From idea to pioneering Silicon Valley start-up
When eminent neuroscientist Dr. Beau Lotto and his team walked through our door at the beginning of 2012, we could never have predicted where our collaboration would lead.
Beau has ideas. Hundreds of them. Some challenging. Some bonkers. Some ground-breaking, game changing, superstars. In sharing his many ideas with us, one popped up that had a germ of genius. Needless to say, on a Friday afternoon one idea became the beginning of a roller coaster ride that took Beau, and us, all the way to Silicon Valley and back.
Several months were spent evolving Beau's thinking into a fully fledged concept for an augmented reality based social network. ‘Traces’ had a simple idea at its heart – to enable you to leave any digital content anywhere in the world, for anyone you choose. You can often tell a great idea from the amount of ideas that explode from it – we were inundated… Imagine being able to leave a voicemail for your son or daughter to discover in years to come… Imagine leaving a tenner at the bar for your mate to buy a drink… Imagine leaving a digital book at the train station for someone on a long journey… Imagine the opportunities this could present for brands.
This was a radical new approach for social networks – one that would foster much deeper bonds between people. So it was timely then that Beau had the opportunity to meet an angel in Silicon Valley to share the idea. Nothing had been built, we didn’t even know if it could be built. A presentation was pulled together (with a number of strong caveats) and the team hoped for the best. Whatever happened, we knew we’d collectively learn from the experience.
What actually happened next was to our minds, astonishing. With the team’s support and input, Beau had secured $1m seed funding to build Traces. Before we knew it, we were part of a Silicon Valley start-up, registered in Delaware (just like Facebook), with lawyers requiring signatures and patent attorneys protecting us, it really felt like we were in ‘The Social Network’.
It became apparent, that with this sum of money comes enormous expectation and so the really hard work started. Realising the vision required some of the greatest minds in the world on both sides of the Atlantic. We managed to build an MVP, it wasn’t easy, but fortunately the investors were ‘friendly and patient'. The project then migrated to alpha and began the perpetual cycle of iteration, honing at every step. We squared up to failure. Delighted at progress. Over a period of two years the whole team gave it everything.
Together we had become experts in augmented reality. Avid readers of Tech Crunch. Understood GPS error like the US military. And truly experienced what it feels like to be in a tech start-up. However, as the launch loomed we took the difficult decision to let Traces flee the Purpose nest. A separate business needed to be treated as such, it needed its own designers, developers and marketeers. Through the tenacious leadership of Beau and enviable talents of Tamara Sword they have built such a team.
Traces launched a public beta in the UK in August 2014. Since then it has received incredible exposure in Wired, New Scientist, Mashable and The Metro. It’s made two TV appearances and currently has a four star rating on the App Store.
With an international launch just around the corner, talks with a major record label and interest from global brands, we're delighted to see what that idea has already become.
Beau, we thank you for the opportunity, the journey, the experience and we wish you the very best of luck with this project.