The Startup Slowdown: Enjoying the Struggle | Carrie Shaw at Embodied Labs

In part one of my conversation with Carrie Shaw, the founder and CEO of Embodied Labs, she talked about how her company trains caregivers to understand the perspectives of people needing care through the use of virtual reality.

In this second part of our conversation, Carrie talks about the interesting genesis of this idea—which involved serving dinner to her mother—and how she got from there to winning the Bill and Melinda Gates XR Prize Challenge, and a thriving enterprise.

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Carrie Shaw works at the intersection of health education and virtual reality storytelling. She is the CEO and founder of Embodied Labs, an immersive training and wellness platform for professional and family caregivers.

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Public Health, Carrie spent 2 years working as a Health Education Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic where she fell in love with the way visual communication tools have the unique potential to cross-cultural, language, and education barriers. Following that time, Carrie worked as her mother’s primary caregiver, who’s diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease opened Carrie’s eyes to the needs of caregivers and the aging services workforce. 

Carrie holds a Master’s of Science in Biomedical Visualization and her work has been featured by Oprah Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, JAMA, The History Channel, and CBS National TV show, The Doctors.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Carrie Shaw 0:00
We serve so many groups that have a phobia of technology like they, they just, that’s not, they’re looking for the end result. And so we actually have really enjoyed figuring out a way to make people forget about the headset altogether and feel empowered that no matter who they are, they can, they can use immersive and it will be okay.

Alexander Ferguson 0:32
In part one of my conversation with Carrie Shaw, the founder and CEO of the Embodied labs, she talked about how her company trains caregivers, to understand the perspective of people needing care for the use of virtual reality. In the second part of our conversation, Carrie talks about the interesting genesis of this idea, which involves serving dinner to her mother, and how she got from there to winning the Bill and Melinda Gates XR prize challenge and on to building a thriving enterprise. Carry, I’m excited to continue our conversation. And to hear this interesting, winding road as you stated earlier, that it’s been to run a tech company, which you never thought you’d be doing. It tell me what’s this journey from from the inception to then getting funding and then growth initial customer base, what’s one of the the difficulties, the difficulties that you had to face it, you were able to overcome, and something you can share about that, that tactic that you apply that allowed you to overcome that maybe another entrepreneur can learn from?

Carrie Shaw 1:30
Yeah, um, a couple, I think, you know, in terms of persistence, as an entrepreneur, I’m just never giving up. Which sounds very basic, but the, and always expecting the timelines to be longer than you think. So when I came into this, I remember thinking, you know, we’ve got a great idea, we’re gonna pitch it six months will be funded. Well, you know, we’ll be great. I mean, but to get, it’s not just about funding, it’s, it’s about the product, the MVP, getting it to market showing traction. And it’s really this process over time. And so I think my advice to founders or entrepreneurs would be, to view it as a long process, and to really enjoy that process, instead of finding it frustrating. And then yeah, be able be able to look at building building a strong company, across all categories of value over time. Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing and realize that any headline you read was like it was like made in that instance. But months and sometimes years of work, go behind these big announcements that we see about financing rounds or partnerships,

Alexander Ferguson 3:02
persistence, but also the patience to not give up and keep working. Even when you see other headlines that want to make you say, what, come on, I this journey that you’ve been on for the past four years, can you share any that kind of data points of like, alright, we’re, it took us a year to to get initial funding or to the MVP, what was kind of the timeline that you went along?

Carrie Shaw 3:25
Yeah, we we incorporated in July of 2016. We went into an accelerator program. A month later, we actually won that accelerator, it was called the creative startups accelerator program. And we got a no interest loan. And so also no equity taken by an organization of $20,000. And we met our first ever angel investor through that accelerator. So we got our first pre seed investment, and raised a very small, safe note of pre seed capital. That took us to get our MVP built. So we went, we went from having an 80 gigabyte hard drive that we could only showcase our first VR experience by carding in a in a plastic tub or developers computer around Chicago. We took we had said we got to figure out delivery here, we’ve got to make a platform, we’ve got to show how to drive data and analytics. And some of the first VR ready laptops that weighed 13 pounds came out around that time. And we were able to actually build a delivery platform to put post our first ever training experiences on then we raised another small pre seed round of capital, at that point from angel investors that were thought leaders in the aging care space, digital health, immersive technology. And we also were a client. I have done so many startup competitions, which I only I have a lot of thoughts on and I recommend founders to people very careful about not doing too many. But we did win one, the Bill and Melinda Gates XR prize challenge. It was a global search for immersive tech solving workforce challenges. And we want a quarter million dollars of non dilutive capital. And so that combined with our precede really got us where we needed to scale from having just a few early adopters in beta to actually getting 100 Plus customers in 2019. And then we announced in January of 2020, the close of our first VC backed round our seed round of $3.2 million. And at that point, we had been building those relationships, again, not overnight, over more than a year to make sure that we had the right team on board.

