The World Economic Forum forecasts that over one billion jobs will be radically transformed in the coming decade, and no doubt, Covid has accelerated that. How do we upskill the global workforce in a time defined by such rapid change and technology?
HTC Executive Pearly Chen sat down with Kyle Jackson, founder and CEO of Talespin, a skills mobility company that VIVE has been lucky enough to invest in. Tune in to our conversation to hear about Kyle's prolific entrepreneurial journey driven by infinite curiosity and defined by tackling difficult paradigm-shifting problems. You’ll hear the story of how Talespin came into being, using VR simulation as an educational tool, and why the skills mobility problem affects everyone in the workforce -- leaving listeners with some memorable pearls of wisdom.
Key Points From This Episode:
“The resume system is not fit for purpose anymore. The jobs underneath us are moving too quickly to use a backwards looking lens of multiple years to prove that we’re the right fit for this opportunity right in front of us.” — @kjplanet [0:06:58]
“The idea is, if we can actually prove that people have skills by their participation in this content, then maybe that becomes the new resume.” — @kjplanet [0:07:45]
“We all are way more complex than our resume reads and some of that complexity is exactly what companies need, and exactly what projects need, but it never would come through on a resume.” — @kjplanet [0:07:57]
“When we’re thinking of the skills mobility problem, it’s not an isolated problem only for young people. It’s something that’s going to affect everyone that’s in the workforce.” — @kjplanet [0:16:10]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
[00:00:05] PC: Welcome to Good Vibes with VIVE. I'm your hosts, Pearly Chen. I'm an executive with global technology company HTC. And as a mother of three young girls, I've loved building and investing in profound, immersive technologies that make a positive difference in people's lives.
Each week I speak with founders at the forefront of VR, AR and the metaverse. All of them inspire me, and some I've been lucky enough to back as an investor. Tune in every week to hear some of the most inspiring close to our conversations and walk away and formed, inspired and full of good vibes.
Today we are going to talk about a very interesting topic that is facing the fast changing technology world today. World Economic Forum forecast of over 1 billion jobs will be radically transformed in the coming decade. And no doubt, COVID has accelerated that. How do we continue to train, reskill and upskill the global workforce in our time that is defined by rapidly changing technology? This is a topic that's interesting and important not just to businesses, but to the livelihoods of billions of people around the world.
I'm so excited to be diving deeper into this topic today with Kyle Jackson. Kyle is the cofounder and CEO of Talespin, a skills mobility company, a VIVE X company that we have been fortunate enough to invest in and join him on this journey. Steve Jobs once said that you cannot connect all the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. And Kyle is a very prolific serial entrepreneur having had several successful exits under his belt in technology, in media, in Hollywood. I would like to welcome Kyle to the show and tell us a little bit about how he connects the dots looking backwards to bring him to where he is today in trying to address this large issue of reskilling the global workforce.
[00:02:02] PC: Hello, Kyle, welcome to the show.
[00:02:04] KJ: Hi. Thank you for having me. It's going to be super fun.
[00:02:06] PC: Yeah. So tell us about your personal story of all these different companies that you built? Oh, maybe we start from that double diamond in your background. It says difficult. Kyle is clearly a prolific skier as well.
[00:02:19] KJ: Yeah, exactly. It's skiing and entrepreneurship, both. They're both a double diamond experience. And so that's the remainder of every day when I'm in the office stuck here working on this stuff, that I should probably try and get more time out there than I do anymore. But man, where to start? I was one of those kids that was like infinitely curious and still to this day. And so a lot of what's going on in like lifelong learning and this stuff, it's kind of like I'm hardwired that way. And so it's exciting. And it's basically been kind of the curvy journey that I've been on my career as I've always been interested in these kind of emerging trends or really difficult problems that kind of brought me to building Talespin.
So it originally started wanting to be an animator for Pixar. So artist, and basically wanted to create characters. I grew up in Colorado, and that seemed like a beautiful emerging world in the 90s. And so that was my goal. And I got to LA to try to pursue that goal. And I started getting my world opened up a lot more. I was very deep in the 3D world by that time. And I started working at Apple as we were launching Final Cut Pro. And I got thrown into the absolute middle of the emerging digital, like, transition from physical media to digital production technologies, distribution technologies, everything.
