Behind every great company, there’s a great leader. Not to boast or anything, but at OVA and StellarX, we’re fortunate to have Harold a.k.a. H or H-Dawg, at the helm of our (immersive) spaceship. Despite his forgetfulness, his intense fear of the dark, and strange appreciation for Robo Recall, this ocean-loving ski bum and self-professed Wizard and CEO (short for Chief Executive O.G.) is the most dedicated young-gun around. Looking back, he’s sure come a long way. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
💭 ⛷ Those snowy mornings spent in the family chalet devouring Grandma’s delicious fluffy pancakes before hitting the slopes for some fresh tracks...
💭 🎃 That Halloween he dressed up as the Hamburglar and went around pretending to rob candy from everybody…
💭 ✈️ The time he slept in an over-crowded airport next to 4 strangers only to be brutally awakened by an annoyed security guard at 4:00 AM. Welcome to Sin City, H-Dawg!
💭 🎤 Then there was the time he met with the CEO of Lockheed Martin Canada and spoke on stage with John Carmack about the OC/3 (Oculus Connect 3)…
💭 🎖 Or, that time he met with Frank C. DiGiovanni a.k.a. D9, Director, Force Training, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness…
💭 🕵🏼♂️ And finally, that time he was invited to join a super-duper secret meeting with the NATO army… (but 🤫 Shhhh… don’t tell!)
Not too shabby, Harold! In the words of the all mighty and powerful Drake:
It’s a far cry from those early days when he slept in sketchy closet-like Airbnbs in SF or the time he rented a freshly renovated one-bedroom basement loft in London, only to find out his hosts were Donatello and Raphaël.
“Cowabunga dudes!” 🐢 🍕
Just kidding… (Kinda.)
Sure, sometimes he blasts Requiem for a Dream when he’s pumping himself up for a meeting or overuses the ✌🏼 and 😎 emojis on #Slack, but we like him just the way he is. So, without further ado, here’s the man himself in this exclusive in-house interview.
Over to you Harold… 🎙
Where did it all begin? Why XR?
To be honest, the first time I was introduced to XR wasn’t all that memorable. I tried Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, and if my memory is correct, it was only black and red back then.
But, back in 2014 shortly after Oculus released the DK2, our team had an interesting conversation. Lucie, our General Manager, Pierre-Luc, our Chief Innovation Officer, and I, began imagining how virtual reality could be used to transform our business. At the time, OVA was strictly an e-learning business that specialized in creating interactive learning and evaluation situations online for business training and educational purposes. As we got into it, we realized how amazing the technology could be if it were applied to our context. So, following our in-depth conversation, we decided to order our very own Oculus to get familiar with the technology and begin experimenting with immersive learning.
Sure enough, when we received the package at our OVA headquarters, Pierre-Luc loaded up one of the scenes, which was like a Lion King savannah scene and that was the first time I really got to experience what I consider to be real virtual reality. I was blown away by the landscape.
Around me, the tall golden grass leaves swayed gently in the wind. Far away in the distance, I could see one tree a crippled trunk and few leaves. There I was, completely immersed, in a sea of leafy gold tides. Eventually, the background music kicked in. The soft thud of the rhythmic drums pitter-pattering heightened the experience as I soaked in my surroundings. For the first time, I felt immersed. I felt as though I was in another realm.
When I pulled off the headset, I was transported right back to reality. That short trip is all it took. From that moment on, I knew things would be different. I knew that our team had to embark on this virtual and augmented reality journey.
Wow! 😱 Just like that?!
Plus, in November 2014, while I was at the I/ITSEC in Orlando, I stopped by the Oculus booth to see the soon-to-be-released Oculus CV1, which was the higher resolution consumer version. They kept it in a closed room, in the middle of the trade-show, hidden away from prying eyes. After an hour of waiting, I finally got to try the Bullet Train, a Matrix-like simulation experience that involved dodging and catching speeding bullets with my bare hands.
This experience made me realize just how close we were to the XR paradigm shift. I knew for sure that we were on to something.
It’s crazy how one simple moment can transform your take on life. 🤯💥 And, what about your day-to-day? What’s it like to be CEO at OVA and StellarX?
Where do I begin?! Let’s just say, I call it: The Everyday Hustle. As CEO, my lifestyle is a tad hectic. Some days, I’m on the phone for what feels like 24 hours straight, other days I’m on stage giving a talk or pitching to VCs in China, and sometimes I spend hours on end typing away at my keyboard like a madman to review documents, contracts, and to keep up with the ever-growing email pileup in my inbox. When I’m not behind a screen, I network and get involved with the XR community. I really enjoy mingling because it gives me an opportunity to meet talented and creative folks from all industries.
Unsurprisingly, the workload never runs low. Plus, as a leader, I make sure to touch base with every team member regularly because they are ultimately at the heart of this operation. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am. It’s vital for me to ensure that they feel valued in their work and that they’re happy.
At the end of the day, I guess you could say that my Everyday Hustle involves leading the team, building relationships within the tech community, working closely with the team and key stakeholders, managing media, clients, and partners.
You’re clearly passionate about your work. ❤️ What do you like most about this industry?
Seriously, the coolest thing about XR is the continuous evolution. The industry is moving at such a fast pace, it’s astounding! I love being able to watch our StellarX product evolve over time. To think we started with a simple idea, and that today, we’ve built a game-changing creative XR space for anybody and everybody to enjoy, regardless of their technical ability.
Every time, I try new iterations of our product, I go to bed dreaming about it! It gives me those childhood jitters. You know, the same excitement felt when you unbox Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Christmas morning, and spend your whole day playing in your pajamas. Those moments are the best! 😍
Yeah, I know the feeling. 🙌🏼 But, I’m sure it hasn’t always been a cake walk. What kind of challenges have you had to face?
I won’t lie; it’s a tough industry. Spatial and immersive computing technologies are only now becoming more mainstream. In fact, the market is still in the early adoption phase. So, being the first to market a product that’s somewhat niche, for the moment, can be difficult. That being said, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by an excellent team dedicated to the success of OVA and StellarX. Plus, our strategic partnership with research centers has opened the door to amazing projects.
Since I’ve been in the industry, I’ve watched many friends quit the industry or M&A because they were unable to raise capital or gain traction. It’s incredible to think that I’ve been able to watch StellarX turn into what it is today. Words can’t even express how thankful I am for where we are today. 🙏 #Blessed
For sure. Tell me about something you’ve created or worked on that you’re most proud of?
Every day, I wake up, and I get to work with talented individuals. I get to grow as an individual and as a team leader. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about myself, the business, and the industry, and that’s what keeps me going. I’m faced with the unknown, and challenges get thrown my way all the time. Oddly enough, it’s something I wouldn’t give up for the world.
“I’m most proud to say that I don’t have a job.”
Sure, I could’ve taken the easy route and used my Engineering Degree to secure a job at some big factory, but that’s a job. Slaying away repetitively from Monday to Friday to earn a paycheck while I daydream about the weekend just isn’t my thing. Instead, I wake up to new projects every morning, I tackle the most interesting technological challenges, and I get to do something that I absolutely love. Now, that’s living if you ask me.
Hard to argue with you on that. 👏🏻 I can tell that you really appreciate your colleagues. How would you describe the team?
When I used to head to San Francisco to visit other startups, I was struck by their passion and drive. Everybody seemed so “into it,” and the teams seemed so motivated. Today, I get that exact same energizing startup vibe whenever I walk into our office, and I love it!
We’re a solid team, and I’m proud to say that each and every one of them is an A-player. There’s no map, and there are no guidelines to reach our destination. We’re on this crazy journey together, and we’re figuring it out along the way. It takes drive, creativity, and passion, and that’s something we all share. We’re a tight-knit team, and they’re all like family to me.
Awww… That’s sweet! (Really.) And, how do you think your teammates would describe you?
