Tony has been trying to replace me with a cardboard cutout. But, you know, he doesn’t have as much good instincts.
Tony Zayas 32:43
It’s pretty, it’s pretty close. We’re gonna get right.
Andy Halko 32:47
I, you know, I’m always intrigued by and more kind of talking about this product roadmap. You know, I think any founders that are really honest with themselves, that they talk about how hard it is to figure out, you know, what is that product roadmap, what do you build? What features do you, you know, put in the system? Which one, you know, what audiences? Do we really cater to in our product? Yeah. Is there any way that you’ve got about thinking about that?
Kunal Patel 33:18
Um, yeah, I so it’s definitely not the case that like, we’ve mastered it. Or, you know, we, we did the right thing, like, I think, I think we made a mistake in how soon we let some users in, you know, like, obviously, like you, you applied to be on our waitlist, and I’ll definitely let you in, you know, soon in the next wave. But, you know, we had a waitlist, that accumulated almost to, like, 1300 people, 1300 companies. And I think it’s never should have gotten that high. While you know, it should be like letting more in sooner in waves. And I think part of that is like because there’s always some features that you need sooner than others. And the thinking that it needs to be 100% fully a cohesive, like, beautiful masterpiece, is, is not always going to be the case. And you know, sometimes, certain users really use a product because of one thing that it does 100% like Microsoft Word, or PowerPoint, or whatever, you most people are only using, like 5% of what its full capabilities are like you have people that have used it for 10 years and then realize there’s Oh, there are things like in the toolbar over here. Yeah, I think, testing features early is really key. And it’s true in the video game world too. You want to test early as possible because you don’t want to go down a pathway. That’s like, not the pathway that that ultimate is going to work. But overall, like talking to customers and doing these Pro Services projects, it does give us a lot of insight. Because these customers give us their pain points, they’re like, ah, you know, what I’m spending, we end up building 60% of our product out, just to try to win business, like, for example, if like, it’s an agency customer, right, they would tell us, we would have in house teams that would try to build out, you know, 3D XR experiences, and just to pitch an idea, they would have to build out 60% of that product. And if we could just, like, choose a template from your platform, and then have something really quick will hack, you know, we wouldn’t have to, like, build all that stuff out. And, you know, then I would ask, like, well, what is it that’s creating that time, and they would say, like, Oh, it’s this specific feature of like, you know, texture swapping, or, or something like that. And some of those things are way complex. But then sometimes it’s as simple. It wasn’t this, but like, it could be as simple as, like, we just needed this, like, QR code generated. And like, that ended up being like something that’s was nagging, like, you know, trailing along in that project. So it was a case of like, you know, if we just solve even, like small building blocks of what were pain points for our customers, we would be necessary almost immediately. And so I think we’ve taken those conversations that we’re having, with our customers with the Pro Services customers, and use that to inform product or product roadmap. So if we know that, hey, you know, there’s this customer here that’s using it, and it’s a major pain point, then, are there 100 or 1000 customers that, that have that same pain point? Well, we should probably, you know, put that into our roadmap, and then prioritize that and, and build it out. So the law is there to do like, really amazing, complex, sexy, like, you know, features, and just do it all at once. But like, sometimes, just the smaller features along the way, really, like incrementally. Yep, moving forward is the way to do things. So I think that’s how we’ve adjusted our roadmap is that sometimes introducing a small feature, can unlock 1000 customers.
Andy Halko 37:32
I love that. And I just want to reflect it back for our audience in a way because I’ve seen founders focus so much on getting the features, right, and like you said, making it like, a perfect product, versus getting it out there and learning. And I think they’re, I think every founder, just, you know, struggles with that. Because they do that, you know, they have a vision for the future and what it could be, you know, they want people to be really satisfied when they’re in there. But you got to get it out and be agile and learn so that you can build what’s right. So
Kunal Patel 38:06
Yeah, you know, it’s a lesson that’s learned by a lot of entrepreneurs, like, definitely, you know, even having been through another successful startup. Like, you still learn more in terms of like, every product that you build. And, you know, I ever heard this, that if you’re not embarrassed by your first release, then you release way too late. So like, you know, the problem is, like, I think we all have good taste. And because we have good taste like we want it to be like a product. We want to be like really, really great. But you have to realize you have to let it out early and get the feedback, and you’re going to be embarrassed by it. But that’s just because you know, you have good taste. Yeah. Well, I
Andy Halko 38:56
Always talk about visionaries. I mean, if you’re starting a company, you eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. So at night, you’re dreaming of what this thing can look like. Yeah, it’s hard to like to have that dream in your head and not be at that step yet. Because you’re still at the bottom of the stairs. But you see the top. Yeah. And so that’s just the it’s a hard thing for all of us, right? Absolutely.