And so I spent basically the next 15 years helping to solve really tough problems at the intersection of those things as they were transitioning. And what I saw was I saw amazing workflow innovation that was required to make big jumps forward. I saw standards that had to be formed to make big jumps forward. I saw really new business models that never exist completely disrupt the old model in entertainment. I saw technologies come and leapfrog things entirely. And so it’s basically watching that progression that led me into basically kind of full round trip to 3D and real time engines in 2010 where I started spending a lot of time in virtual production. And that's where I got really the first exposure to like, “Okay, well, we're going to blend physical and real convincingly very soon.”
And then, of course, this was in the film entertainment world. And we were building stages around the world to basically introduce this new technology. So I was exposed to bleeding edge tech across that whole space, from computer vision technologies, to machine learning, to real time engines, to geospatial tracking, the whole thing.
And what came out of that was just a semi-obsession with the idea that content was going to be created in real time and that we are going to change from kind of this nonlinear production method or captured moments, kind of locked captured moments to something that could be flexible and can be personalized. And that was the start of kind of going down this road that we're on now.
Basically, what happened is, as I was playing around in that space, I started to see a lot of the technologies that now the World Economic Forum thing that you referenced is really talking about. I started to see these things that were going to be really disruptive to the workforce. And I couldn't shake the idea that basically we were sitting on a foundation that was really cracked for employees and learners, people who are entering the workforce. I just started kind of like kept between 2013, 2014, 2015 started to like really kind of like, “Well, what does it look like?” Thinking of that standards world that I came from, and thinking about having to build completely new foundations. I'm like, “What does it look like? How does it work?” It's not just some cool new content. It needs to be a lot more than that and it needs to carry certain benefits with the consumption of the media that we don't have now. And that's kind of how we ended up landing and starting Talespin. And so it was first kind of a hypothesis. For several years, we just build kind of quietly experimenting on the hypothesis and then started to raise in 2018 once it was a little bit more firm.
[00:05:59] PC: I love how many elements there is to unpack from this personal story, a child that grew up being infinitely curious. The idea of always learning, the curiosity that drives this pursuit of entrepreneurship in very many different directions, mostly defined by trying to find very hard problem to solve, paradigm shifting problems to solve to propel the world forward. But in all of that, on the chasing the cutting edge, technology shift, and amazing immersive content on the cutting edge, I think in your heart, you're also thinking about how we can make sure that no one gets left behind. And people with less access get to be exposed to the same immersive content as far that benefits everyone equally. And so you mentioned how real time content should be real time created, interactive, and it's contextual. And this reminds me of the first time when I saw the fire Barry demo that is a widely cover by the press. Basically Talespin created this virtual human that is highly realistic, understands context, this AI-driven character that you can practice firing before having to go into that room before the real world conversation. And that really, I think, helps our audience understand quickly what immersive simulation content does in helping people get better prepared, better skill, whether it is soft skills, like communication, leadership skills, or it's hard skill that's more hands-on and process-based. So why don't we start gearing the conversation towards what Talespin is trying to build, this skills mobility concept. What exactly is that? Break that down for us.
[00:07:28] KJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it's great question. So I think at the most basic level, the idea is that the resume system is not fit for purpose anymore. The jobs underneath of us are moving too quickly to use kind of like a backward looking lens of multiple years to prove that we're the right fit for this opportunity right in front of us. And that's going to continue to accelerate. And so we were thinking about how do we get a different lens? And how do we do that at scale kind of at a foundational level? And the idea was and is this content, this medium allows you to basically both more rapidly teach and more rapidly assess skills.
And so the other thing too, is because it's so participatory, we're not getting kind of an indication of your knowledge. We're actually getting an example. And so therefore it becomes more like a badge or more like a proof that you actually know that, which hasn't really – I mean, it kind of exists in e-learning, but not to this level of what we're capable of here.
So the ideal is like, “Okay, well, if we can actually prove that people have skills by their participation in this content, then maybe that becomes the new resume.” Maybe we can actually start to use more of the ingredients of what's going on for each of us, because we all are way more complex than our resume reads. And some of that complexity is exactly what companies need are exactly what projects need. But it never would come through on a resume. And even with the most polished best practices from Google or from Kleiner Perkins on how to interview and those things, like it's still hard to surface this stuff.
[00:08:52] PC: For sure.
[00:08:53] KJ: And so the idea was why don't we look at basically building a system that allows us to measure and kind of transfer and prove skills at a micro level, but do that in a highly efficient way and that's part of an overall ecosystem that then can be used to help align people to those opportunities going forward.
