The startup has just secured £100,000 in funding from a private investor for its VRiTT training platform
Anyone who’s started a service sector job will probably know that the first day is often a baptism of fire. The pace is so fast that there’s not always time to translate what you learned in theory to something useful in the real world when a customer in front of you. That was certainly the experience of Dami Hastrup. Witnessing how basic training in retail could be, Dami knew there must be a way to use technology like VR to onboard staff in a more creative and practical way. So in August 2016 the entrepreneur founded MOONHUB, shared his idea with colleague (and old friend) Vinh Ly and then brought on joint friend Hannah Sutcliffe to help with marketing.
Bootstrapping their startup using their personal savings and working part-time to pay the bills, the trio rented out some low-budget space for £50 and started experimenting with content creation. “VR was relatively new at that time, so we were definitely getting to grips with its potential and how far we could push it,” says Dami. “The first version wasn’t anywhere near the quality we were looking for but, after getting feedback and brainstorming ideas, we used our savings to pay for a professional studio and equipment to develop version 2.0.”
The trio have continued building on that second cut to develop VRiTT: an interactive, virtual reality based training tool designed to replicate service sector scenarios. The tool allows brands to train service staff using interactive role-play scenarios and give feedback to people based on their performance. By simulating real-world scenarios that people need to respond to, it’s an effective way of reinforcing learning. “VR training is becoming more and more popular because it allows employees to learn and make mistakes in the virtual world before they go out in the real world, says co-founder Dami. “We make the experience as realistic and personalised as possible by filming bespoke content for the company, creating realistic scenarios and providing employees with feedback and advise on how they can improve. We believe this is the future of training, especially for large workforces where you need a consistent level of knowledge and customer service.”
But while they’ve brought on clients, continuing to dip into their own savings (and earning money through side jobs like offering web design services) wasn’t going to be possible forever. So, not long after becoming Plexal members in August 2017, they began the process of courting investors. “It wasn’t straightforward by any means,” recalls Dami. We found that while a lot of investors said they were interested in companies at our level, they often wanted to invest in more mature companies. And since each application takes a lot of time, it can grate a bit when you feel like you’ve been slightly misled.”
After months of late nights (plus some investment advice from Plexal’s innovation lead Tommy Ekman), they’ve secured an initial round of £100,000 from a private investment company based in US, which will give them a little bit of breathing room to do further product development and bring on new clients. Speaking about the investment and what’s coming up, Dami said: “It definitely shows us that we’re on to something. VR has so much untapped penitential. We’re looking forward to showing people just how beneficial our training tool can be in 2019.”