Tony Zayas 39:22
Just dive in to tell us a little bit of focus on the team composition. So Kunal, it sounds like it, there’s probably more to it, but you have your Pro Services team. And then I’m assuming you have the development team. How do you like how are those teams led? And obviously, the Pro Services are kind of the hands-on ones, right? They’re actually supporting the clients. Right? Yeah. How are those two managed?
Kunal Patel 39:49
Sure. So we have a chief development director, as well. So in addition to myself, maybe I’m more focused on like, The product roadmap, being almost not in the weeds of like, fraud, and just seeing like how everything can kind of fit together and making recommendations. And then our Chief Development Director, like is actually leading the sub-teams. And when I say sub-teams, you know, in terms of augmented reality, you have the actual endpoint, like, say, a cell phone, you know, an iOS or Android device. So we have an app that exists that delivers augmented reality experiences when you launch that app. There’s a web XR version as well. So like, maybe you don’t even need an app. But you experience something on the web, whether it’s 3d or AR. So you have, you know, a team that’s working on that. And then we have a studio product, a Web Studio product. So that’s where maybe you log into a website. And you upload your 3d model, or you design your product, you enter in the text descriptions, the captions, the change the logo, the colors, that’s on the, on the website. So there’s a team that works on that. And works on the API that is used to communicate with the app and, and the website of things. And then we have, we have the Pro Services side, where that’s like, almost like a video game team. We have multiple video game teams. So there are programmers, artists, and I would say creative designers, slash producers. And so that way, like whatever the project is, you have somebody that’s maintaining that creative vision of what that is communicating with, with the customer. And, and then the team that can execute it, which is just like 2d, 2d artists, 3d artists, and a programmer that can kind of put it all together. And then we use tools like Unity, Unity 3d, it’s popular video game engine. That can kind of like put it all together. And, you know, there’s multiple of those. So sometimes you need to prototype something very quickly. And that could be a different team than the one that’s actually going to build it out, like, in a more stable way. So so we even have that too. And, yeah, and so we have, we have some divisions and those teams, but of course, like we’re all together in our office, which is called the Orlando game space. So there’s basically like, 20, video game tech companies all around, you know, inside of our 10,000 square foot building, so that’s cool. Yeah, it’s a fun place to be. And in a way, it’s kind of like, our subcontractors are 20 feet away. If we, or if we, if we have a skill that we don’t have, within BrandXR, we can just say like, Hey, what are your thoughts on this? Are you available for the next two months? And they’re like, Yeah, I have an opening for next month. Alright, like, join, and then you will work together and then done. And then we separate, they go back to building a video game or building something else, some other product that they’re working on.
Andy Halko 43:25
You just put out a plate of cupcakes with a sign that says, Can you do character animation? Yeah. And help that, you know, a couple of people show up, right? Yeah, yeah. No, that’s cool. And I think those types of communities are really neat, where there’s a bunch of similar companies, and they can work off each other. Have you? Has your business been involved in like incubators? Have you leveraged mentors? You know, and same with this game gamer space? Is it? You know, how has that helped?
Kunal Patel 43:55
Um, so definitely, like in terms of like, mentors? Yeah, we have we have. We’ve, we’ve reached out to mentors in the Orlando area, and then even the Detroit area where Moody’s from? And that’s just like, asking for direction like, are we on the right path? What is your thought on this? Sometimes, you know, the, we’re not maybe we’re technically proficient. And we don’t know how to deal with a certain type of customer, like, let’s say like, we have some university customers, you know, before brandings, our, I don’t think I’ve worked with a university, you know, as a customer and so we worked with a couple of advisors who sold technology to universities and just giving the lay of the land to say like, Hey, you know, this is generally how they operate. Have you asked these questions to them? You know, what is this kind of feedback? So, we have looked towards mentors, and I think mentors are so key for any SaaS company, and any startup, you really need to ask people other than yourself, other than other people in the team, because they’re just going to have an outside perspective. And so, so we’ve looked towards that. And then you know, even being in the Orlando game space has been key, because you have to realize you don’t know everything, and you don’t even know what you don’t know. And so when you can bring your product to other people that are within the same realm of, let’s say gaming technologies, you can get feedback, that’s more, more in line with what you could actually execute. Like, sometimes, you know, you might deal with a couple of mentors, and they’re like, I kind of know what you’re doing. I know what the output is. But I don’t, I don’t know how the sausage gets made. Right. So like, you might not always get actionable advice, like immediately, but it helps to be in the Orlando gaming space, because people know a lot of the tools that you’re using, yeah. Or the gaps that might exist. So like, you know, we’re not experts within machine learning. But like, you know, if we need that help, well, I know, 20 feet away, I can walk over and then ask that team that happens to work on that. Yeah, you know, along.
