BadVR, a virtual reality data-visualization start-up, was founded in early 2018 and allows users to craft immersive data experiences that help you see the whole picture and gain actionable insights, faster. We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the masterminds behind BadVR — CEO and Co-Founder Suzanne Borders.
With 6+ years of experience in product and UX design, specifically for big data and data visualization products, Suzanne leads the BadVR team in its strategic, fast-paced growth. On the side, she likes traveling, poetry, tarot, and astrology. Fun fact — she’s numerically dyslexic; numbers look backward to her!
1) What inspired you to start your own company?
I’ve been a Trekkie for decades. As a kid, I always wanted my own holodeck, to escape the mundanities of life in Kansas City, where I grew up. When the Oculus DK1 developer’s kit came out in 2013, I finally got a glimpse of that dream becoming a reality. It inspired me to create my own VR/AR business, and since I also have experience with — and a great love of — data visualization, the two were a natural fit. Plus, I saw a great deal of value in adding another dimension to existing, flat data visualization products and felt that virtual reality offered an exciting way of doing so!
2) What were some of the biggest barriers you have faced as a women entrepreneur?
Biggest barriers fall into two categories — internal and external.
Externally, the biggest barrier I’ve faced as a woman is the casual, often unnoticed sexism that is pervasive in some sectors. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way in most modern workplaces when it comes to gender equality, but there are still some older companies that haven’t truly caught up when it comes to attitudes towards women. I’ve manned the booth at several conferences for previous companies and been called ‘the booth girl’ more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve had men at conferences come up and ask my male co-workers how much I cost per hour because they’d like a ‘booth girl like that!’ I designed and managed the build of the entire product, yet here were multiple men coming by the booth, not even bothering to address me personally, engaging in conversations with my male co-workers about my cost per hour. It’s dehumanizing, but at the same time, I haven’t let it stop me from achieving what I want to achieve. If anything, it’s just given me more fuel, more drive to succeed, if only to prove them wrong!
Internally, the biggest barrier I’ve faced as a woman is related to self-image. Not to say that self-image issues are isolated only to the female gender, but I do believe that a lot of women struggle with their self-image in the workplace in particular, because we don’t have a lot of strong female role models to look up to and engage with as mentors. This in turn makes it more difficult to truly ‘see’ an achievable path to success. I’d often see male friends and co-workers achieving things I’d always dreamed of achieving, but as a woman, I rarely ever saw a woman do the same. Part of me felt like those achievements weren’t ‘for’ women, and that made me feel like I couldn’t achieve them myself, as a woman. Obviously, this is untrue, but this lack of representation in the workplace does place internal barriers within the psyche, and make it all the harder for women like myself to truly FEEL like we can achieve!
3) Which problem are you solving with BadVR?
We’re solving the inherent problems one faces when analyzing data at scale. How do you see one million, or one billion of anything? It’s not easy in 2 dimensions. Add in another dimension, or several more dimensions, and suddenly seeing, interacting with, and analyzing large, complex datasets becomes easy. Put this experience into VR/AR, with all of the attributes of these platforms, and the experience of analyzing data is now not only easy, but also accessible and…gasp…fun!
4) Where does your motivation to solve this problem come from?
The pain and struggle of having to build two dimensional data visualization products that hit every possible limitation and constraint of flat visualizations. Additionally, working with large datasets, I’ve run into lots of limitations when it comes to sharing that data with others, or in trying to perform consistent analyses on it. All of these issues stem from a core, fundamental problem — we do not currently have a tool that is suitable for visualizing large, modern datasets.
My motivation came from this revelation — I wanted to build that tool!
5) What does success mean to you?
Success means achieving the goals I’ve set out to achieve. It means taking all the opportunities as they come to me, leaving nothing on the table. It means falling to sleep at night proud of my hard work, and with the knowledge that it’s paid off and that I earned what I’ve accomplished.
Success is the freedom and ability to follow my dreams, regardless of outcome.
6) What’s the biggest advice you’d give to someone starting out their career?
My advice is to prioritize building a good network. It’s a cliche to say that, but it’s true! Having the right people to help you means absolutely everything. We do not exist in a void, and our connections to others are really what define and determine our path to success.
I’d also tell people that opportunity is far more valuable than money. Prioritize opportunity, not money, and you’ll get 2x as far in half the time. This may sometimes mean working for free or taking a job with a lower salary but higher growth potential. It may mean making sacrifices with your time and your personal life, but if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that opportunities are fleeting and momentary, and if you don’t act on them immediately, you’ll wake up the next day and find them gone. The most important thing is to act upon an opportunity when it presents itself — don’t wait, don’t hesitate — go with it, and make whatever sacrifice is necessary.
Success is a mixture of luck, hard work, good timing, and opportunity. Seize on each as it presents itself to you. Money isn’t in that list of items, because money is a red herring. Chasing it doesn’t lead anywhere. Opportunity is the true source of all real wealth.
7) If you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?
I’d choose to be invisible on command! I’d choose this because I truly love being able to disappear and go around unnoticed, so I can truly people watch and observe true human behavior. I’ve always been fascinated with psychology and getting into people’s heads to understand why they do the things they do. I feel the ability to become invisible would give me some huge advantage when it comes to being able to observe humans and understand their true nature!
Sounds kinda creepy, but I love anonymity. The ability to exist without being seen sounds like a dream come true!
8) Why should someone try Virtual Reality?
Who wouldn’t want to have a chance experience life in another dimension, another reality?! Try it if for no other reason than to figure out what you’ve been missing!
To learn more, you can catch Suzie in our Marina Del Rey Office by scheduling a time at email@example.com.
To learn more about BadVR, visit us at https://badvr.com/