Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Hoang.
Brian, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a first-generation Vietnamese American. Growing up, I learned the values of education and work ethic from my family, who previously suffered through the Vietnam War. I was a math and science nerd, so I enrolled in my high school’s STEM Academy to learn skills from robotics to programming. Four stressful years later, I graduated 4th in my class and earned a full ride to UT Dallas, where I studied software engineering.
College is where curiosity led me to discover entrepreneurship and my unlimited risk tolerance. It started when I burned out from three traditional internships and instead became interested in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, especially with how they could be applied to solve large problems for millions of people. As a result, I started two engineering organizations to democratize education on these cutting-edge technologies for the community. Within a year, we grew to serve over 500 students with accessible learning resources.
While recruiting for one of the organizations (the Virtual Reality Society), I met Marwan Kodeih—a brilliant VR developer and researcher. The short version of this story is: in 2016, we decided to create a company called Immosis to develop VR games and build up our portfolio. Then in 2018, we leveraged our expertise and reputation to pivot to a tech consultancy. We made more revenue than expected, but we wanted to become a product company. Unfortunately, most of the ideas that we came across were either unsustainable or unimpactful.
That is, until we encountered a retired police officer who hosts a radio show. Having had no experience with the full immersion of VR, he was blown away the second he put on our headset. “Wow, those zombies were all up in my face! That was so immersive!” He then asked, “Have you guys ever considered using this to train law enforcement?” And he starts telling us about the constant liability and danger that police face as a result of today’s limited training methods.
We fell in love with our potential to impact public safety, so in September 2018, SURVIVR was born. Fast forward to today: we’ve launched pilots with a number of police departments, signed our first deals (including a contract with the U.S. Air Force), raised our first funding round, and got accepted into Techstars Austin.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not. I’ve found that your problems don’t decrease as your business grows. Rather, the nature of your problems changes as you encounter new stages of the company.
For example, when we first started out, we were stressed about validating basic assumptions and hacking together a prototype. Over time, navigating product-market fit got more complex while we also dealt with government sales cycles, product management, advanced engineering, fundraising, recruiting, etc. It’s a neverending process of drinking from a firehose.
That’s why you surround yourself with key mentors and advisors. For example, we quickly recruited a retired Chief of Police to our advisory board to supplement our lack of law enforcement backgrounds. Techstars also significantly transformed the way that we, as founders, approach running our company.
SURVIVR – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
SURVIVR is a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to help protect our world’s communities and first responders. Specifically, our product is a VR training platform that helps first responders improve their decision-making and response times. Our training scenarios feel very realistic and force you to make decisions in high-pressure environments. Today we have a wide variety of scenarios, from domestic violence to school shootings, to prepare trainees for any situation.
We’ve taken a highly dynamic approach to product design, which means that our scenarios are unpredictable for the trainee (unlike traditional scripted approaches). In addition, one of my favorite offerings is our ability to scan real-world locations for training usage in our platform. Whether it’s your local school, church, courthouse, or business, we can create a virtual copy of any environment for 24/7 training. This helps police departments avoid the logistical nightmare of renting facilities while also making their training hyper-relevant to their local jurisdiction.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I have many—first revenue, first investor wire, first employee, etc. So I’ll elaborate on the first revenue. Back in 2017, I closed our first services contract for Immosis. This was from a connection whom I met at a convention and built a relationship with over time. We started to discuss a potential engagement and I day-tripped from Dallas to Austin to try closing the deal over a brief coffee meeting. I vividly remember later that night when I signed the contract. After all the dreaming and hustling, we surpassed the hurdle of first revenue. Moments like that, you’ll never forget.
I also remember when we closed our first customer for SURVIVR. Similar to the previous story, I traveled to have a brief meeting with the decision-maker. Receiving that signed contract and check was also surreal. But for me, there was certain magic on the night of 2017 that can never be replicated. After all, that would end up being the foundation for not just Immosis, but also SURVIVR and my personal startup career.
- Address: 8330 LBJ Fwy, Ste B1165
Dallas, TX 75243
- Website: http://survivr.com
- Phone: (469) 226-1653
- Email: email@example.com