[00:09:11] PC: Right. So let's maybe bring that into a very tangible example, like firing Barry, again, my favorite example. So I don't think there's enough practice for us managers, leaders, in going to those really difficult conversations when you actually have to have them. But the virtual Barry, which is this beautifully animated, AI-powered virtual human character that is sitting across the table from you, you're in the safety of your VR headset, you can practice that conversation 3,000 times. I think that's probably how many times you fire Barry.
[00:09:43] KJ: Yeah.
[00:09:44] PC: Right. And so this kind of simulation space that allows you to repeatedly practice. It can be empowered by AI and different kinds of prompts from the learning and development inputs. And you can really have a safe space to fail over and over again. You see that the Harry, I wish we can roll some B roll here to see how realistic he looks and feels to be across the table from. This line face drop, the sadness and shock in his 60s? How is it possible that you're going to fire this old man for some offenses that he doesn't understand?
And so a lot of these difficult conversations, one thing, sales conversations or difficult customers, a lot of these soft skills that we encounter every day, we don't really get environment to go and practice and perfect that. So I think virtual reality absolutely provides a great match for simulating, creating that so that we can be better. And the virtual humans actually make us better humans. Wouldn’t you say?
[00:10:38] KJ: That's the irony. That's why that story really caught fire, because we did two things there. It was we needed to create a situation that was impactful for every single person that went through it so they got the concept. And so it was never about building modules to teach people how to fire people, because that's the exact opposite of the purpose, right. But what's a shared common experience that was topical, that everybody's got elders, everybody's got peers, or they're that age, they can understand this moment. The fact that, Barry, as an employee was disconnected from his own actions. He didn't understand like the impact it was having. That was something that was very top of mind for almost everybody.
And so it was this emotionally real moment where you went, “Wow! This is a really powerful thing here.” And then you take them out of that context and you say, “Okay, well, what if I needed to teach you how to deescalate a situation with a colleague on a project, with a customer, or sell, or all these conversations that are kind of like the tip of the spear when it comes to being successful in your careers as soft skills?”
And so when we were thinking about this whole skills, mobility, foundational problem, we went, “Well, where do we start?” And we went, “This is an area where this medium is particularly special.” You can't do this in anything else. You can't do this in the classroom. Role play is a completely different experience for the reasons with your peers. Or most of us are not actors. So it's not comfortable. And that actually adds other barriers to learning by doing those things.
And so here, by putting a user in a completely safe space but they can still have that kind of emotionally, real conversation, but then also at the same time go back and learn from it because you're free to make those mistakes. So you can go back and learn from it and go, “Oh, okay. Yeah, that actually stayed a lot more. I didn't have to deescalate that three steps further before I can get back on track,” or what was really working in the way I was going the second time. So it became just such a natural. And that really became the place to start. And now, because that is the tip of the spear, now it's like you can flow that all the way downstream in terms of how we think about hard skills and everything else.
[00:12:38] PC: I think it’s just intuitive to think about how VR can provide a better training ground than watching a video, for example, which most companies are doing e-learning modules or in-person training. The hypothesis from all of us would be the, of course, it provides less distraction. You're wholly immersed and transported to a different scenario. You don't multitask at the same time. But we also saw how the collaboration you have with PwC, which produces a study that put some numbers behind the efficacy of VR training. They found that the users are 275% more confident to act on what they learned, which is significant improvement from video or in-person learning. They are also four times more emotionally connected to the content, which I can absolutely attest to having been through that fire Barry simulation, the shock and the shame. And it all feels really, really true and has higher retention of that skills and learning. And of course, they are four times more focused.
And this is probably my favorite data point, it takes them less time as well. They learn at four times the speed. So they want four times faster. So if a simulation or training that would take two hours in classroom only takes you less than 30 minutes in VR. And of course, deploy a scale is also more cost effective. So I love how you were able to put some data proving the efficacy. I think it was 12,000 learners that were being assessed over a three-month period. That was a fabulous study. Please share some more insights that you really took away from this study with the collaboration of PwC. And what really stood out for your customer conversations?
