Since our opening, we’ve seen many rising operations and also a growing number of exits. Few weeks ago Mimesys, a STATION F startup in the Ubisoft program, got acquired by Magic Leap. We interview Rémi Rousseau, CEO of Mimesys, to learn more on what they are doing and what type of advice he can give to someone in an acquisition process.
What is Mimesys?
The future of human communication! More modestly, Mimesys is a French-Belgian startup that Davy Loots, Stéphane Saffré and I founded three years ago with the ambition to rethink the way people communicate and collaborate remotely.
Back in 2013, Davy and I were both kickstarter backers of the first Oculus VR headset and avid explorers of spatial computing technologies. It became pretty clear early on for us that the real potential of this new wave of immersive technologies was in its social abilities, in its capacities to amplify communication between humans, locally or remotely. My partner-to-be Davy was tinkering and was doing the first volumetric recordings of his family around 2014. He also had the great idea to share his work on reddit, which is how I discovered him.
We started discussing and and we met at the first European VR meetup. I found this idea of being able to communicate remotely as if you were face-to-face absolutely fascinating. It’s something you only saw in science-fiction, and Davy made me realize this was possible today. So, we started working on it; being ourselves a remote team, we had the opportunity to « eat our own dog food » and use the tech internally to work between us.
And the problem to solve is huge ; as companies and talents are more and more distributed among the world, we absolutely need great remote communication experiences. Not good, great. You could argue that existing videoconferencing and audioconferencing technologies are just an extension of the 150 year old telephone, and offer little value on top of that. There is simply no alternative to being face-to-face, in the same room. It is a big reason why business travel is still a growing trillion dollar industry, despite its negative impact on the environment. This desire for meeting in the physical world is also contributing factor in to the rising value of real estate in city centers around the globe.
But, what if you could have remote exchanges that are even better than face-to-face? That is the vision that has moved us at Mimesys, and we found that with spatial computing it was possible to create great experiences with remote communication, that are both familiar because they recreate face-to-face, and empowering because they can amplify your abilities. In our meetings, you can really collaborate and manipulate data or prototypes with your hands (or a control), in a way that hasn’t been done before. And in a way that amplifies the communication and abilities of the participants.
Now that we’re part of Magic Leap, we have access to more resources to make our vision of the future, part of the way we work today.
What technologies are you using?
We rely on two emerging technologies :
- in order to capture volumetric representations of participants, we use depth sensors, cameras that are able to perceive 3D objects. These cameras are becoming widely available and will become a big part of our future, as they allow computers to see. Their increase of quality will also help us bring the fidelity of our platform close to real-life, physical presence
- and of course, we’re using immersive headsets. We started developing on VR headsets, as that was what was accessible back then. Recently switched to a focus on XR headsets such as the Magic Leap One, as we found them more relevant for our use cases, and more accepted in the enterprise target that we are going after.
How did the acquisition come about?
It wasn’t an overnight process. We have been in contact with Magic Leap since the summer of 2016, when our company was 3 months old and we demonstrated our first prototypes to Jean-Yves Bouguet, a legendary french researcher that is heads up Magic Leap research in Computer Vision from Sunnyvale. Thanks to him, we had the chance to have ongoing contact over the past 3 years, and got to know each other better. We were actually the first external developers to be granted access to the hardware back in 2017 and it quickly became clear at that our visions for the future of computing and communication were perfectly aligned.
Magic Leap has deep values in how they want to build the platform for spatial computing; it should be a model respectful of the user, that tries to augment the human capacities rather than exploit its flaws like some other models in the attention economy. We had the opportunity to exchange ideas around our long term vision of the company and found the match to be quite perfect. It felt very good to find a company that totally understood and appreciated what we had been doing all these years.
What advice do you have for startups that are looking to get acquired?
My advice would be to think about who would be your ideal candidates and create a relationship early on with them, sometimes at the risk of being pushy. It’s sometimes difficult to understand the strategy of big companies if you only rely on their external communication, but usually becomes much clearer when you build a relationship with the right people internally. A lot of entrepreneurs have concerns about sharing their work with companies that could become potential competitors, but my experience is that sharing what you’re working on brings more good than bad. It might depends on the sector of course.
How has the Ubisoft program at STATION F contributed to your growth?
It was an incredible opportunity to be part of the Ubisoft program at Station F. First, the people are awesome; it’s rare to find such a renaissance company leveraging both artistic and technical talents at a very high level. Catherine who manages the program, has been extremely helpful, offering an external point of view on a strategy in a very early market. We were able to benefit from Ubisoft expertise in entering new markets, as the company has been a risk taker in exploring new platforms, and had gathered a lot of feedback about that. By the way, they are recruiting for season 4, and I deeply encourage any startup that fits their needs to apply for the best station F program (there, I said it). We hope to have been useful for them as well, with our insights from the trenches on how gaming will be affected by spatial computing in the next years.
Then, there’s also Station F by itself. It has been extremely helpful to be at Station F to do demos, meet interesting people or ask a fellow startuper how they would cope with a situation. Being in this huge cathedral, Notre Dame of Entrepreneurship, is also a great way to impress your prospective customers!
I’d really love, as a conclusion, to thank the people at the Ubisoft program and the Station F team for all the great interactions over the past years.