Digifest Startup: InStage

InStage is your VR cure to stage fright. They help you recreate a live audience for you to practice and measure your public speaking ability.

InStage won Digifest's ITS A START pitch competition in 2018. Applications for this year's competition are now open!

When I hear VR, my mind leaps to heart-pumping video games or immersive art. But 2018 has been the year that VR went mainstream - medicine, real-estate, commerce have all bought into the hype.
Where do you see VR going in 2019 and are we still in the infancy phase?
Gaming is where I think most people see the potential of VR. I couldn’t help watching, Ready Player 1 and trying figure out how long it will be before we’re able to achieve something like “The Oasis”. While I do think it will be possible one day, from what I’ve seen over the past two years I think VR is still in its commercial infancy, and I say that because of the current hardware restrictions. That’s why I believe simple, utility based applications have generated more and more interest recently. For the rest of 2019 and I think for the next 2-3 years it will be extremely important for developers to constantly evaluate what VR is and is not capable of yet. As it stands I think VR is a superior tool for costly visually stimulating experiences like; staging a house, studying anatomy, or in our case standing on a stage in front of a crowd of strangers.
Some companies start with a problem, others start with technology that they are passionate about (ie. blockchain, AI, drones).
InStage solves a real-life problem that many of us face daily - stage fright. Were you interested in solving this particular problem, or were you interested in finding a problem and solving it with VR?
In our minds virtual reality is an exciting opportunity to tackle old problems in a new way. Our core team first met to discuss using VR as a tool opposed to a gaming platform, with the intention of helping people overcome the fear of public speaking for two main reasons. One, we felt a company that could offer an effective solution to this problem would be offering significant value to many people. And two, we felt that virtual reality is now and will grow to be an invaluable resource in this endeavour.
As a winner of ITS A START, you travelled to Beijing to pitch for $1million RMB at the Overseas Talent Entrepreneurship Conference.
How is VR being implemented in China and what can Canada learn from it?
The Overseas Talent and Entrepreneurship Competition was an incredible opportunity to meet thought leaders from around the world. This was our first experience with the Chinese start-up community, and it was a very encouraging to see how much they believe in supporting the work of both domestic and international entrepreneurs. However even there virtual reality is still trying to find its place. Of the 25 finalists from 20 different countries, InStage was the only one with a VR based business. Our main take away was confirming that being in the VR space today will require patience. While there is no doubt that the world at large is excited for the future of VR, it will still take time for both businesses and consumers to figure out how it will become part of their lives.
What business lessons have you learned in developing, launching, and scaling a VR product?
We feel we learn best by hearing what our customers have to say and as such have dedicated a large portion of our time to acquiring user feedback. After conducting over 1000 user trials we’ve learned that using VR as a training tool is certainly something people are interested in, regardless of age, demographic, education, or previous “gaming” experience. It is very rare that we demo our product for someone who does not see its potential as a training tool. Had this not been the case, I think we would have much less confidence in the future of our company, so of all the business lessons we’ve learned I think engaging with customers as early as possible is one of the most valuable.