How I met Virtualitics

It’s been hard not to talk about this with friends and family for the last year, but I knew we had to wait for the big moment – after all, anything important requires a proper entrance. So now that Virtualitics is in the Wall Street Journal‪ I wanted to share with everyone how I became involved with this groundbreaking company.

Let me first tell you a bit about Virtualitics. It is an exciting new company that has for the first time combined machine learning, natural language processing, virtual reality, collaborative virtual spaces, and data visualization into something that is absolutely blissful. It’s like Snow Crash for data analytics, but without any of the less appealing aspects of the Metaverse.

In late 2015, my wife Rachel and I were enjoying a date night at this hole-in-a-wall fish place in West Miami. Our conversation over dinner turned into a brainstorming session about what types of products could utilize all the most cutting-edge technologies: big data, virtual reality, and machine learning. I am lucky to be married to a fellow nerd. I couldn’t stop thinking about our ideas. They seemed to be stuff one would read about in one of the sci-fi novels that I love. But the ingredients were all there. Could the impossible be possible sooner than we thought?

I decided to do some research into these technologies to see if there were any opportunities we could take advantage of. After a bit of internet sleuthing, I found a brilliant paper by a group of NASA scientists and Caltech Astrophysics and Data Science professors that were exploring some innovative methods for analyzing quasars data and other difficult to visualize phenomena in virtual reality. You can read the paper here.

I loved it. I mean it was AWESOME. I even sent an email to all of the authors of the paper telling them how amazing their research was and asking if they had considered commercializing it.

Of course, there was no response. After all, it was a random email from an unknown person with “yet another” tech blog. While writing content for my blog Sarcastech, I kept coming back to this idea. Five months later I sent another email to the papers’ authors and said something like “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, I want to work with you.” A week later I was shocked when I received a very polite email from Professor Djorgovski explaining that they had been wanting to write back to me for a while now but were just waiting to get some things finalized. And yes, they had in fact commercialized the research and started a company called Virtualitics, which was in its seed round of investment. The planets had aligned. Luckily enough, I was in a position where I had some funds to invest. It wasn’t too long after that I was on a plane to Pasadena to see their invention in person. I was very excited to meet the founders' Professor Djorgovski, Michael, Ciro, and Scott. They are the most down-to-earth geniuses you will ever meet. Each one of them has achieved so much in their respective fields and yet, you feel like you are talking to a close friend when you meet them.

I had a list of 100 questions for these guys. If I was going to invest in something on the absolute cutting edge, I better make sure it covered every possible angle I could think of. I was so sure that I was going to stump them with my questions. I thought: “Haha! I know all about analytics and I’ve been deploying Qlikview dashboards at work and I’m totally going to stump them with all of my trick questions.”

Turns out I was wrong.

You see –these guys haven’t been thinking about this idea for a few months. They have been obsessing about it for over a decade. After 5 hours of testing, I was convinced that this was the real deal. Their product was better than I could have ever imagined.

At that point I started thinking, is this bigger than I even realize? I needed some feedback from someone who knew what it took for a new technology to succeed in the corporate world. I could think of nobody with a better sense for what worked in the world of analytics than Andy Walter, the former CIO of Procter and Gamble. 

When Andy heard about the product he was intrigued and decided to take a trip to Pasadena to see it. He was just as impressed as I was. Impressing Andy is not easy, he has seen dozens of startups come and go.

With the seed round nearing completion, Michael, Virtualitic’s CEO, a laid back but super-efficient Harvard MBA who just happened to also have a master's from Caltech, has assembled a team of the best engineers and game developers in the business. Every week they are adding functionality – it is like watching history unfold in real time.

I’ve now spent many a night listening to Nirvana on the virtual 4K TV in the Virtualitics virtual office while manipulating data sets in virtual reality with my avatar hands. The way in which we perceive the world around us is changing. Sure – virtual reality is just getting started – but it’s the logical progression for every business application. And what can be more fundamental to business than finding insights from data? Big data can now lead to big insights – you just have to put a VR headset on.

And you know what the best thing is: These guys are just getting started. This is just the beginning of a scientific exploration into the boundaries of exploring data in virtual and augmented worlds. And now, it’s time to get into my virtual collaboration room and spin some data points in the sky with my avatar’s virtual hands. Because that is a thing we do now…like for real. Welcome to the future.

Eddie is IT Director at Intradeco Apparel and one of the original Angel Investors in Virtualitics. He enjoys playing virtual reality games with his two sons Noah and Eli and discussing international relations and politics with his wife Rachel. In prior lives, he has worked as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting and a Private Wealth Advisor at Goldman Sachs. He studied mathematical finance at Columbia Business School and one day he will use that.