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

shadowdweller
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I don't actually have anything to ask, I just want to say how awesome this is!
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J Papi
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(Original post by MadMaths)
maybe "man" lives in different country to workplace which is often the case now
that would make it even easier
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by J Papi)
why would man need this when man could just stand up and start chatting
Haha indeed, man could. However, man could also be in the up to 74% of the population who fear public speaking, so probably wouldn't find it easy to do. This kind of thing isn't for everyone but here are a few other reasons man might use VirtualSpeech before he stands up and starts chatting:

1. Lack of confidence in their presentation ability, oratory skills or other skillset. We provide courses (combining e-learning and VR) in public speaking, sales, leadership communication, job interviews, and more. Most of these skills require practice to become good at them and VR provides them with the opportunity to do so, in a safe space, without real world consequences. People can build up their skills to a level they are confident with before they give a big presentation, deliver a sales pitch or have an important job interview.

2. They can receive instant feedback on their speaking. The app is linked to AI to give feedback on use of hesitation words, pace, volume, eye contact, perception, and more. Users can practice as many times as they want and track their progress in each of these areas, without asking their friends / family for feedback for hours. It's like having an AI speech coach and virtual audience on demand.

3. They can track their progress and see for themselves how they are improving, areas that still need improvement and take mini trainings in VR to help them (eg. about eye contact, responding to questions or dealing with distractions). From an employer or university perspective, they can also measure ROI in a quantitative way, which is otherwise difficult with traditional training methods.

😉😊
Last edited by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni; 2 weeks ago
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J Papi
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Haha indeed, man could. However man could also be in the up to 74% of the population who fear public speaking, so probably wouldn't find it easy to do. This kind of thing isn't for everyone but here are a few other reasons man might use VirtualSpeech before he stands up and starts chatting:

1. Lack of confidence in their presentation ability, oratory skills or other skillset. We provide courses (combining e-learning and VR) in public speaking, sales, leadership communication, job interviews, and more. Most of these skills require practice to become good at them and VR provides them with the opportunity to do so, in a safe space, without real world consequences. People can build up their skills to a level they are confident with before they give a big presentation, deliver a sales pitch or have an important job interview.

2. They can receive instant feedback on their speaking. The app is linked to AI to give feedback on use of hesitation words, pace, volume, eye contact, perception, and more. Users can practice as many times as they want and track their progress in each of these areas, without asking their friends / family for feedback for hours. It's like having an AI speech coach and virtual audience on demand.

3. They can track their progress and see for themselves how they are improving, areas that still need improvement and take mini trainings in VR to help them (eg. about eye contact, responding to questions or dealing with distractions). From an employer or university perspective, they can also measure ROI in a quantitative way, which is otherwise difficult with traditional training methods.

😉😊
good response, got my rep
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by RedGiant)
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?
Hello! I don't think you need to have studied a particular degree to be able to start a company, and part of what you learn at University is about the 'life skills' you pick up along the way, not necessarily the content of your modules. So, while some degrees may seem more suited to starting a company (and Theology isn't one that springs to mind there), the skills I picked up during my undergrad such as critical thinking, broader analysis, and social skills, are all useful for any career, and have been useful for me.

In terms of avoiding the high failure rate, I'd say make sure you're building for a problem, and not just starting a business for the sake of it. Problem (and potential customers) come first - if you can't find a product-market fit then you will sink. And ultimately that's a race against time because you'll likely have finite resources. So first identify a real problem and how you're going to solve it and then work hard, fail often. While your product/ service may provide a solution, you've also got to figure out how to market it, monetise it, scale, etc and so being prepared to try something and adapt quickly when that's not working is important. For example, at VirtualSpeech we tried a few different methods of monetising what was initially an app, from in-app purchases to a subscription model, both of which we tried in a couple of months and quickly changed route when we realised the business wouldn't work that way. We were also conscious to grow with the market and not race ahead and push the industry into a VR solution before they were ready for it.
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by Anonymous)
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!
Hey, no problem - ask as many as you like! Yes, you apply separately for it through the website. We did this in 2016 so it may have changed now, but from our experience we were assigned a mentor (who was great) and he worked with us on a business plan, initial strategy and route to wider market after we initially launched. Here's a link to the website, where you can ask them more details about the logistics as I don't know want to give you any false information in case things have changed! I would definitely recommend it though.