Seriously, I don’t know. I wish I knew. I guess it’s hard to say, but I hope the team views me as a good leader. You know, a cross between Shaun White and Eminem in 8 Mile. 💥 👊🏼 💥
So, basically, we could say your alter-ego is, Slim Shauny?
Haha! I guess… Sounds interesting when you say it like that. 😂
It sure does! In the end, I guess there’s really no way to know what your colleagues truly think — unless you ask — which is precisely what we did. Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen… the truth is out. 😱
Here’s what Harold’s teammates (really) think of him…
- “Where to begin… Working with Harold is such a pleasure! He’s hard-working, dedicated, driven, and nothing ever gets in the way of his smile and positive attitude. He has a unique ability to adapt to any situation that is thrown his way while remaining as cool as a cucumber, and he always finds a silver lining and views obstacles as learning opportunities. His good vibes make of him an easy-going colleague and his reliable nature make him an excellent leader. Authentic, attentive to others, and caring, Harold is an amazing co-worker.” — Lucie Rivard, General Manager
- “Harold is always enthusiastic and in a good mood. His positive energy is contagious! ☺️” — Isabelle Chum-Chhin, Developer
- “Harold: the man who travels the world in the name of XR!”
— Sijia Mao, Developer & Game Designer
- “Harold has an awesome personality that many people enjoy. However, a personality trait that comes to mind when I think of Harold is his strong ability to make decisions. When you’re having a hard time choosing, there’s nothing better than asking Harold slice. This also goes hand-in-hand with his strong will and determination. When he has something in mind, he pushes forward.” — David Arel, Developer
- “I really appreciate how Harold never seems to run out of good ideas — for anything and everything. Whatever happens, you can bet Harold has a solution for it!” — Boris Imare, 3D Artist
- “Harold is a cool guy. He’s friendly, warm, generous, and patient. It’s great to have such a dedicated and positive colleague to work with!”
— Pierre-Luc Lapointe, Chief Innovation Officer
- “What struck me when I first met Harold was his passion. Whenever I speak to him about XR, tech, startups, or even snowboarding, his eyes light up, and he’s always eager to share his knowledge. What’s special about Harold is that he’s unlike any other CEO I’ve met in regards to his approach to the team. Genuine, approachable, open-minded, attentive, available, and involved, are all representative of his signature laid-back vibe… Not to mention, the high-fives, constant encouragement, and the positive feedback he never forgets to give. Working with Harold is refreshing and energizing!”
— Samantha Bilodeau, Experience Designer
- “Harold is such an easy person to get along with. He’s available and takes the time to listen to others. When it comes to XR, he’s always one step ahead, and has an impressively thorough thought process that allows him to foresee how XR will shape our future.”
— Simon Pigot, Immersive Computing Developer
- “Harold is a natural enthusiast.” — Davi Neiva, AI Researcher
👊🏼💥 Boom! There you have it. That’s our Chief Executive O.G. for ya! Got any questions for Harold? Comments? Curiosities about working in the Metaverse? Ask away in the comment section below, or Tweet; we promise to get back to you ASAP!
And, before we leave you, here are a few bonus snippets from our fun Q&A session we thought you’d enjoy reading.
If I could have any superpower in the world, I’d choose: Time travel. I’d love to jump forward and see what’s happening 100 years from now. Better yet, keep going until can’t continue because there’s nowhere to go!
If I won a million dollars, I would: Split it in the company.
Which is worse? Being stuck in the Metaverse forever or Being stuck in the real world forever.
Would you rather have a rewind button for life or a pause button for life? Definitely a pause button!
Best hangover cure: A day of playing video games, drinking Mountain Dew, and eating Domino’s pizza.
That’s all, folks! Be sure to stay tuned as we present more of our team members in our Behind the Screens series.☝🏼 Oh, and one last thing; we’re looking for awesome folks to join our team. So, if you or someone you know happens to be as passionate about XR as we are, please get in touch. 👉🏼 firstname.lastname@example.org