Why We’re Launching Mindshow Today! 🚀

How We Got Here and What it Means.

On an ordinary night, I’d be fast asleep on the drive down from SF to LA. But this wasn’t an ordinary night. On the long trip back from GDC 2015, through a sea of empty fields and fast food chains, Jonnie Ross and I buzzed with excitement about the storytelling potential of the newly announced HTC Vive.

We wondered if you could use the headset’s incredibly precise room-scale tracking to record yourself as a virtual character in VR, transforming your living room into a personal mocap stage. Using just your body and voice, we imagined a world where anyone, no matter their age or skill level, could tell entirely new kinds of stories in VR like this. We dreamed about how easy and fun it could be to play inside of an infinitely malleable three-dimensional creative playground.

Was it possible? We had no idea, but it felt like a huge breakthrough after months of working on a cool but niche prototype that was like Final Cut Pro for editing animated movies in VR.

Our early prototype called Focus.

We felt compelled to bring this new idea into existence, and managed to convince our small team to pivot to this much larger concept. At the time, it felt truly crazy to chase after such a seemingly impossible dream.

We needed to raise a lot of money if we wanted to have any chance at actually making this thing, but neither Jonnie or I, nor our other co-founders Gil, Adam, or Luke, had ever raised VC money before. Another seemingly impossible challenge.

We worked in secret for almost a year, a group of 9+ dudes packed into a small lime green office in the back of a co-working space, developing a prototype that we believed represented the future of entertainment.

Moving out of our first office in November 2015.

With tremendous help from our engineers and advisors, we transformed that belief into a miracle: raising a $6m Series A led by DFJ’s Bubba Murarka. When the money got wired into our bank account, I literally ran screaming down our hallway. It was maybe the proudest moment of my life.

After the glow of our successful fundraise wore off, the reality of building an actual piece of software set in. It turns out hiring is extremely difficult, and translating a pitch deck into a usable product is even harder!

Long story short, after nearly three years since our company’s inception, we’re launching Mindshow for the HTC Vive on Steam today for free. I’m so incredibly proud of our team for building something that has brought laughter and joy to so many people.

Our thumbnail on Steam.

Somewhere deep inside all of us, buried under layers of cultural conditioning, the flame of unbridled childhood creativity flickers brilliantly. Mindshow exists to reconnect us with this deeper truth of our being, to remind us of what it felt like to be a kid, when the world seemed ripe with infinite possibility and we weren’t afraid of what others thought of us.

We hope to recapture the joy we felt as kids playing make-believe in the playground. Unrestrained from the pressures of adulthood, we felt free to be ourselves. Inside all of us is the light of creation itself. It shines bright when we’re children, but gets dimmer as we conform to the boundaries of our culture and the expectations of who it says we should be.

Identity is funny thing. For the longest time, I thought I was Cosmo. Yet it only took a few minutes for Mindshow to shatter this illusion the first time I puppeteered a character. Having the ability to put on different bodies as easily as putting on a jacket challenged my sense of self I spent so much time constructing.

Becoming an unbranded snack cake in Mindshow.

I’ve never felt very comfortable filming myself, but put me in an alien or cat puppet and I’ll act like a child! It’s almost like Mindshow lets us take off the mask of our identity, that outward facing persona we let others think is our true self, and replace it with a silly cartoon avatar.

Alex Grey’s “Net of Being”

Ultimately, we’re all the same person wearing different masks. The great illusion of our current three dimensional consciousness is that we can’t see the invisible fields connecting each mask. We seem to be inside our body looking out at a world separate from us, and yet the “external” world is really just a projection of our internal reality.

Having some time to consider some of the more philosophical and esoteric aspects of Mindshow, I realized that our app is like a fractal reflection of incarnation. Just as our physical body can animate a virtual character, so too does our soul puppeteer our physical body. (“Animate” comes from “anima,” which means soul.)

The self-reflexivity goes even deeper: just as Mindshow helps you visualize and manifest your imagination, so too has the process of creating Mindshow itself been a powerful lesson in manifestation. Transforming a conversation, mere thoughts enfolded in the implicate order, into a full team shipping software on Steam has proven to me that anything is possible.

Congratulations to everyone at Mindshow! 💯


THANK YOU TO:

  • My parents Susan Kramer and Bernard Scharf for making me, giving me space to be creative, and not disowning me for dropping out of USC!
  • The Mindshow team for working so hard and for bringing this product into existence!
  • The community team that I work with most directly (Ace Ehlman, Mike McNeal, Tiffany Stevens, Ryan Flynn, Raja Mani, Aldrin Gamos, Jeremy Welt, and Jonnie Ross) for kicking butt the past few months!
  • Jonnie Ross for bringing your incredible creative and positive energy to the team everyday, and for being a mentor and friend.
  • Gil Baron for being a great CEO, a kind person, and for helping me grow.
  • Adam Levin for helping run aspects of the company I could never hope to understand, your great negotiating and organizational skills, and for helping me become a better executive.
  • Luke Patterson for developing our very first prototype in our apartment, and your interactive design genius.
  • All of our investors, especially Bubba Murarka — for taking a huge bet on us.
  • Jeremy Welt for helping us succeed on social media and for bringing your excitement and positivity every day.
  • All of our advisors for helping us raise money and create a cohesive business model.
  • The VRLA team for supporting us during our important moments.
  • Anyone else I’m forgetting to mention by name — you know who you are! It’s past 2am and it’s time to go to sleeeep!