I founded a successful VR company at uni to help with public speaking - AMA Watch

Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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Sophie is one of the Founders of VirtualSpeech, an award-winning professional development platform that combines e-learning with practice in virtual reality.

She started the company when she was at university, using VR as a way to overcome her fear of public speaking.

Since then, VirtualSpeech has been part of an accelerator program in Silicon Valley and has been featured on BBC World News, The New York Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. VirtualSpeech is now used by 300,000+ people across 130 countries to help them improve skills such as public speaking, networking and job interviews.

Ask her anything about virtual reality, setting up a business, or tips on public speaking by replying below

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Anonymous #1
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How did you come up with this idea in the first place and how did you fit it in while you were at uni? did your uni help you at all?
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mnot
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Sophie is one of the Founders of VirtualSpeech, an award-winning professional development platform that combines e-learning with practice in virtual reality.

She started the company when she was at university, using VR as a way to overcome her fear of public speaking.

Since then, VirtualSpeech has been part of an accelerator program in Silicon Valley and has been featured on BBC World News, The New York Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. VirtualSpeech is now used by 300,000+ people across 130 countries to help them improve skills such as public speaking, networking and job interviews.

Ask her anything about virtual reality, setting up a business, or tips on public speaking by replying beow

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Wow, such a good idea!

Where seeing this technology boom, do you see this technology being moved into other business/corporate options opportunities?
Just wondering if you think this technology would ever make it into:
-academic conferences? ie people can attend international events via VR? im sure research institutes would love to save the money on flights...
-Could C-suite execs use this, as we see more international boardrooms popping up?

The learning platform is amazing, but there seems like so many more applicable opportunities?
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MadMaths
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how did you cope with the learning curve of starting a business, and at times did you get overwhelmed with it all, how did you manage moments like this?

P.S please quote my response so I can get a notification when you have replied
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blondie94
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How did you afford the £15,000-£29,000 fees?
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0101Curious
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Hi Sophie,

Congrats on your success to date, and I hope you have many more to come. I'd like to know what you studied at uni. I see you're an alumni of Warwick's business school, but what did you study before that ?

Best regards
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blondie94
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(Original post by 0101Curious)
Hi Sophie,

Congrats on your success to date, and I hope you have many more to come. I'd like to know what you studied at uni. I see you're an alumni of Warwick's business school, but what did you study before that ?

Best regards
On linkedin it says theology.
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by Anonymous)
How did you come up with this idea in the first place and how did you fit it in while you were at uni? did your uni help you at all?
Hi there! The idea came from my own fear of public speaking - I used to avoid it at all costs. I avoided going to job interviews, modules in my undergrad that were partly assessed through presentations, and I wouldn't order my own food in a restaurant. I realised that this fear was limiting my opportunities already and I got to WBS and I couldn't avoid public speaking, and I was worried about it months in advance. One of my friends was working in the VR industry at the time and we thought VR was the perfect bridge between practicing and becoming good (and confident) at public speaking, and avoiding it completely. It's a safe space to make mistakes, receive feedback, build confidence and skills, and even just get used to people looking at you.

When I was at University, it was more a part time hobby than a business. We originally made the app for ourselves rather than with the idea of building a company with it, so we didn't monetise it initially. That definitely took the pressure off it while I was still at Uni. My co-founder quit his job within 2 months though and started working on it full time, which also helped me personally in being able to focus on my studies.

In terms of the Uni helping us when we set up, we worked with University of Warwick Science Park as part of their Business Ready program. This was really helpful in terms of having a mentor, receiving valuable feedback and helping develop new features. My course itself was helpful too - I would say the 'Global Branding' and 'International Business Strategy' were the most useful in terms of learning to build a brand, cross cultural awareness, and various factors to consider about starting and structuring a business. Most of the students around me were international as well which was also great for learning different viewpoints and how businesses (and communication) differ across the world.
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RedGiant
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Do you think you could have founded your startup without purchasing a degree in theology?

How were you able to avoid being one of the 90% or so of startups that fail every year?
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by mnot)
Wow, such a good idea!

Where seeing this technology boom, do you see this technology being moved into other business/corporate options opportunities?
Just wondering if you think this technology would ever make it into:
-academic conferences? ie people can attend international events via VR? im sure research institutes would love to save the money on flights...
-Could C-suite execs use this, as we see more international boardrooms popping up?

The learning platform is amazing, but there seems like so many more applicable opportunities?
Hello! There are definitely tonnes of opportunities for VR in learning and ed tech. There's actually a conference for educators being held solely in VR at the end of the month, which is really interesting to see and I expect will become increasingly common over the years (as you say, the savings on flights, accommodation, time out of the office, etc. would all be greatly reduced with virtual conferences).