[00:14:10] KJ: Well, first, most the credit goes to PwC because they were really, really, really good at understanding what we needed to prove to validate this whole hypothesis. And so in doing the true study, I mean, we largely got kept out of it once it got started. So we were very critical in the design and very critical in the hypothesis that we were trying to prove. And then it went dark. And we went, “We think this is really going to work.” And then it did. And so we were very thankful that they went as deep as they did. And I think the insights that were most shocking, I mean, we knew that there was a lot of acceleration. We knew that it was going to be you could learn faster, because you’re an active participant in something. It's just like anything else in life. If you're actively involved, you're going to remember it longer. It's going to have a greater impact. You're going to have a visceral recollection of that. And so we knew that that was going to happen.
The retention was a big question. It’s like, “How are you going to measure that?” These are soft skills. We're also measuring something that hasn't really been measured. Yeah. So like how do you quantify this stuff? And I think it was just, again, like the tip of the iceberg on this one, where we're going to be able to go a lot, lot deeper with being able to measure actual behavioral change, and be able to see that kind of post learning impact over time. So there're some of those kinds of studies that are in the works now that are super, super exciting to kind of expand on this data.
I think the thing that was most rewarding about the whole thing was the range of the individuals that participated was really wide, right? And we were pretty concerned that we were going to see that there was a small niche group that kind of like the technology, thought that content was cool, and therefore engaged in a better. And therefore we accomplished better results with that cohort. But it was pretty broad. I mean, we really did not see a group where it didn't work. Of course, there're always a few cases here and there where people didn't like the technology, or they struggled with some aspect of it, because it was new to them. But that was really a small, small subset.
And so I think the thing that was most encouraging – And I had seen it because we did this study in 2018, right? So it was peer reviewed. It took time to go through all of the cycles. So at the time, I had seen firsthand like going and demoing Barry that the impact was something that everybody responded to, whether you were 20 or 60, whether you were male or female, where you were from. Like I saw people get uncomfortable. I saw people cry. I saw people get sweaty palms. I mean, the whole range. So I knew that I had a strong feeling that it was going to have that kind of impact across the demographics. But that's what we saw in the study, too. So that was great. Because if we're really, really thinking about this, like, skills, mobility problem, it's not an isolated problem only for young people, right? It's something that's going to affect everybody that's in the workforce.
And so when you think about foundational systems, when you think about standards, when you think about all these things, we need to make sure that we're trying to deliver something that actually can deliver that impact broadly. And so I think that was the thing that I walked with. It was like most like, “Oh, good. We're on to something. Let's keep going.” And everyone is just a milestone. It’s like you're never done.
[00:17:13] PC: No, it's double diamond every day and all day. You're never done. It's often said how VR craze is a very powerful empathy machine. It puts you in someone's shoes. In this case, you're on the other side of the table. But I think it's really hard to describe without experiencing the magic of being immersed in the situation and scenario. Being in the room with a lifelike virtual human that could literally be your staff that you have to have a difficult conversation with when you get out of this headset. And that's what the emotional attachment to the content is four times higher. When you're watching a video, there's no way to simulate the realism to really get you emotionally on the edge for having something like that. So I think this is something that's really difficult to describe even with the reports. It really takes someone to go into the headset and get into the content to understand that palm sweating, to understand your cortisol level rising. This is only possible with virtual reality.
And so we talked a lot about the soft skills side of things, which again, super important for workers of all levels going into the 21st, 22nd century, the next decades. On the hard skills side of things, what have you learned from more hands-on process base through your customer engagement? Are you seeing similar results in process?
[00:18:28] KJ: We are. So we actually just – We’re getting ready to finish up a partnership in the skilled trades, broadly in the skilled trades, across a number of areas. And so we put out a survey to there's about 18,000 different home services businesses that we’re connected with. And so we put out a survey to really understand the problem that they were facing. And kind of not surprising, about 50%, 60% of it is actually soft skills. Even though you would immediately go to, “Oh, it's the trades. It's process. It's learning electrical.”
[00:18:57] PC: Hands-on.
[00:18:57] KJ: Yeah, hands-on stuff. It's like that's actually still only a small portion of the problem that they're facing when you talk to the business owners. Because if you talk to the credentialing institutions, they're going to tell you, “Well, it's about the certification of process. And therefore you focus very much on these hard skills.” But when you talk to the employers, it's actually quite different. And so, well, I think the first thing we found is there's a ton of connection. You can't really solve one without the other when you try to go after this kind of skills mobility problem.