Modules that were less useful are probably more based on what business you'd start and what role you'd take in that. For me, I took on a more operational/ marketing/ business development role so modules that were heavily finance based wouldn't have been as useful for me. However, I only took the compulsory modules in that area so I don't know if the other modules would've helped me - if I was taking on a more finance-based role or starting a company in the finance industry for example, they may have benefited me more than the ones I personally found most useful.
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mnot
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Hello! I don't think you need to have studied a particular degree to be able to start a company, and part of what you learn at University is about the 'life skills' you pick up along the way, not necessarily the content of your modules. So, while some degrees may seem more suited to starting a company (and Theology isn't one that springs to mind there), the skills I picked up during my undergrad such as critical thinking, broader analysis, and social skills, are all useful for any career, and have been useful for me.

In terms of avoiding the high failure rate, I'd say make sure you're building for a problem, and not just starting a business for the sake of it. Problem (and potential customers) come first - if you can't find a product-market fit then you will sink. And ultimately that's a race against time because you'll likely have finite resources. So first identify a real problem and how you're going to solve it and then work hard, fail often. While your product/ service may provide a solution, you've also got to figure out how to market it, monetise it, scale, etc and so being prepared to try something and adapt quickly when that's not working is important. For example, at VirtualSpeech we tried a few different methods of monetising what was initially an app, from in-app purchases to a subscription model, both of which we tried in a couple of months and quickly changed route when we realised the business wouldn't work that way. We were also conscious to grow with the market and not race ahead and push the industry into a VR solution before they were ready for it.
Did you need a lot of start up capital? If so how did you get it, equity investment?

Is virtualspeech profitable yet? if not is your debt ratio increasing or decreasing?

Are you still fighting for survival, or at a point where your looking for growth to flourish?

ps: good luck!
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by MadMaths)
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?
The business wasn't monetised at first but I would recommend having a business model in mind before you get started (but be open to that changing if it doesn't work with the market). Once we did start monetising, we tried a few different methods such as in-app purchases but we quickly realised that apps have a low perceived value (we're all used to getting them for free) so it would be difficult to have a sustainable business model this way. We tried a few different ways until we found one that fit so I'd say experiment with it at first, although this does depend on your industry. We were starting something new so we didn't have much basis to go off, but it may be different for you.

With marketing, we did social media marketing at first, although this isn't necessarily the best route. It's great for brand exposure and inexpensive, but if your product/ solution is a complex purchase (or more expensive), it may be trickier to convert that exposure into sales. We also started to focus on content marketing more generally, primarily focusing on blogs. Writing blogs that provide real value for the reader will help with SEO ranking, word of mouth, and increase return visits of potential customers. Even if those customers aren't looking to purchase, it helps build a community around your brand and general brand perception.

I was already friends with my Co-founder so that was definitely easier but there are groups I've seen on Meetup before where people are looking for co-founders. Starting a business is overwhelming so you are not alone there! I personally wouldn't recommend outsourcing things like engineering aspects, but I don't have experience with this so it might work for some people. I more think if you outsource something crucial to your whole business, that could put you in a more vulnerable position. A lot of these answers depend on the type of business you're starting and your skillset. If you don't feel comfortable giving more info on here, you can add me on LinkedIn and send me a message, and maybe I can be more specific!
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by steamed-hams)
how did u make the app? are you/other founders sw developers
Hello! Yes, my Co-founder, Dom, is an engineer and built the app and then our first couple of employees were developers too.
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turtlezzz
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this is SO cool I really want one of these x
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by shadowdweller)
I don't actually have anything to ask, I just want to say how awesome this is!
Ah thank you so much! 😊
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by mnot)
Did you need a lot of start up capital? If so how did you get it, equity investment?

Is virtualspeech profitable yet? if not is your debt ratio increasing or decreasing?

