Interview with our Mentor, Thomas Heinrich, CEO & Founder of Virtuis
You started your VR business Virtuis while leaving behind your successful career as a
business consultant. Why so?
I’m a firm believer that VR is going to be the next big thing following the smartphone – but of course
as a VR enthusiast I have to say so. Especially during the early start-up stage where most of my
available time is consumed by building up Virtuis, I have to reject opportunities as business
consultant. But I still accept promising assignments particularly if there’s a possibility that those
projects add value to my main focus, Virtuis. Just trying to catch em all.
My goal is to connect what I did before with what I’m doing now. I always recommend my clients to
not leave all their prior attainment behind for a new opportunity – growth is an organic process, and
forcing it too much can lead to big losses. Focus on what you are good at and try to evolve into
new directions, using your already existing skill-set. In my case, for example, knowing how
businesses work and how you start your project structured gave Virtuis a great advantage in speed
You built Germany’s first VR arcade. Why did you choose to enter the VR market at that
point of time?
I guess it was to some extend good luck and being at the right place at the right time. My first
contact with virtual reality was back in 2013 with the, at this time, still limited technology –
nevertheless I immediately thought of the great opportunities for both businesses and end
customers. But I also realized that it will take some time until VR finds its way in our homes.
Thinking about another way to get people in touch with this technology, the idea of giving the broad
public access to VR through arcades and other on-site solutions was born. Seeking to create
ambassadors for the new technology with this sites I met some great people in Nuremberg during
2016 which shared my vision of making VR available to everyone – and so we decided to enter the
market quickly and gain visibility through our first mover status.
As a specialist for VR peripherals and infrastructure: Is the Star Trek Holodeck something
we will experience soon?
Soon is a very loose time specification. I guess the Star Trek Holodeck is in feasible reach but we
still have a long way to go. Technology is moving very fast in topics like visualization or even
olfactory perception; also giving tactile feedback in VR through special gloves or vests is
progressing. But there are still senses which can not be covered at the moment: For example the
perception of material structure (i.g. being able to touch something and feel the difference between
the materials), sense of taste as well as the perception of objects in a liquid state. And of course
the presence of big bulky headsets also kills holodeck-like immersion.
Where do you see the biggest threats to the further expansion of VR?
I guess getting people in touch with VR in the wrong setting is doing more harm than good. Having
deficient hardware induces motion sickness and selling it as the new High Technologie will scare
people away. So will the omission of taking sufficient care of people entering VR the first time.
People have to perceive VR as a smooth, pleasant experience which expands their reality in a
intuitive and positive way. If enough people experience vr as great opportunity to enhance their
lives, the hard- and software producers won’t have to worry about its sales. Also finding the socalled
killer app will happen in a natural way driven by the customers feedbacks and demands.
Your company is growing very fast. Is there any advice you would like to give to start-up
companies entering the immersive media / VR market?
I don’t think there is specific advice for the immersive media market. In general it is a key factor to
rely on your skills and to find people that are skilled in areas you can’t cover and which are
essential to the success of your business. Don’t try to hard doing things you are not good at.
Improve and train your given talents. Stay vigilant, observe the market. Don’t make your company
do things that are already done – focus on innovation. Talk to as many people as possible and
valuate their feedback. Build a network by visiting events, fairs and by contacting interesting people
on xing or linkedIn. Believe in your vision but also be aware of the option of failure, so always keep
your eyes open.
How would you describe the market situation in Germany for immersive media, especially
I don’t think the market situation in Germany is particularly good for immersive media start-ups.
There are some companies pushing in this new technology market however there is not much
money available for funding. But I’m in hope that this will get better as time passes – German
companies will realize that they have to keep up with the technology. I was in the lucky situation of
owning an advertising agency immediately prior to the app-boom. I often compare this time to the
current situation of the VR market in Germany. Everyone has heard of VR, most companies are
vaguely interested – but don’t exactly know how to utilize the technology for their business cases.
There is still a lot of work to do – especially educational work – but after that there will be a huge
demand and if you have your company settled until then you will get lucky.