In terms of the actual efficacy, I would say we don't have anything as broad as the PwC study yet. But what we're seeing is the difference in the modality. So we basically have kind of like three different ways in which the hard skills work that we're doing can be realized. You have kind of like this pre-recorded session where I can go in. And like the very example, it's a self-directed learning module, right? So I can go in there. I can fail. I can learn the puzzle of what I'm trying to put together. I can learn the processes over and over again. Self-directed. And that proves to be really effective as you would expect, but it also is quite high on the content creation cost.
So when you look at going back to history, my background, like looking in hindsight, what you learn is you really have to be relentless on workflow innovation, the early days of content ecosystems. And so if you don't make the cost of creation as close to near zero, every dollar above that is going to be a Barry you have to overcome to create that ecosystem. And so it's really, really challenging in this space to do that when you think of kind of the self-directed learning, fully codified learning environments.
And so what we did is we're working on a path where we've seen the virtual classrooms where it's more of a sandbox environment. But sometimes, there, you lose a lot of the ability to measure the skills that are actually realizing that. You put a great meeting space together. And there's a lot of other kind of engagement aspects of that that are way better than being in a Zoom classroom or something like that. But you lose the measurement. And so that becomes challenging.
So we've been working on kind of like how do we hybridize those so that we can get to a much more scalable content path, be a standard amount of experts engaging in the content. One of the things we didn't mention when we talked about soft skills as this stuff used to be really complicated to create. But what we've done now is we put the authoring tool back in the hands of learning leaders, and narrative designers, people who don't have any development skills at all so that they can create that content. And they don't have to go through that really heavy lifting of connecting a virtual human to an AI background with NLU, and NLP, and all the things that go on. So that was an example of content scaling, and really content optimization on the soft skill side. So now we're trying to do the same thing on the hard skills side so that we can basically get the kind of benefits that we want to see more broadly, versus these kind of like really great, small use cases that we've seen as an industry where we see super impactful, but not broad use cases.
[00:21:56] PC: So how to scale the content is very important for scalable adoption. The fire Barry kind of example, or a specific piece of content that we're seeing a lot of today can cause months of work, of skill designers, developers to put an experience together that may not be super customizable to the customers’ changing needs. And that's why this no-code visual scripting tool that you're putting into the organization's hands become an empowering tool that they can then take these virtual humans, these technology, the platform altogether, and they can script this scenario to the way that they see fit. And they can fast evolve that in a way that is with very, very low incremental costs. And that's a very, very important piece to realize this skills mobility platform.
[00:22:42] KJ: Yeah, it's absolutely critical, because we have to remember that the whole problem here is, is that our world is moving very fast. So that means the content has to be flexible and continue to move with them, right? And if we take a more of a traditional kind of game development approach, which a lot of us did, we’re very guilty of this ourselves. But if you take that traditional approach, it's a build, build, build a masterpiece and release it a lot of times. And what we need is we need that release to be flexible in the hands of the end user so that they can update it and they can manage it over time as they see fit, because their world is changing underneath their feet. And we heard that was, I think, one of the most impactful things somebody said to me back in like 2018, 2019 when we were in those innovation days was, “This is amazing stuff, both hard and soft skills. This is amazing stuff. But it's just not going to work.” Why? Because our initiatives, we can't wait three to six months to get an update on something that's actually impacting our bottom line this month.
[00:23:36] PC: That's right. Yeah. Yeah. So you’re accelerating that constant creation from what, five, six months, as you're saying, down to what, 10 days? 10, 20 days? Is that possible?
[00:23:45] KJ: Yeah. Well, that's where we’re at right now. I mean, we're basically at now what we used to do with about 10 people on the soft skill side, 10 people. It was a combination of narrow designers, 3D artists, animators, developers, QA, the whole gamut. 10 people on a team would take us four to five months for roughly 30 minutes simulation. And now with the authoring tool, you can create that same thing in 10 to 20 days with one to two people, by the way, not with 10 people, with one to two. So now it's the kind of thing that a learning development group can actually take internal and they can build a whole program on that, because that's now in the wheelhouse of their other options.
[00:24:19] PC: By themselves.
[00:24:20] KJ: So if you think about, “What can I do?” Yeah. Like if my options are to make a video, make an e-learning course, host a session, or host a webinar and do all the logistics, or potentially do something like this, and they all kind of start to fall in the same level of effort. I mean, it becomes pretty obvious at some point what you're going to do.
