The use of virtual reality technology to aid businesses across a range of sectors is growing.
Cardiff University students George Bellwood and Robin David identified a need and developed technology to fit into that space, using their expertise and skills while in their final years at university.
Their firm Virtus Tech is a virtual reality and data insight company providing virtual reality platforms to businesses. Their flagship DIGI Tour uses 360 degree images and digital interactive features to help businesses provide a greater customer experience and information, all in one platform.
The company has been supported through Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP), which provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Here, George Bellwood provides insight into the business’ development, early success and how it’s managed to overcome obstacles in its way.
Tell us about Virtus Tech
We started out when we were students, so there was plenty of support available for us. We had help and support from Cardiff University when we were forming our idea, as well as the NatWest Accelerator programme.
From there we accessed Business Wales AGP, which has provided so many avenues of support.
All these services could see that our idea was something worth backing. Our service, DIGI Data, uses machine learning and image recognition allowing clients to gain greater insights with their tours.
By giving clients access to a real time Digi Data dashboard, this enables them to increase user engagement with the tours. Through machine learning we help clients to make more informed decisions using state transition models and time series forecasting.
We approached lots of businesses to try and seal a deal for our first client, and it was the University of Wales Trinity St David which signed up to become our first major project. We provided their DIGI Tour platform for the university’s three campuses, with more than 700 interactive images displayed on their website and used for virtual open day events.
They also have access to the DIGI Data dashboard which helps the university understand key areas of academic interests from prospective students, giving them invaluable marketing data to gain competitive advantage.
Excitingly, we’re undergoing a new project partnering with Cardiff University and the NHS, providing a new virtual reality training platform for student and trainee medical staff, a project which is now in the final stages of preparation.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
Our proudest moment was definitely when we were able to hire three employees. It was a great feeling and we did it with no financial backing from investors, but all through the revenue from projects.
I think we’re also really proud of the release of the DIGI Data dashboard to clients – they were blown away with the data analytics which meant they could make more informed decisions.
What challenges have you faced in business
We’ve had to overcome many barriers. We decided to start off without going down the investment route, which has meant we’ve had to work hard to get where we are today. Without any major financial capital from investors, we have had to fund the building of DIGI Tour, Data and Tour Customise ourselves. However, we are confident that not going for investment immediately has placed our business in a stronger position for when and if we do decide to go for investment.
We’ve also had to overcome the challenges of our workload. It’s been tough, my co-founder Robin is chief technology officer and is our software engineer as well, which means we’ve had to manage our time to ensure we have delivered on time.
The pandemic has also thrown up challenges. We’ve had to adapt by providing software to customers remotely. And as there was no way of getting footage for the 360-degree images, we had to provide customers with their DIGI Tour and customise a platform for clients who can build and deploy their own custom virtual tour to their specification.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
We’re immensely proud of how far we’ve come since beginning trading in August 2020. We’ve grown the company by hiring three new employees in software engineering and have some really exciting projects coming up. Perhaps we could have gone for investment to help scale a lot quicker, but we do feel we’re in a good position to build and then seek investment when we’re in a stronger position with our customer base and products.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We’ve had a lot of support from Business Wales AGP. Our journey started with Big Ideas Wales, where I went to a Big Ideas Boot Camp weekend. We then applied for the Business Wales AGP, where our Relationship Manager Andrew Beer helped provide key strategic support to help us scale up and gain new clients.
We’re so grateful for all the support Business Wales AGP has given us, which included linking us up with HR support to assist in our recruitment.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
- Don’t be scared to start up a business, just go for it.
- Be patient, things take time to develop.
- Never be afraid to ask for help.
- Do your research.
- Enjoy what you do.
To find out more about Virtus Tech, visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme