Ten months ago I left my role of Regional Manager at the Tech Hub/BizDojo to venture into startup world. It wasn't just one venture I was starting up. It was an ecosystem to support an entire sector. My mission was to create a centre of excellence in virtual and mixed reality. To do this I decided I need to start with the community and understand the needs of this community so I could help and build what they needed.
Five steps to establishing support for, and of a sector (what I did):
- Started an Association. If anyone has every been involved in the set up of a society you'll know it's painful. You need 16 members to form it, there are monthly board meetings, society rules and AGM's. If anyone thinks this is any easy option they are very wrong. The total volunteer hours that have gone into setting up and helping to govern The New Zealand VR/AR Association have been immense. In fact as I write this I'm very aware I'm neglecting a bunch of jobs that need to be done for the Association. The other thing about this association that makes it unique is it's the NZ chapter for the International Association. That's awesome but does add to overheads.
- Ran the first ever NZ Augmented Reality Hackathon. Actually that wasn't too hard and it was super fun. Thanks to InternetNZ for sponsoring it!
- Wrote a paper. It's called BlackpaperOne and it's a curated overview of the virtual and augmented reality industry. I worked with the other Director of Blackeye to produce a beautiful overview of the industry to help educate the decision makers. The great thing about this paper is that MBIE have now committed to help fund a second paper with The New Zealand VR/AR Association focussed on the economic development opportunities.
- Ran a national conference. It was called Future Realities. I built the website late at night, found the sponsors and speakers and hired a wonderful women Alejandra for 6 weeks and worked with the other cofounders, two cool dudes in Auckland, Rob and John plus a load of volunteers to help pull it off. We got some great press but best of all, those that exhibited had qualified leads and are already getting paid work. Happy days.
- Opened a physical space. Everyone just wants somewhere to hang, chat and share learnings with likeminded folk. I know this from my days at the Dojo but it's even more important in a new sector where everyone is trying hard to make a dollar, solve problems and convince the world it's not a fad. The monthly meetups that NZVRARA have hosted have been great for this but as always, space is hard to find and we've been shifted around workplaces and bars. As of June, we have a home in wellington at Level 2, 40 Taranaki street. It's called PROJECTR. Come hang.
Seems easy huh? Nope. I never knew that helping people would be this hard. As soon as you lift your head above water people are ready to shoot you down. The politics has taken it's toll and the financial risks I've taken (especially running Future Realities) have caused many 4am panic attacks and stressful whatsapp messages to my friends.
About four weeks ago I was ready to give up.
I went through the options. An attractive job offer, a trip to a hot country and some egg on my face. Wouldn't be that bad....
Thankfully I have some ace people that have offered me a helping hand just and sponsors that have committed to helping me financially including Wellington City Council. But the key thing that's got me through. My ladies. The incredible women in my peer support group that have cheered me on. They backed me and never doubted I couldn't pull this off.
Last week at our monthly session we talked about the importance of a leadership team where everyone backs you. They encourage and allow you to be awesome. When people doubt us we start to doubt ourselves. When we feel nervous it's a lot harder to be creative and problem solve. In fact our brain doesn't allow us to problem solve in the same way when we are stressed and under pressure.
If you are working with people that don't believe in you, don't back your ability and empower you to be successful then you are working with the wrong people. You'll never be the best you can be.
On the 27th of July we officially launched the PROJECTR space in collaboration with MBIE and all our awesome supporters. I'm the one looking tired but happy surrounding myself with people that back me.