[00:24:38] PC: Yeah, absolutely. That is really, really cool. So now we talked about a library of very great immersive content that you've piloted with your internal resources. Again, really complex process involving lots of different resources to now creating a tool, authoring tool, so that you provide that platform tool to empower your users to create content by themselves. And then this other missing piece would be then the skills insights platform where you measure data, gain insights for helping employees, employers understand better what their training outcome is. Talk to us a little bit more about that third pillar.
[00:25:12] KJ: Yeah, that's the plumbing. That's the kind of unifier to what we hope is going to be a growing ecosystem of content creators that create content in this manner. And so the way we think about it is if our goal is skills, mobility, you have to always go back to your goal. And we were very intentional with this goal, which is we want to be able to have an as frictionless as possible ecosystem where people can engage in great immersive content, proof skills, and then use that proof to then get new opportunities, right?
And so you have to figure out from a skills insight perspective, you have to figure out, “Well, what's the common scoring language across a huge range of skills?” Very challenging problem. How are developers and other platforms going to hook up to this? Also a big challenge, because it's a different kind of medium than your traditional video based e-learning platforms that have kind of done some of this before. And so that's really what the skills insights platform is trying to solve. It's that kind of enterprise integration, ecosystem integration layer.
And so in there, there's things like basic user management and content management, which is critical, because you have to make sure that the right people are getting the right things so that you can get the type of measurements you want. But down at the user level, I actually can see my proficiency over time on a skill level.
So inside of Barry, for instance, there might have been like 15 skills that were in there. Things like empathetic paraphrasing, or active listening, like demonstrating that you actually heard what Barry was saying. In your response, you demonstrate that. And so you actually can see those skills grow over time across simulations. And so as a learner, I can start to see this curve that's going on with my development that's really interesting. And so where we go next is we're trying to work on a kind of more visual language that could be more universal. Basically, like if you handed me your skill card, I could instantly look at it and go, “Oh, wow! Oh, that's where Pearly is really, really strong.” Something that's really simple, human readable, and basically helps to accelerate these conversations around new opportunities. And so we've got all the plumbing in place.
[00:27:14] PC: And how do you design the layout, and the look and feel, and the elements, and the human readable as it relates to skills? That's such a hard problem to design for.
[00:27:24] KJ: We have a lot of cool inspiration. I won't tell you how we're solving it, because that's going to be –
[00:27:28] PC: A secret sauce.
[00:27:29] KJ: No. It’s going to be really fun to reveal when we actually think we might have it right, because we don't have it right yet. But there's a lot of – I've been fascinated with like visual complexity and machine learning, and basically artists to take these really complex data models and turn them into, basically, works of art for 10 years, 15 years. So there's actually a great website. I don't know if it's still up, but I used to literally go there every morning, which was called visualcomplexity.com. And it was all of the big data visualizations that emerging artists, graphic artists, were basically taking their colleagues kind of work and turning them into something that anybody could actually understand. Because it's a common challenge as you work in the big data world. So how do I translate this hugely impactful dataset to something that I can just like kind of quickly relate to a peer? Yeah. So I've been following that stuff for a really long time. And I think there has been tons of ground broken and similar problems before. And so we're piggybacking off a lot of that to try to figure out what's the actual right visual metaphor for making it very human readable?
[00:28:31] PC: A lot of room and food for thought there. Designing for human readable. How do you think COVID has impacted, accelerated or hindered some of your conversations with employers and organizational users on adopting VR for training their workforce and keeping them in the context?
[00:28:51] KJ: I'd say it's done a bit of everything, all three of those things you just said. So in terms of adoption, we definitely went from having kind of frontier conversations. People that were like, “Wow! This is really cool. And thank you for sharing this with me. I'm so glad I know about it now.” That was the sentiment of conversations, I'd say, from 2016 up till really early 2020. Like 80% rule. That was generally the conversation. Some of those actually moved into, “Well, we really want to try to do something because we think this is so potentially powerful.” And so of course, we all got some customers in the XR space.
But once March, April started to come around and people started to really kind of understand the potential impact of this, they are very quick to jump to this as part of the foundation of our business going forward. And so for us, what I did was as that was happening, I basically spent about six weeks just on the phone everyday with customer, or potential customer, and I was asking the same question. Like, “How does this change your strategy? How does it shift it? What are you guys thinking about post-pandemic? Will your infrastructure be different?”
And universally, I heard that we saw a massive acceleration. So, really, probably by like April 15th, May 1st, it was pretty clear that we had to shift our whole strategy. And so that's when we went to kind of a true platform strategy because it was no longer these use case kind of buyers. It was somebody who was looking for actual enterprise infrastructure that they could bet on across the business, which is a very different purchase. And so we went, “Okay, we have to really change our whole –”
[00:30:22] PC: Full steam ahead, accelerate.
[00:30:24] KJ: Yeah, full steam ahead. So that's what we did. And it's been definitely been paying off. I mean, we've seen a lot of people that are now making those purchases. The other thing we did is we made sure that while we were really selling the power of VR and an immersive content, we also made sure they understood that they can deliver it in streaming desktop so they can understand the transition. Because one of the things that a lot of the enterprise buyers were struggling with was like, “Well, it's either or. And I need to get to 70,000 people for this initiative. So I can't go away from mobile, or I can't go away from desktop because I have to. Otherwise I got to build everything twice.” So making sure they understood that this is part of a transition and the way that you can use these platforms was really important.
And then I think the other piece is that, so while that sped up, it's still a very uncertain market for a lot of the legacy businesses. So we also still see a lot of turbulence inside of their walls while they're trying to figure out how they're going to staff? Where are they going to focus? What products are still going to survive? Or which ones are going to sunset. So I would say it's super-fast on one side, and then also slowing down on another in some areas. It's really business and industry-specific.
[00:31:34] PC: Such great Insight. But would you say, in general, though, companies are moving beyond the proof of concept or curiosity stage and looking into no looking back. We're moving into immersive. And what you had to plug in during this time is providing a bridge to that full adoption future, because that transition period is important. And they know that they are going to go through that transition to get to the other side of the bridge. That's such a great, great insight for – I think all developers and businesses are trying to build out these enterprise applications for deployment today.
[00:32:06] KJ: Yeah. I think it’s critical to help them with that transition. That's the part that I think a lot of us forget is, is that especially if we're part of like critical infrastructure, like their learning, and their kind of skill measurement software is, you really have to think about it as like a foundational level. They're not just going to pull out one leg on the stool. So you really need to think about something that's going to stay balanced, help them transition.
Other areas I think are a little different. Some of the collaboration stuff or the design stuff that's been happening in XR, they can still kind of get benefits from both worlds on their own, where this is something that they really need to help with the transition.
[00:32:43] PC: Right, right. And so Talespin, this chapter of your personal venture started, really, was in 2015 that you started?
[00:32:49] KJ: Yeah, yeah, 2015.
[00:32:50] PC: Right? Wow! Six years on. And Talespin now has more than 100 full time employees, both in the US and Europe as well. And you're looking at training hundreds of thousands of people by the end of 2021. So this kind of dream of tackling some really hard problems, paradigm shifting technologies, while satisfying your insatiable curiosity. Hoping that will help rescale the global workforce has really taking you on a wild ride, which this is your fifth company, I remember, and probably one of the most challenging chapter to date, right? So what’s to come?
[00:33:26] KJ: By far.
[00:33:27] PC: What are you most excited about? What's to come? And what's the ultimate vision? Where do you want to take Talespin?
[00:33:33] KJ: I think what's exciting is when we started –And when I started to get obsessed with this problem, there was almost no conversation going on around this. What I was finding was there's really fringe like think tanks that were starting to talk about the potential workforce transformation, workplace transformation that was going to happen over the next decade. And the models that they were predicting were pretty spot on. And that's why I was like, “This is really concerning. Why aren't we talking about this at a more macro level?”
Now, it's at a macro level. This is a conversation that you have a lot of people really heavily invested in solving now, which is super excited, because I was quite concerned that that was not going to be the case. And we were going to just end up at the kind of like not having a solution when the impact was already here. So now I feel like we're more on the on the track towards actually having a solution, having, I'd say, like more of a soft landing for the transition that’s ahead. And it's really exciting to be part of that ecosystem of conversations that’s going on, from the government level, to the private level, to the startups level. So just to kind of like wait into that world and start banging the drum and be part of it is great. That's the first time I've been able to do that. So that was very rewarding.
What's ahead I think is we're really focused now on enabling the ecosystem, more of an ecosystem model. And by ecosystem, we mean publishers, people who are experts in their area, but they don't necessarily know how to bring that expertise to this medium. Give them the tools to do it and make sure that it's available. When it comes to the organizations themselves, let them take the power internally so that they can actually build this as the replacement for their corporate university or the replacement for full tracks of learning that are critical to their business instead of innovation projects. And so really, really helping to enable that.