Alexander Ferguson 5:53
Wow, what’s quite quite a journey at each of those points that keeps that momentum going. But it’s not a for grant taken for granted of oil, just a breeze,

Carrie Shaw 6:01
and did not happen in six months. Like I thought it would when we founded the

Alexander Ferguson 6:07
company, so the last year so actually two years, he said that that winning the Bill and Melinda Gates prize, gave you that initial funding to get towards your a 101st clock clients. What was what are the some of the tactics that you applied to help scale to that 100 That maybe another entrepreneur learn from?

Carrie Shaw 6:31
Well, one thing that was really important was that we just embrace that we needed to get somewhat involved with hardware. So initially, we said, we’re a software company, you know, they’ll figure out the hardware, and we’ll deliver it. But a lot of our customers don’t have immersive tech, and they don’t really want to know about it. They’re not necessarily looking. I mean, we serve so many groups that have a phobia of technology, like they, they just, that’s not, they’re looking for the end result. And so we actually have really enjoyed figuring out a way to make people forget about the headset altogether and feel empowered that no matter who they are, they can they can use immersive and it will be okay.

Alexander Ferguson 7:20
So if you’re if your target market is tech folk has the tech phobia, you have to finding a way to just have the full complete solution so that they don’t have to think about it is one way that worked for you to be able to scale. Yeah. Going forward from here, especially in the world that we’re in at the moment, what do you see as the challenges you’re going to need to overcome to to go even further?

Carrie Shaw 7:45
Yeah, well, I think, you know, one, one, maybe elephant in the room I want to call out is that we’re in a pandemic with a very, a virus that transmits quickly, we don’t completely understand. And for us to be sharing hardware is just not right now, best practice for infectious disease control. We do know that we you know, we have best practices for cleaning the headsets and have been through so many seasons of flu and have seen our health care providers go by those best practices. But there’s some work we’ve done to create distance immersive learning and group training, where you actually can still do immersive training, without needing to share a device between people. And I think ultimately, the end goal is that organizations are going to need to see the value in investing in in a headset for each employee, even if maybe they’re shipping them out and getting them back to clean and then re repurpose. But we’re going to need to see Device Management at the enterprise level to incorporate immersive training immersive technology into companies that IT infrastructure, there’s a cost barrier to that, you know, I think I think the cost of the headsets are coming down. And if you think about what it costs to fly an employee on site for training, and host, you know, the flight, the hotel, the time there’s some things that we could say, you know, the cost is already showing an ROI. But even for free even smaller organizations, it’s it’s even bigger of a cost barrier. And I just think those those are exciting fairs that we know and they’re all we’re all we’re gonna be able to overcome all of them and there’s ways to really bridge so that that we can make those people able to access it even if it’s not like the ideal one to one again tomorrow that is an impatient entrepreneurs for

Alexander Ferguson 9:53
awesome. So this last question I have for you more of a broad perspective, what kind of tech innovation do you predict we will see, in the near term, the next year or two, and the long term next five or 10 years?

Carrie Shaw 10:09
Yeah, I think that we’re going to see so many mixed reality. Innovations. I think in the next year, we’ll see a few more headsets compete directly with the quest. So we’ll have more headsets that offer embedded hand tracking that are standalone. Um, we’ll see more uses for AR glasses the this year and really start to enjoy what we can what real extended reality can do for all of us. That’s something even when I think about the goggles here, like if, if my mom could have had a really great pair of AR goggles to listen to music, and when she couldn’t maybe draw or do therapy, the way that was it easy that extended reality could just transform our health and our our mental health and our engagement with the world and with other people through that kind of presence of bringing people together through extended reality. Um, in the next five years, I think we’ll see the the whatever the magically could have been there, there will be something that’s going to come out and many, many things that just are like our smartphone that give us that spatial computing in our back pocket, or you know, where it’ll it won’t be, you know, it won’t be this anymore. I mean, let’s face it, we got to get rid of like the face brick, and no, no one’s saying that’s the end goal. And so in five years, I think we’re gonna all really be enjoying the things we imagine for this technology because the hardware will really start to catch up.

Alexander Ferguson 12:00
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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