This is the story of how my co-founder and I came up with the crazy idea to visualize data in virtual reality.
We’re BadVR, the world’s best (or we think so!) virtual reality data visualization platform.
Our story begins about 5 years ago. Around that time, I began searching for someone in the Los Angeles area who had an Oculus DK1 developer’s kit.
But first, some backstory.
I’ve always been obsessed with virtual reality. Growing up in Kansas City, I was a hardcore trekkie. I’d record Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes onto VHS tapes so I could watch and re-watch them. Many of my weekends were spent attending local Star Trek conventions and meet ups. My most prized possession was a blueprint of the Starship Enterprise, which I hung with pride on the wall of my bedroom, beside a signed TNG cast photo.
In school, I had a hard time connecting to my classmates. Being a nerdy kid, with hippie parents, and a Californian transplant in the Midwest, I just didn’t fit in. My favorite Star Trek episodes were those that involved the Holodeck — this amazing technology that allowed you to create whatever world you desired.
As someone who didn’t enjoy the ‘real world,’ the idea of escaping into a virtual world anytime, anywhere held a visceral, intoxicating appeal. I spent my childhood years dreaming of having a Holodeck to call my own, to escape the confines of small-town Missouri life.
Now an adult living in LA, I had heard of Oculus’ Kickstarter campaign. Immediately I was smitten. The dream of owning my own Holodeck was finally becoming a tangible reality. However, I didn’t have the money to buy my own dev kit, nor did I have the hardware needed to run it properly.
I posted on some message boards and reached out to my network looking for local LA residents who had DK1’s. Turns out, someone nearby had one and bonus point — I knew him through mutual friends and we’d even worked together on some previous freelance projects.
A couple days (and much anticipation) later, I appeared on his doorstep, ready to bring my Holodeck dreams to life.
As it turned out, the owner of the Oculus dev kit, Jad Meouchy, had a passion for VR that rivaled my own. Not only did he have a DK1, he had also hacked it, allowing you to see your hands inside the experience. This is fairly common now, but back then, it was pretty mind-blowing.
Jad and I immediately began discussing how to turn this new technology into a business. Both of us had experience in data visualization, so it natural for us to combine the two concepts. The more we both considered the combination, the more it seemed like a match made in technology heaven.
The aspects of VR that made it unique and engaging happened to also be perfectly suited to solving many of the pain points of two dimensional data visualization. We had hit on something great.
However, at the time, VR hardware just wasn’t ready for primetime. A business wouldn’t be feasible. Sadly, we tabled the idea, vowing to return in the future when we felt the market timing and hardware conditions had improved.
In the meantime, both Jad and I collaborated together on a project called Remine, which visualized nationwide real estate datasets, albeit in two dimensions. This taught us a lot about the limits of visualizing data in 2D, which proved more valuable than it would seem. Knowing the pain-points of 2D data visualization really helped us form the value proposition for BadVR.
Cue the end of 2017. Jad and I began noticing a big marketing push around the holidays for cheap VR headsets. We saw that VR was baked into Microsoft’s operating system. We noticed VR headsets being packaged together with laptops. We watched as the gaming community increasingly embraced VR, and how major industry players were stepping up their headset production.
It was really happening — now was the time!
Jad had recently exited a previous startup, and had spent his whole life founding businesses. I’d spent my fair share of time as a freelancer, and always had my small side hustles. But I really needed to think about whether or not I was ready to fully commit to entrepreneurship.
Being a founder is not for the faint of heart, and the choice was especially hard for me, as I had a day job at a company called CREXi that I loved dearly. It would be difficult to say goodbye.
But at the end of the day — I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My father started his own medical practice and never looked back. My grandfather founded and ran his own technology company for 30+ years. It was drilled into me from a young age that the only viable path to true success and fulfillment lay through the rocky landscape of entrepreneurship.
I put in my resignation at work in early 2018. From there, I embarked on a journey of realizing two of my lifelong dreams — that of founding my own business and building my own Holodeck.
Learn more about BadVR and VR data visualization by signing up for BadVR’s pilot program!