Rene Amador, CEO of ARwall, is preparing his team for the SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event, recognizing the top 50 tech startups in the world. The pitch event will take place March 10th – 12th at the Austin Convention Center. Visit the SXSW Accelerator site for more information about the finalists.
What is the one thing that you want the SXSW judges to take away from your pitch?
Our product enables an illusion, so it can be difficult to understand how what we’re doing is special without a look behind the scenes. My main hope is that the audience walks away knowing not only that we’re changing film, but that we have a pretty cool piece of tech with applications far beyond entertainment. Some of the applications we’re discussing already are in medtech and spacetech, and it can be difficult to quickly explain exactly how we’re foundationally changing the way people can interact with data.
What does it mean to you to be a SXSW finalist and how do you see it benefiting ARwall?
It’s surreal to actually be going the first time as part of the prestigious accelerator. I am familiar with the startup world, having worked for over a dozen startups since the age of 10. I’d like to say I’ve observed and learned from their successes and mistakes, particularly Daqri, where I first learned about AR. But when success like this actually arrives for you it feels like you’re a leaf in the wind. We’re just 1 of 5 startups in the VR/AR category, so I hope we can raise the profile of Augmented Reality as a whole and let people see this will go far beyond the goggles and smart devices that they’re used to associating with this field. And that this is here now, it’s not coming, with ARwall this has arrived and it’s blowing Hollywood A-lister minds on the daily.
Outside of the accelerator program, what else are you looking forward to at SXSW?
The best part of these events is always showing off our product to creators in film and VR. You’re not going to run this kind of company unless you enjoy seeing people’s reactions upon contemplating the new possibilities.
Our immediate need is to connect with media-savvy angel investors who might have a vested interest in seeing film & TV become easier to produce. We’re post-revenue after an A-list project, and getting so much interest. Bottom line: we need gasoline to pour on this fire so we can grow to meet demand.
Also, this is my first time in Texas and I am a big fan of BBQ, so I’ve tasked some Austin-local friends with ensuring I hit the best Texas BBQ spots downtown and I’m looking forward to some delicious meals! I’ve probably put more consideration into the food planning on this business trip than in all prior trips combined.
How do you see ARwall revolutionizing the film and television industry?
Virtual production has broadened what films can be made, but new spatial imaging tech like ARwall has the ability to make these processes far less labor intensive. Cheaper, faster, and even better once you consider the composite is in-camera with real photons, instead of hobbled together in post.
It’s also pretty cool that the crew and cast can actually see the virtual environment and react to it. Actors have reported to us that this is a fundamental shift in presence and tone vs. green screen, and it seems somehow primitive to go back to a green screen after experiencing ARwall.
What other industries can you see benefiting from your technology?
Gaming, digital signage, adtech, spacetech, medtech, retail, theme parks, hotels, cruise ships, defense tech, and more. Anytime someone is hoping to escape the real or perceive the virtual, we can help.
In general, who/ what are you most inspired by?
I’m inspired by disobedient people who stand up to giants, armed only with a good idea, and the will to see it through. There is something inspiring about people who thrive in a position of outcast, because they show that the mind of an individual is more powerful than the ignorance of a collective. I was raised by immigrants, a lawyer and a software engineer, who thrived in America and learned how to become stronger through hardship. I am continually inspired by them.
How would you describe the ARwall brand and what is your vision for ensuring brand loyalty?
What makes cinema powerful is there is an unspoken contract between the filmmaker and audience. In return for a suspension of disbelief, the audience receives a convincing illusion. AR has yet to be able to make this type of promise, and ARwall is hoping to become the company that makes this type of unspoken bond possible. The idea is for the audience to have a long term interest in learning the language of ARwall as a new medium in the same way they’ve perhaps unknowingly done with cinema. Our goal will always be to remain the leader in protecting this now-forming agreement with the user, and I think we’re doing pretty well by starting with some of the most scrutinizing eyes in film VFX.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of creating a startup tech company?
The challenge mainly has to do with figuring out when to sleep. Also, good communication inside and outside the company is hard work. It’s very easy to oversaturate on collaboration and meetings, hitting that right balance is a moving target and it’s a team effort to get right.
The reward is getting feedback from the directors we’ve worked with and hearing that they will use us again on their next project. Deep down, my main fear is that we’ll never find a foothold in the industry, and when you hear real working putting-food-on-the-table directors say they see the value and they’re excited to use it again, it means we’ve recruited another true believer for the revolution to change cinema.
How has your background prepared you?
My background is primarily as a commercial director/producer, and one thing that people know about me is I have a passion for recruiting, building, and empowering teams to do amazing things. Part of that is knowing how to listen and fall in love with whatever excites your team; being open to a 2-way street of inspiration and ideas. That takes a huge amount of self-awareness and focus to be able to get swept away, but still come back to a genuine core drive that is meaningful to you but also incorporates dozens of other people’s meanings and inspirations. That is directing in a nutshell, and I’ve found those “muscles” to be very helpful in building buy-in from staff, partners, and clients.
A constant theme in my projects has been that we’re always pushing the technical limits of what we’re doing, so I understand what kind of people you need in those experiments. When you find someone like that who is smart, flexible, strong, and self-aware; it can be in any package or form. Sometimes when I interview someone with true talent you can hit on someone’s passion and it can only be described as like hearing a race car engine roaring under the hood of a compact car. It’s powerful, it’s unexpected, it makes a statement and doesn’t apologize. That’s what you need when you’re making history.