In May, seven startups enrolled on our 5G consumer program. The aim? To use 5G to make entertainment faster, wilder and more vivid than ever before. But who are the startups enrolled on the programme?
We chatted to Dana Loberg, the founder of LEO AR about how the New York City art world was the best possible training ground for becoming an entrepreneur; why the current era is like the transition from black-and-white to color television and the best thing about Germans.
Dive in, the water’s warm!
We were building one of the largest sticker marketplaces for artists to enable the global distribution of their stickers. We started to see people using stickers on (on photos and videos) and knew that this was the next major platform – moving away from messaging. So we started to build a database to recognize objects in the camera to smartly suggest animated stickers to add to the camera. Then ARKit was released by Apple 5 months later, our 2D vision for applying stickers to video quickly became adding realistic 3D objects to augment video. We were perfectly aligned with our vision and the release of AR technology. Building Leo AR was an organic evolution from the 2D world to the 3D world of creative visual content to augment text, photo or video. The 3D world is also much more interactive than the previous 2D world which is more focused on consumption. I liken this era to the transition from black and white television to color.
2. What problem is your product trying to solve?
Over 70% of millennials edit their photos or video before posting to social. This number will only continue to grow. Users have an innate desire to augment their content and AR is the next level of supercharging your videos. In addition, global users want to live in any reality they want. In AR, users can create any dream-like world, here in their current environment. They can also interact with the new space like never before. You can instantly be surrounded by jungle, beach, wild animals, flying whales or unicorns dancing on your bed. It’s truly a magical experience.
3. What’s the biggest challenge your team faced?
The biggest challenge has been staying in front of the curve. AR is a frontier technology and the pace at which it’s maturing and developing is very fast. Which is great! But also a challenge to stay in front of the curve and build out the stability and delightful experience for users everywhere.
4. What was the moment you realised your product would be a success?
When we were featured as “App of the Day” in the United States, I knew we were on to something. In my previous startup, I struggled for 4 years to get any sort of featuring like this from Apple App Store, and was never successful. So this was a defining moment for me as an entrepreneur.
5. Make up and answer your own question!
What is the most important startup lesson you’ve learned to date?
It’s really important to find a mentor who (hopefully) is more experienced than you. It’s also best if they are in a totally different vertical than you as well, so there’s no weird competition. As a founder, there’s always small hurdles to overcome while building your startup. It’s nice to have someone to chat with about the problem and brainstorm ways to find a good solution. A 3rd party outside your company can help bring perspective and the emotional detachment you might need to resolve the issue.
6. What skill of yours has been most important for your career?
I write about this a lot, but I used to be a visual artist in New York City. Trying to break into the art world, in the most competitive art city of the world, was very difficult. Finding ways to maintain a consistent paycheck while painting late into the evenings was not easy. The art world taught me a lot about passion, perseverance, marketing, hard work, networking, sales, and negotiation which are all the skills you need as an entrepreneur. From a high level, I don’t believe we have a whole lot of control in our lives, so just enjoy the journey as much as you can and learn, learn, learn from your mistakes.
7. How do you fuel innovation in your company?
We check out a lot of different apps to get more ideas for Leo AR. Seeing how others are building and creating helps us to think of new ways and angles to smartly innovate in our app.
8. What book/album/film has inspired you creatively recently?
Huge fan of a song called “Clementine by Modl”. I’m listening to it right now as I write this.
9. Which other entrepreneur/startup are you most inspired by?
There’s a lot of amazing entrepreneurs and friends of mine out there that inspire me every day. Some of my closest friends are not entrepreneurs and inspire me too. I don’t like to name names, but they are out there and they are everywhere. Life is not easy, so I get inspired easily by even the smallest of people’s accomplishments.
10. What’s the one tip you would give young entrepreneurs?
Start early. Reach out to investors and other entrepreneurs (some even potential mentors) to build relationships as early as you can. Building a company can be lonely and building out relationships once you have an idea will help keep you sane in an environment that is usually unstable.
11. What’s the best thing about Germany’s startup community?
The Germans seem very organized (from what I can tell). And punctual. 🙂 This I appreciate.
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