Andy Halko 46:26
I’m kind of you’re curious to shift gears a little bit. And I’d love to hear because I don’t think our audience fully probably knows. But can you talk about what today is possible? Or what’s being done with XR augmented reality? And then second to that? Where does it go? And what do you imagine, happening in the near future with that type of technology?
Kunal Patel 46:53
Yeah, well, you know, I would say, we’re looking at our, our use cases, in three different buckets, you know, so we’re looking at virtual education and training as one bucket, brand marketing, virtual brand marketing in another bucket. And then virtual product sales, maybe in another bucket. And the features that we’re building can oftentimes hit all three of those categories. And, you know, for example, in virtual training and education, there, there’s the customer that needs to train new manufacturing employees. And, you know, they were using a book previously with diagrams, and they’re just like, little numbered markers, that it’s like, this little gear is this, this little, you know, the notch is this. And, and so they would literally have to look at this 2d picture that represents a 3d object, and then like, match it up, oh, what is an over here, what is three over here, what is two over here. And that’s how they had to train. And even had a training center. So people have to come to a physical location to in ours, now that that same group of people can launch a 3d object on their coffee table, walk all the way around it, they can still see the numbered items, like the points of interest, we call them hotspots. And then they can even see the 3d object, like open up. And then in doing this, they learn the capabilities of that manufacturing company. So it’s a much more immersive 3d way of teaching a new employee what this company can do. And so their, their learning. Another example is, and I don’t want to give any customers away or anything like that. But like, ultimately, there there is a case, a use case of nurses that are learning, basically, the layout of different hospitals. And so, you know, they’re learning, you know, where’s everything located? What floor are certain things on and things like that? So in that use case, you might have nurses that we have to learn the locations of 12 different hospitals within a geographic location. So what happens if a nurse misses the day that they go for training or they go for a tour of that place? Now you have somebody that’s not going to know where certain things are, it’s just going to take them a lot longer to figure out where certain rooms are, where certain things are You know, our place. Now, it’s possible to virtually walk into a digital twin, so to speak of a hospital. And you could do that in the comfort of your home. So, you know, if it’s two o’clock, you know, on a Sunday afternoon, that person can like, walk through a digital twin of a hospital, and then be totally ready to go Monday morning. Right? Right. So like, that’s not possible to do in real life. Easily right now, or cost-effectively. But now you can. Or even just like, use cases, I think out there that that is maybe like, easy, easy to understand is like, what if you wanted to book a hotel room. And you were deciding which vacation, you wanted to go on this one, or that one, maybe to the beach or to the mountains, and you weren’t certain what hotels even stay at? Well, if you could virtually walk into the hotel room and look around, and then just, you know, swipe on your screen. And then also you are physically located in another, you know, the hotel room that was like, slightly bigger, and you saw, Oh, it’s just 20 bucks more. Yeah, no problem by right. Or you walk up to the window, and you’re like, the beach is great. But then you like swipe, and you’re like, Whoa, the mountains. Oh, my God, this is majestic. I totally love this feeling. I’m doing this one by, like, it shortens that buying cycle that that decision making, you know, cycle? Where like,
Andy Halko 51:41
is there going to be where people can purchase right in that experience? Yeah.
