Founders: Niall Campion and Pat O’Connor
Number of Staff: 18
Start Date: 2017-08-22
Tell us what your business does?
At VRAI we specialise in data-driven virtual reality simulation training. We work with organisations whose work is risky, remote or rare in order to allow them to train in a more authentic memorable and measurable way.
From our base in Dublin we have worked with large organisations around the world including the United Nations in Somalia, Samsung Electronics, IAG Group and we are currently working with the Royal Air Force in the UK.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Niall and Pat met in college, where they studied Communications. Pat came across virtual reality as part of his previous role in the Irish Defence Forces. Independently, Niall was asked by a couple of clients about the possibility of creating virtual reality content. They came together with the idea of forming a virtual reality production company. Over the course of a number of projects we refined the focus into training, specifically data driven training in VR.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
           What planning did you do before you started up?
As we both had ‘real’ jobs at the start, we used to meet on the weekends and discuss strategy. What could we do, what would our customer value proposition be, what resources would we need. Which sounds like there was a grands plan from the start, but in reality it was as much an excuse to hang out for a few hours as much as anything else. Ultimately our philosophy is that business should be driven by customer demands so we started talking to customers very early and spent 2 years building the business on customer projects before ever considering taking on investment.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire?
Hard pass
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
I think you probably don’t get into running a business if you don’t like overcoming challenges. Every day there’s a whole lot of new ones to present themselves. We thought the biggest challenge was going to be getting investors to buy into our ‘triple bottom line’ approach to business – we aim to deliver stakeholder value, not just shareholder value.
In the end the private investors were on board straight away with that and ironically the only slight pushback we got was from Enterprise Irelands legal team. How we overcame them was I suppose by presenting a case that was a no-brainer – sustainable businesses are successful businesses. That and not taking no for an answer!
How have you promoted your business?
Pats background was in public relations in the Defence Forces so he has taken the lead in promoting the business from the start. Having someone with marketing or PR skills as part of a founder team is absolutely fundamental to our success to date. You could have the best business idea in the world, but if you don’t know how to let people know about it, it’ll only ever stay as an idea.
We use everything from word of mouth to paid sponsorship at events. Nothing beats direct interaction with customers though, wherever you can find them.
Where do you see the business in 3 years’ time?
We think virtual training is increasingly going to be the future for certain sectors. we would hope that virtual is another tool in the trainers toolbox and that we are at the forefront of delivering products to enable that.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Treat people right and they will do the same back to you. A good product sells itself. Live the change you want to see in the world.

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