Your tech company is your gym for your personal growth

Gunita Kulikovska, Founder and CEO of Vividly. Interviewed by Evita Lune. Editing and photography by Veronika Suhareva.

Vividly has been established in 2016 by young architects and tech professionals driven by synergy between architecture, virtual reality and people. Vividly created a virtual reality tool as a stepping-stone for the progress in architecture, urban planning and construction industry. Its CEO does not speak the traditional startup language — she is a visionary, who aspires to facilitate the development of new medium (virtual reality) in the paradigm shift in the way architects communicate with their clients and their teams. And this is just the beginning. The opportunities for developing this medium for marketers, brand builders, creative professionals and e-commerce are immense. Gunita is a brave, entrepreneurial young woman with the world as her home and her marketplace.

Gunita’s background lays in architecture, urbanism and urban strategies. She is a member of Forbes’ 30 under 30 and a TEDx speaker. Archipreneur has also given her praise, as she was proclaimed one of seven most inspiring female entrepreneurs in the field of architecture. Since 2016, she and her partners have established a startup company named Vividly embracing VR as a new medium for building better cities.

In this interview Gunita will talk about how personal growth goes hand in hand with development of venture. She thinks that, especially at the early stage, your company is a mirror of yourself. As company grows you have to be able to grow even faster. So what it takes to take a step forward in an unknown and dive deep into creating a venture based on technology that is just about to be known as a new medium?

Gunita Kulikovska at her “natural habitat” — her workplace / Photo by Veronika Suhareva.

Evita: Do you consider yourself a business professional or a visionary, for whom classic business results are not so important?

Gunita: When you start a company, when you are a solo founder, you are a mix of everything. For me this is the first time of an entrepreneurial experience on such a scale, building a new company from scratch. You have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and build on your strengths, while engaging other team members to compensate for your weaknesses. Someone will be stronger in vision, someone in business, someone in product. The vision is the “why”, not just the technology and product. Then you think about the skillset — the ingredients which would react one to another and form a secret sauce. With ingredients here I mean the team. Then the only thing the founder has to take care of is to ensure a framework in which the components create value — the value of the company.

Evita: And what is your vision?

Gunita: The vision is a gut feeling ­– I find it quite hard to describe it in words.

The best way to look at it is to imagine yourself 20 years from now and to think about what kind of feeling I would like to sense for what has been accomplished. The drive behind this was to create a legacy or fertile soil that new things can grow. I have always had a drive and motivation to initiate, to transform, to create. To create something that initiates changes.

Evita: The creative approach and innovation that your team has developed — are they unique globally or there are some other versions worldwide?

Gunita: VR is relatively a new field with a lot of free space and no benchmarks. There are two major issues every VR company has to foresee and to find a tradeoff — accessibility to VR and enjoyable content. Our bet is put on web as a major source for VR experience and designed, vivid experiences on top of that. WebVR will be a key factor in the progress towards mass adoption of VR and a powerful channel for creators seeking the broadest distribution.

The new medium transforms the way we think and interact. For the entire history of the web, we’ve been looking at the computer screens and navigating with mouse, keyboard, and touch. Now we have the tools and technologies we need to create and experience a whole new mode of interaction — with evocative, immersive content that could be shared on the web and accessed freely.

This is what we are trying to explore through our approach, our way of doing things, design driven methodology, diversity and synergy between various different fields. This creative added value, the brand, which is based on community relationships, is unique. It is something beyond the product, beyond the target market, beyond the technology, it is about embracing strong relationships we innovate on existing patterns, which we do not invent.

Evita: Working with platform economy clients globally, I often come across the term “disruption” — they want to change the way banking, media, transportation or travel industry works. Are you trying to disrupt or change the market or create a new market?

Gunita: I don’t believe in clichés and the words which startups are using quite often — disruption, unicorns, unique selling points, they are created by the whole startup bubble.

When we stand on the ground, we want to encourage, embrace the new generation of creative professionals. We want to change the mindset of how we do the business in this industry as such.

We don’t just sell VR software to customers, we care about the way our clients do business and about their eager to be frontiers. We want to empower those who have the mind set towards progress, those who are not afraid to experiment and embrace the technology. In the creative fields including architecture, there is a huge gap between super big “starchitects” and small and medium type of studios. There is another gap between the generations. When you get a significant name in architecture you are almost 40 years old or even older. There is something wrong with that, I think. With this new type of platforms and technologies and the mindset behind it — being open, being transparent, being able to communicate your designs to your clients, to the team, we embrace the new generation of professionals to stand out much faster, and be able to compete with those big, very corporate systems. This is the aspect how we build our business model and our brand. Other VR companies sell “techies for techies”, the same as it used to be for many years. They care about promotion and sales, not so much about who is behind the invoice. We think brand versus promotion. My eager is to build the product that sells itself. Everyone who is involved in creating the product feels proud of being part of Vividly brand. The users feel honored to become the ambassadors of the brand they are using. This is the level we would like to reach with Vividly.

Fascinating possibilities of VR / Photo by Veronika Suhareva.

Evita: Who would be the key client groups of your tool? Would it be architects and their clients or you expect to reach other groups as well?

Gunita: We love architects and designers — they are highly creative professionals with unique point of view. It is enormously important to have that kind of community around the product development. We look at it as a pilot market — if we would touch feelings of architects then it opens doors to many other potential scaling tracks. This entry market helps us to build a product for a wider market. We aim at wider audiences in future — brand marketers, everyone who is connected with 3D environment, later on e-commerce. With our technology we can jump from experience to experience. Then Vividly can plug in as a trendy and stylish story and application for brands. We hit for at least 10 years with this app. Web based VR technology has high potential as a new medium, based on a merged platform.

With most developers in real estate who work with high engineering native tracks for separate devices you are unable to jump from one device on another. You are not able to open the VR from the web link. We believe in a setup when it’s all connected in our solution.

Evita: What would you recommend to other women who like to start entrepreneurship in tech field?

Gunita: To any entrepreneur, male or female — just start to do that. Have courage and go ahead. There is always a risk, you have to twist your mindset that risks and problems is a challenge.

I have learned so much during the last year as never before in my life. I have gained the skill set that raised my value many times. Your tech company is your gym for your personal and professional development.

Evita: Anything else you would like to convey to our readers?

Gunita: The team really matters. People who are around you really matter. If you are a leader of a small team, a company has to be a platform where people can grow as personalities, as professionals. If you are able to establish that framework, keep it running, keep it fresh, there is no way to fail. If the team is happy, able to innovate, people have a good balance in their life, your team is your brand. This factor becomes more and more important. Then you have a client and a product. Anything can happen with environment and technologies, but if your team will be motivated and challenged, they will always find a way for the company to succeed.

Looking for inspiration / Photo by Veronika Suhareva.

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