Kunal Patel 51:47
Yeah, completely. My previous SaaS company was a payment tech company. So I definitely have a background in payments. So you know, it’s kind of like I know, some people. And so we can, we can implement payments, you know, into these XR experiences. And that kind of leads towards, you know, virtual product sales, right. So, when you can sell a product because you can walk all the way around it. You didn’t always have to go to the mall, you didn’t always have to go to, you know, a dealer lot or something like that. You can make your decision. And sometimes, as you mentioned, analysis paralysis, I feel like that’s happening in the marketplace today. Like, I don’t know how everybody is, but I’m a tab fiend. When I’m like trying to decide certain things, like I have, like 30, tabs, open 300 tabs open, you know, probably closer to that. And I’m looking at pictures, I’m looking at reviews, I’m looking at, like, videos, Is this really how it’s gonna look? You know, that. Sorry. Um, but it’s a case of you want to like cut that out. Like, if somebody could just like, Whoa, I see it in front of me. I like how it looks. I don’t need to do anything else. I’m gonna hit by that part of giving confidence to a user is really where we want to get to. And I think that’s where everybody’s gonna have to get to pictures and videos, and a website is not going to be good enough.
Andy Halko 53:29
Right? What do you think about over the next five years? What do you think could be really innovative about AR? And what you know, what, what features or words will there be that we, we don’t even know are possible today?
Kunal Patel 53:49
Andy Halko 53:51
so sore landing will blame Orlando on it.
Kunal Patel 53:54
Yeah, I know. So definitely, today, people have iPhones and Android phones, they got a phone with a screen, they can, they can whip out anytime. And that will be for the foreseeable future. The main way people are experiencing AR VR will be more niche. You got players like Facebook with, you know, Oculus devices. So the Oculus quest is now at a price point that people can afford, you know, like 299 you can have like a really great cordless AR experience. And so you’re just going to see that coming out more and more and the price will maybe even go down that I think will be used for like super immersive experiences. I see that definitely a lot more for like travel validation, you know, and AR will be used for like shorter experiences. But a lot of people talk about it. It’s kind of an open secret out there in the tech industry. Is it augmented reality glasses? And, and you know, every major player in the market is working on it. Like, some things have been publicly saying. Some things have not been publicly said. But it’s like the writing’s on the wall. So Apple’s working on one. And it’s like, well, why are they hiring 1000 engineers related to optics? You know, why are they hiring executives from Lazada, the largest eyeglass, you know, manufacturing and branding group in the world. You know, you see, Google purchasing straight up like optics companies, lens companies, they bought north, which is an augmented reality glasses manufacturer in Toronto. Facebook, reports have come out that 1/5 of their company is working on augmented and virtual reality, like, well, over 10,000 employees are all working on AR and VR. And you know, that we’ve, it’s happening, you know, so like, we see all the acquisitions that are happening in the market, we see the employees that are being hired. And in some cases, being in the video game world, in Orlando, and in the space, like, even some of the people have been hired from here, right? Well, and they can’t tell us specifics, but there’s always a wink-wink, like, yeah, you can, you can kind of tell by what they’re not saying and things like that. So, you know, if that comes out into the market, and I don’t say it’s just like, when, then that’s another avenue, where instead of your phone, it’s just going to be glasses that look like mine, ultimately, and the 3d will just be there in front of me, right? It’s like, I there’s a real reality where, you know, my glasses aren’t there, but I put this on. And I’m seeing, I’m seeing the matrix, you know, like, I’m seeing everything else. And how that rolls out will be interesting what the interface is that the different flavors that will exist with all the different companies will be key. Microsoft is a big player, that I think people don’t realize. Definitely in the HoloLens side, if this, that that’s being used in enterprise use cases, so hospitals are buying them left and right, the military they had a giant, I think it was 20, I don’t know $22 billion, like deal with the US Army. And all that stuff is going to basically not only fund that project, but it’s gonna fund the prosumer and consumer versions, right, as well. So I mean, that it’s, it’s done deal, like for the next 10 years, they funded that whole thing. And all the research that happens on the military side will trickle down to Yeah, the let’s call it like the Surface product line, you know, they’re surface lander computers, there’ll be a surface brand. And there’ll be a gamer brand, you know, for the Xbox, you know, players. So you’ll, you’ll see this hit on all different levels of the enterprise, businesses, military government, the working professional, and then all the way to consumers, like game players, your average Joes and Janes and your you’re gonna see it across the board so that that’s going to be a huge boost to the market. And of course, they’re all going to have like, several hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and product education that’s going to help us. So we don’t have to spend that, right to educate people on XR. They’re just going to ask like, how do you build it? Or how do you make that content? And we’re like, no problem, subscribe. And then the other that I think is going to be out there is holographic windows in cars.
