In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 2, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Idan Beck, CEO and co-founder of Dream OS, a Lemnos portfolio company. With Dream, VR meetings and collaborations are more human, dynamic, and responsive than anything previously possible.
- What compelled you to start your company?
Entertainment applications in VR are clearly amazing, but wouldn’t it be great if you could just look at a [physical object] and then interact with it or if there was some kind of way to do that?
- Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?
I’ve been obsessed with graphics since I was 12 or 13. I wrote my first 3D engines when I was in high school. I wanted to do the startup thing… When I started my company, my first company Incident with the gTar and later Keys. I left Microsoft, I was working out of my parents’ garage in Cupertino and just building this thing. Legitimately just sending parts to Quick parts, getting boards fabbed, soldering. This was a very complicated product, even though it looked like a guitar it was a mixed signal DSP system. We had four or five microprocessors running simultaneously. It was a really complicated piece of hardware.
- How did you decide what would be your first product?
The product that we released in October, manifested in the middle of this year. This product comes from my experience of flying to China every other week. In the beginning, we were talking a lot about making something that really leans on the strengths of Spatial. We liked immersive technology like AR and VR, and we believe as a company, the strength of those is in connecting people, allowing people to do things together across large distances but it feels like you’re right next to each other. I think everybody today is starting to really appreciate the importance of remote working, distributed working, and I think that’s only going to continue and become a more of a standard, as the technology stacks available to companies continue to evolve and improve.
- How did you decide who would be your mentors?
I would consider Charles Hudson not just an investor, mentor and advisor, but also a deep friend. When I came back from China and I was ready to do Dream, I came to him. I barely had a team at the time. Since then, he’s been nothing but supportive. I’d say Charles Huang as well. He was my first investor with gTar, and when I was trying to figure out how to do Dream, I was working out of his office.
- What have you gained from working with Lemnos?
It was Jeremy who brought me in. Jeremy has now left Lemnos to start Quartz, which is really cool. I’d known Jeremy a long time, and we had a lot of mutual respect, having worked in the IoT hardware space for a while.
- What was the road to your first round of financing?
- What has been the most surprising thing about the manufacturing process?
Early on I was doing hardware with Dream. I built a complete schematic. I thought we’re going to have to build the entire stack. I’m not convinced that we’re not going to have to do that one day. But at the time I had built a full schematic. I even got bare metal graphics working on the chipset.
- What have you learned through customer engagement?
As a product, technology person, it’s a lot easier to see the future and envision it, but not think through the steps to get there. But it ultimately comes down to: Where is your market? Who’s your customer? Why are they buying it? What problem are you solving for them?
- What’s the hardest part of being a hardware startup founder?
You tell me what you want to build and I can give you a path there. The problem is the costs. Too often I rely on my own knowledge, “Oh, I can get from here to here.” I’ve been a little bit intense about my decisions around what to do. I didn’t go for the easy thing; I went for the impossible thing every time, time after time. And I probably will never lose that attribute. But I have to convince like 20 shareholders (not shareholders in the context of owning the company, but shareholders in the context of the space, the sector of the industry) to buy it. Figuring out that middle piece of getting to that, that’s been my challenge.
- How do you find a much-needed work-life balance?
If you’re miserable working, change something, it could be anything. I think too often people think that they’re trapped in whatever situation they are in, but just look around, look for simple optimizations like if you drive to work every day, take the bus. Yeah, it takes longer, but you can read and you can discover maybe a passion in that reading. You can figure out something new. Anything, just change anything. Just stop eating meat for a day or two days or stop eating vegetables for a week. Who knows?
People are always like trying to avoid difficulty or pain or friction in their lives, but that friction that pain, that’s growth. That’s you growing and if you constantly prevent yourself from growing, you’re never going to get where you actually want to go.