What if we told you you can go back in time, just to see what something looked like then? If that sounds appealing, you’re in luck. Aaron Selverston, Founder of Owlized, is leading the team pioneering the world’s first location-based reality kiosk. A quick look through Owlized’s VR players immerses you in the history of popular tourist destinations. Where would you go?
What is your business, and what problem you are solving?
Owlized is a time travel company. We've built the world's first location-based virtual reality kiosk, OWL VR, which helps travelers deeply connect with the most-visited places on Earth. We achieve this by enabling people to step into the past and bear witness to history. The problem we're solving is that actual time travel is impossible, and even if it were, going back in time risks destroying the space-time continuum and the universe as we know it—at least according to Doc Brown.
What inspired you to start your company?
In a past life, I was consulting for a client who hired me to design a strategy for helping San Francisco voters envision the future of Market Street. I conceived the OWL as a tool to do that.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to help the billions of people who travel every year deeply connect with the places they are visiting through the use of immersive, location-based storytelling.
Who is in your core team? How did your team come together?
Ryan Scott is our CTO, Ron Hupp is our VP of Operations and Treasurer, and Jeff Robers is our VP of Public Engagements. Ron and Ryan are also co-founders. Our team came together one-by-one because we are all extremely passionate about the transformative potential of VR. We all strongly believe that we have a killer product/market fit and are addressing a gargantuan market that remains almost entirely untapped by the technology we're pioneering.
While mobile apps are a good way to add some color to your vacation, you simply can't experience time travel through your phone's 5-inch screen
Please explain your edge over your competition?
We were first and remain the only company in the United States tackling this opportunity. More importantly, we are offering a solution to tourist attractions that is far more attractive than mobile or head-mounted alternatives. When you're dealing with the general public, you don't want to get caught up with dozens of cheap plastic VR headsets that constantly break, are unsanitary, and are incapable of detecting the user's actual position and location in the real, physical world. OWL VR solves all of those issues. Also, while mobile apps are a good way to add some color to your vacation, you simply can't experience time travel through your phone's 5-inch screen. You need to block out the surrounding view and immerse yourself in the story in a way that only VR makes possible.
If you never had to work another day in your life, what would you do? Why?
I'd likely focus on developing a permaculture site in Northern California with my family. I've always been interested in designing landscapes and buildings in an ecologically harmonious way, and could envision such a project being deeply fulfilling for myself and my wife, son and future kids.
What was the happiest moment of your life?
The night I met my wife, Jen, at Burning Man. Specifically, the sunrise that followed.
If you had $1M to invest, where would you put it, aside from your own company?
I'd put some money into Carbon Lighthouse, a company I reported on when I was a journalist in Palo Alto. They have an brilliant model for helping commercial properties reduce their carbon footprint. I'd probably also invest in other cleantech companies that show promise, including perhaps my brother's startup, which is developing a cutting-edge flow cell battery that would enable overnight storage of wind and solar energy as well as grid stabilization.*
Beyond that, I'd invest in mission-driven companies, like B Corps, whose causes resonate with me.
What drew you to equity crowdfunding?
I'm enticed by the idea that everyday people can finally take advantage of investment opportunities that they were previously locked out of. There's something intrinsically fair about that. The guys on Sand Hill Road don't deserve to have all the fun!
A skill you wish you had?
Piloting a motorized aircraft.
What are your interests and passions outside of your company?
I'm a licensed paraglider pilot, 16-year Burning Man participant, and avid cyclist.
If you had a year to do anything you wanted, what would you do? Money is no object here.
Travel the world with my family.
What’s the thing you believe to be true that no one else agrees with?
Pink Floyd is the greatest band of all time.
* The view is the personal opinion of the interviewee and should not be construed as investment advice from either the interviewee nor Republic.