And really, in the sense of building an ecosystem, one of the things that I really got up close and like front seat on was the early days of the OTT and VOD market. And those were ecosystems as well. And you had to really create this like really beneficial, like three-sided or four-sided relationship between publishers, the platform, the standards groups, and ultimately the end viewers, or in this case the learners. And so we spent a lot of time internally like making sure that we understand how everybody wins in that, which includes financially. Because if you're a participant inside of an ecosystem, you're investing yourself in that. So therefore it needs to be basically a better opportunity than if you're just trying to do it on your own.
So a lot of our efforts are just all around trying to get that now to really start to turn on itself. And so far, it's going really, really well. I mean, we're only probably about four months, five months into that shift, because we had to get the platform ready to do it. And we've seen really, really great adoption. Very enthusiastic people like joining into this, and honestly, such high quality people. It's really crazy to see like, the level of subject matter experts that are joining on and saying, “Okay, we're in. The medium, the cause, the reason, we're in. We're putting our 40 years of experience and success in our business alongside this initiative.” And that's a different time than two years ago when we were in the frontier land of just trying to prove that it even made sense. So it's all about kind of like, how do you get that whole ecosystem winning together?
[00:36:53] PC: Right. So it's not about the destination really, per se. It is the journey, which has been incredibly personally rewarding, as I can understand from your passion. But also along the journey, how do you lift everyone up and provide financial opportunities, success opportunities for everyone? Well, ultimately, the destination would be making sure that more people around the world have access to education, lifelong training, learning reskilling, to meet our fast changing world. So I love that. Final thoughts? We know we have learned that Kyle is a prolific double diamond skier, a serial entrepreneur, but we haven't learned that he's also an artist by heart. And we can peek into some of the art that he used to make before the Talespin venture. Can you tell us more about that side of your passion and how you foresee the future, your 18-month-old daughter, for example, learning about creativity, about all aspects of whole person education potentially in an immersive way?
[00:37:49] KJ: Oh, wow! I could go on for another hour. I'll just say, if you're an artist, don't become an entrepreneur, because you end up – Or it's really hard to balance at that point. So I haven't gotten to do draw as much or paint as much as I would have liked the last several years because this is just such an important mission and such a hard hitting one. But that's all work from a world that I was building years ago for a story I wanted to tell. I got a chance to be a part of financing movies, making movies, two companies that were postproduction studios for movies. And so hundreds of films that I was involved in. And so that's kind of ingrained in me at some point. Maybe that story over there will come back to life. It's actually very closely, kind of oddly related to what how Talespin was born. But yeah, it's been something that I think has only served me really, really well as I've been kind of on this infinitely curious journey. Trying to articulate those ideas and always bring them to life just through your own creation is something that – I don't know. I don't think everybody has that confidence. And so when you can do it, even if you're not good, like when you can do it, and you can get that idea on paper and you look back and be like, “Wow! I just made that out of nothing.” It's pretty inspiring, right? And so I'm doing that with my daughter already at 18 months. She's got her little Japanese paint set. And we take the grants up. She made mom a picture that's on her desk for her first birthday already. So trying to get her thinking that way, yeah.
[00:39:17] PC: But it’s all connected. And a lot of the jobs that we'll see in the next decade or century might not exist today, such as building 3D worlds that we all live in in this hybrid of virtual, augmented and mixed reality world, in addition to your physical reality. And so, well, your 18-month-old daughter is being trained to create that world to tell the story that you wanted to tell, which you currently a perfect excuse of not having time to do it. But I have no doubt that with this training and the infinite curiosity that you’re instilling in her she will one day bring that to life.
[00:39:50] KJ: I'll pass it on to her. Yeah.
[00:39:53] PC: I can hear the story. Thank you so much, Kyle, and for Talespin for joining us today. You can learn more about what Talespin is up to talespin.com. And follow Kyle on social media as well. Thank you, Kyle. We'll see you soon.
[00:40:08] KJ: Thank you.
[00:40:10] PC: Thank you for listening. Please subscribe and share this podcast with a colleague or a friend that you think could use some good vibes. Learn more at vive.com and follow HTC VIVE on social media. See you next week.