Andy Halko 58:56
So, videos of that how that could work. Yeah, such a cool concept.
Kunal Patel 59:01
The car will be a giant VR headset that you’re just sitting inside of.
Andy Halko 59:06
I have to admit, I was one of the suckers that bought Google Glass, like seven years ago and man did that thing really turn into a paperweight foul. Yeah,
Kunal Patel 59:16
Yeah. You know, it’s like Google’s known for this kind of thing. Like they have this thing called a Google graveyard, where you just go in, like, you just do a Google search for Google graveyard. There’s a website that has a listing of all the products that they killed. And I think, you know, they gained data from it. Like, I think they understood it, how are people using it? Or are they doing with it? What were they not doing? And they were very early? I think early and I think they realize they now need like a consumer version of it. And there they’re trying you know, with all their Pixel phones. There are talks of like their own custom chip just like how Apple has their M one Are there a 12 chip or a 14 tip like that even they’re having their own. So I think everybody’s learning their lesson. And you know, Apple and Google want the smartphone wars and Microsoft was left out in the cold. So I think Microsoft is going to be fighting really hard. And Facebook is fighting hard with their Oculus brand. And they signed a deal with Ray-Ban. Kind of be the brand on their XR glasses, so
Andy Halko 1:00:28
Kunal Patel 1:00:30
It’s a turf war. The next platform like Apple and Google’s to lose, and Microsoft and Facebook and Amazon and maybe some others just trying to get in.
Tony Zayas 1:00:43
Fascinating stuff. chronologist. In the interest of time, I think we could probably sit here and talk about this stuff all day. But where can our viewers find out more about you more about BrandXR, tell us the sites and social
Kunal Patel 1:00:58
Yeah, so definitely go to try.BrandXR.io. We would love to have people sign up on that, to join our, our waitlist, and we’ll let you in in waves, you can check out our website brandxr.io. We’re on social media. So you can kind of see some of the cool things that we’re posting some of the projects that you know, our Pro Services teams are working on as well, some of our customers on Instagram, it’s made with BrandXR and follow us on LinkedIn as well. LinkedIn, we post a lot of things for the business community. So you can actually use cases. Everything from like augmented reality murals that we don’t all around the world to product education and marketing use cases to so look for BrandXR on LinkedIn. But more than anything, go to try.BrandXR.io. And then and sign up to use the product. And then you can also find me just on the website as well. And reach out and I’d love to talk to anybody in the audience about XR.
Tony Zayas 1:02:09
Andy Halko 1:02:11
So one last question. If you were able to go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Kunal Patel 1:02:19
Oh, man, ah well, if it’s not like back to the future, like sports all back on, they’ll have like, you know
Andy Halko 1:02:30
Yeah, no cheating,
Kunal Patel 1:02:31
No big future, right? Like, Buy Bitcoin, like very early on not like, you know, when it dropped. You know, I would say I had some really good mentors over, you know, my years, I would say, do that, but do it five times more. You know, like, get your talk to even more people than you already have, and show people more of what you’re working on than you already have. Because like, I feel like, you know, gaining more insights is really key. You know, sometimes you can get bad advice. But I think if you talk to like, you know, mentors, that have been founders that have worked in products that have worked in marketing, they will give you the insight and a different angle each time. And so like, if I’ve spoken to like, I think five good mentors, I would say just try to try to talk to like, even more, because that insight will make you move faster, in a lot of ways. And, you know, maybe that would have made it so that the product would have had a variant that would have tested certain things like sooner. So I would just say like, Yeah, go for more fountain go for more mentors, that have been founders. And, you know, that have had different experiences. And I think that that’s extremely key. That’s awesome.
Tony Zayas 1:04:20
Yeah that’s fantastic. Well, thank you so much Kunal. We really appreciate this has been an awesome conversation. Thanks for everyone who’s tuning in. We appreciate the time spent here. So with that guys. Week, and can off once again. Thanks.
Andy Halko 1:04:41
Kunal Patel 1:04:42
Thank you. Thank you, Tony. Thank you Andy. Appreciate you guys inviting me onto the show.
Tony Zayas 1:04:48
Awesome. Thank you. Take care everybody. See ya. Bye!