Are you still fighting for survival, or at a point where your looking for growth to flourish?

ps: good luck!
Hello! Thank you! 😊

We received some funding through a start-up accelerator called Boost VC, based in Silicon Valley. This enabled me and Dom to take the risk to work on VirtualSpeech full time, and other than that we didn't need much capital to get started. We're now profitable and have been for a couple of years so our roadmap is focused on growth in Universities and MNCs, rather than survival anymore (thankfully!) 😊
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mnot
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Hello! Thank you! 😊

We received some funding through a start-up accelerator called Boost VC, based in Silicon Valley. This enabled me and Dom to take the risk to work on VirtualSpeech full time, and other than that we didn't need much capital to get started. We're now profitable and have been for a couple of years so our roadmap is focused on growth in Universities and MNCs, rather than survival anymore (thankfully!) 😊
Wow, really impressive.

Must feel amazing having this creation now thriving congrats! I have a dream of one day being a successful entrepreneur, its great to see some shining examples on TSR to learn from, thanks for taking the time to answer are questions!

As a graduate of the WBS, how useful was the course to your success as an entrepreneur? Could you be where you are today without it?
Did you get more from the education or the networking opportunities?
Last edited by mnot; 2 weeks ago
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04MR17
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(Original post by 04MR17)
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?)
Could I get answers to my questions please?
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0101Curious
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(Original post by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni)
Hello! Yes, my Co-founder, Dom, is an engineer and built the app and then our first couple of employees were developers too.
Interesting. May I ask what Dom's educational background is in ?

Your startup idea and execution is really amazing and it's a great example of following ones dreams and taking the risk to become an entrepreneur. You're a shinning example for other females out there for sure Sophie ☺ keep up the good work 👏👏
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luc9999
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Interesting! Well done you. I am currently involved in a projecting using VR for Chinese learning. Will be interesting to follow this thread. When you started out, how did you go about marketing your product originally and what techniques worked best to make your product become profitably popular.
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by 04MR17)
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?)
Hello! I personally would say very important. Public speaking is more about 'speaking in public' and communication as a whole - whether you're talking to somebody one-on-one, being interviewed by 4 people or speaking to an audience of 200. Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO, identified communication as the biggest skills gap so if you can demonstrate a good level of speaking skills at an interview or assessment centre, you'll be more likely to stand out from your peers. As we enter into an era of AI and automation, I think it's the skills that make us uniquely human that will become increasingly important. This includes speaking (and building human connections through that), emotional intelligence, empathy, etc. - there are some skills that are much more difficult for robots and machines to replace.

In terms of where VR is heading soon, we're definitely just at the beginning and there are already a lot of industries using the technology. For example, you can visit the moon in VR, try out your IKEA furniture in VR before you buy it, view your potential new home in VR, and much more. One of the areas I think VR will be most beneficial is in the charity sector, as VR evokes a feeling of empathy that other mediums can't. For example, Unicef and the UN created a VR experience of life in a refugee camp, which saw twice the normal rate of support as fundraising on the street. Here's a blog that talks about 21 industries that are already using VR outside of gaming if you're interested!
Last edited by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni; 2 weeks ago
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by 04MR17)
Could I get answers to my questions please?
Hey! Sorry, I missed your questions before - I've just answered them now 😊
Last edited by Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni; 2 weeks ago
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by turtlezzz)
this is SO cool I really want one of these x
Thank you! I'm glad you like the sound of it 😊
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Sophie @ Warwick Business School Alumni
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(Original post by mnot)
Wow, really impressive.

Must feel amazing having this creation now thriving congrats! I have a dream of one day being a successful entrepreneur, its great to see some shining examples on TSR to learn from, thanks for taking the time to answer are questions!

As a graduate of the WBS, how useful was the course to your success as an entrepreneur? Could you be where you are today without it?
Did you get more from the education or the networking opportunities?
Hey, thank you so much! 😊

I think WBS as a whole helped to build some of the personal characteristics needed to start a company, eg. challenging yourself, risk taking, social skills, resilience, etc. I don't think you necessarily need to have studied a particular degree or attended a specific school to be successful but there are certainly great opportunities at WBS for networking such as joining Alumni groups where there are often industry-related talks or events. In terms of my course at WBS, I found the Global Branding and International Business Strategy modules the most useful as I learnt a lot from them and the lecturers were also really helpful (as they were for most of the modules). So it's difficult to say if I got more from the education or networking opportunities - the networking opportunities are certainly there but you need to be proactive in making the most of them. Hope that answers your questions!
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