C-suite execs are starting to use virtual boardrooms too. This is a small market at the moment but I believe in years to come it'll become as natural to us as using Skype, Zoom, or similar. We've just created live training in VR, which is similar to virtual meetings but designed for educators/ trainers to assist students/ employees in their communication by providing real-time feedback, without having to meet in person. VR adds an extra element of presence that platforms like Skype can't, so I think many forms of communication could eventually evolve into VR meet-ups of some kind.
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
In terms of the Uni helping us when we set up, we worked with University of Warwick Science Park as part of their Business Ready program. This was really helpful in terms of having a mentor, receiving valuable feedback and helping develop new features. My course itself was helpful too - I would say the 'Global Branding' and 'International Business Strategy' were the most useful in terms of learning to build a brand, cross cultural awareness, and various factors to consider about starting and structuring a business. Most of the students around me were international as well which was also great for learning different viewpoints and how businesses (and communication) differ across the world.
Sorry can you explain more about what the business ready program is? do you have to apply separately? do you get to choose a mentor or are you assigned one?
were there any modules that were less useful?

sorry for all the questions!
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by MadMaths)
how did you cope with the learning curve of starting a business, and at times did you get overwhelmed with it all, how did you manage moments like this?

P.S please quote my response so I can get a notification when you have replied
Hey, great question! I wish more people talked about this. Too often 100 hour weeks and 'hustle' are glamourised as marks of achievement in start-ups and it's easy to forget that as humans we aren't built to live like that. Sure, you need to work hard and often you're working on something you love, so you don't mind working long hours - even more so in the early days where you're taking on so many different job roles yourself and learning so much. It can be hard but you don't need to sacrifice yourself in the process.

There were a few times in the early days where I felt overwhelmed, mainly when I'd not been looking after myself in other areas of life - eg. exercising, socialising, taking time out (turning notifications off on my phone so I didn't reply to emails at 1am). It's really important to have people you can talk to who support you and your goals, whether that's family, friends, colleagues, mentors, investors, etc. This helped calm me down and keep perspective when I did feel overwhelmed. I also try and remember why we started in the first place - if you have a strong sense of purpose about what you're doing, it's easier to ground yourself when you feel like that.

Everything about running a business is a learning curve, including managing a balance between work and personal life, working mostly alone at the start, working on something people don't necessarily understand - but what other job do you learn so much in? 😊
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by blondie94)
How did you afford the £15,000-£29,000 fees?
Hi there 😊 Do you mean the fees for WBS? If so, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship so a significant amount of my fees were supported through that.
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by 0101Curious)
Hi Sophie,

Congrats on your success to date, and I hope you have many more to come. I'd like to know what you studied at uni. I see you're an alumni of Warwick's business school, but what did you study before that ?

Best regards
(Original post by blondie94)
On linkedin it says theology.
Hello! Thank you very much 😊 For my undergrad, I studied Theology at University of Birmingham and then I did my postgrad in International Business at Warwick Business School.
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MadMaths
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Sophie is one of the Founders of VirtualSpeech, an award-winning professional development platform that combines e-learning with practice in virtual reality.

She started the company when she was at university, using VR as a way to overcome her fear of public speaking.

Since then, VirtualSpeech has been part of an accelerator program in Silicon Valley and has been featured on BBC World News, The New York Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. VirtualSpeech is now used by 300,000+ people across 130 countries to help them improve skills such as public speaking, networking and job interviews.

Ask her anything about virtual reality, setting up a business, or tips on public speaking by replying beow

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Size:  537.3 KB
How did you initially monetize the business and what marketing methods did you use, how did you find your Co founder? I'm starting a business on my own and wearing alot of different hats is overwhelming, did you outsource stuff you didn't know how to do?
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steamed-hams
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Hi there! The idea came from my own fear of public speaking - I used to avoid it at all costs. I avoided going to job interviews, modules in my undergrad that were partly assessed through presentations, and I wouldn't order my own food in a restaurant. I realised that this fear was limiting my opportunities already and I got to WBS and I couldn't avoid public speaking, and I was worried about it months in advance. One of my friends was working in the VR industry at the time and we thought VR was the perfect bridge between practicing and becoming good (and confident) at public speaking, and avoiding it completely. It's a safe space to make mistakes, receive feedback, build confidence and skills, and even just get used to people looking at you.

When I was at University, it was more a part time hobby than a business. We originally made the app for ourselves rather than with the idea of building a company with it, so we didn't monetise it initially. That definitely took the pressure off it while I was still at Uni. My co-founder quit his job within 2 months though and started working on it full time, which also helped me personally in being able to focus on my studies.

In terms of the Uni helping us when we set up, we worked with University of Warwick Science Park as part of their Business Ready program. This was really helpful in terms of having a mentor, receiving valuable feedback and helping develop new features. My course itself was helpful too - I would say the 'Global Branding' and 'International Business Strategy' were the most useful in terms of learning to build a brand, cross cultural awareness, and various factors to consider about starting and structuring a business. Most of the students around me were international as well which was also great for learning different viewpoints and how businesses (and communication) differ across the world.
how did u make the app? are you/other founders sw developers
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MadMaths
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(Original post by steamed-hams)
how did u make the app? are you/other founders sw developers
Good question
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04MR17
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How important do you think public speaking is as a skill in general for employability?

What sectors do you see this kind of technology heading into soon? (Education? Retail?)
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J Papi
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why would man need this when man could just stand up and start chatting
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MadMaths
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(Original post by J Papi)
why would man need this when man could just stand up and start chatting
maybe "man" lives in different country to workplace which is often the case now
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